This post is coming to you from Kyle Fleming. He is the President of the American Music Therapy Association for Students, a 2012 graduate of Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, and a future intern at the Iowa Veteran’s Home in Marshalltown, IA. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @kf_music.
I thought I had my professional career planned out: I would graduate from Wartburg College in May of 2012, start my internship at the Iowa Veteran’s Home in Marshalltown in July, and be a newly certified professional by the New Year.
So when it was discovered that I hadn’t earned a required credit – thus preventing the school from allowing my internship supervisor to officially send me my start date – I was devastated. My Perfect Professional Plan was ruined! What was I going to do, other than take this summer class, to stay sane while I waited the eight long months at home before starting my internship in January?
Through trial and error, I found a few tips that have (so far) worked for me, and I happily pass them on to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.
1) FIND A JOB – Having a job during this downtime between student and intern is a great way to not only earn some money, but to gain new skills or improve ones you already have. I was fortunate enough to be hired at the mental health treatment center in town, allowing me to gain experience in mental health, a population I plan to pursue. Through this job, I’ve gained documentation and motivated interviewing skills, as well as first-hand experience with psychotropic medications and working with people with schizophrenia (hint: it’s not exactly what you think!). As Kimberly Sena Moore observed in a blog post earlier this month, it doesn’t matter what job you have, as each job will introduce you to a skill set that you can utilize in your practice, whether you work in health care, education, retail, or food services.
2) NEVER STOP PLANNING – A couple of months ago I had to make the five hour drive from my hometown to Marshalltown, IA to see about a couple of apartment options. During that long drive, I listened to nearly all of the rap music in my collection. One of my favorite songs is “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West, and as I usually do when my favorite song comes on the iPod, I listened to it three or four times in a row.
During those many replays, I noticed a theme of support (or lack thereof) throughout the song, and started to generate some questions based on an analysis of the lyrics. While I wouldn’t use any of my initial questions in a session right away, with some extra study, one could easily create a list of questions that would guide a client through the themes of support.
Even if you come up with interventions or song ideas completely unrelated to your future population, write them down and save them for later, or send them off to students or other interns that you know would appreciate some new ideas.
3) STAY MUSICALLY ADEPT – Being out of the classroom, it’s pretty easy to forget about the musical side of music therapy. Continue to seek out new music, and step outside of your genre comfort zone. Find an aria you’ve always wanted to sing, even if voice isn’t your primary instrument. Transpose a song into three different keys—on sight, with no capo. Better yet, find a piano, and utilize keys with a lot of sharps or flats.
Two of my greatest musical accomplishments came about when I allowed myself to explore. The first was being able to pound out a Buxtehude organ piece without stopping (still a long way to go for perfection, but the basics are down). The second was experimenting with alternate tuning on my guitar, and creating a beautiful solo arrangement of Amazing Grace. Both pieces were performed at church, and both to rave reviews from the congregation.
Speaking of performing: Nursing homes are always looking for musicians to come and entertain, and many coffee shops have open mic nights for performers to strut their stuff. And never be afraid to write something original and show it to the world!
4) PICK UP A HOBBY – To avoid burnout before you begin your internship, be sure to take some time for yourself. Pick up a new hobby, or rediscover an old one. The new hobby I picked up was running, and while I would definitely NOT consider myself a runner (some would argue otherwise), running allows me to get out of my house and my comfort zone and into a more physically fit lifestyle.
Along with running, I’ve rediscovered my passion for leisure reading, something I haven’t allowed myself to do since high school because of all the text books I’ve collected over the years. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, this down period is definitely the time to do it, as you don’t have pesky annoyances like homework or recitals to get in the way.
5) ATTEND AMTA CONFERENCE – In order to attend the 2011 AMTA National Conference in Atlanta, GA, and still fulfill my duties as AMTAS President-Elect, I had to miss a full week of Christmas with Wartburg rehearsals. During that week, there were many logistical changes, to the point where it took me a couple of days to get used to what I perceived as a sudden and dramatic change.
This year? No rehearsals, no classes, no homework, AND I’ve accrued enough PTO at work to be paid to attend the 2012 conference in St. Charles, IL! How neat is that? Use the opportunity to network, travel, and meet new students, interns, and professionals. There are plenty of freebies for you to take home, and who knows, you might even meet a celebrity (Kenneth Bruscia, anyone?).