Here we go again

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Music Therapy

Today I started my second full-time job as a music therapist.  In the next few days, I will be leading a music therapy session with my own clients for the first time in five years.  And while I’m excited about the future, I am pretty terrified of the present.

But first, a bit about the past.  I was born at a very early age.  It came as such a shock to me that I couldn’t talk in anything other than gurgles and nonsense syllables for almost a year…

Seriously, though.  My music therapy career began when I was a junior in high school and visited Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.  I didn’t want to be a band director, and I didn’t want to be a performer (I hate practicing).  I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted music to be a part of my life.  During a meeting with Harold McKinney, the trombone professor, I found out that music therapy was a major coming to App right about the time I’d be starting my freshman year.  It was the first time I’d heard about the career, and it sounded like it was right up my alley.  When I looked at schools, it became what I was looking for in my major.  After looking at Florida State and Iowa, I ended up at Appalachian (it was closer to home and they offered me the most scholarship money).

So, in August of 1997, I was in the very first Introduction to Music Therapy class ever taught at App State, led by Cathy McKinney (coincidentally married to the trombone professor – it was very confusing going through college referring to my primary teachers Mr. and Mrs. Dr. McKinney).  I enjoyed it, and stuck with it.  My first practicum was at a state institution, working with adults with long term schizophrenia – a VERY difficult first caseload, I might add.  It didn’t scare me off, but I haven’t worked with that population since.

I finished up my course work in 2001, and began my internship with the Clayton County Public Schools in Clayton County, GA on September 10, 2001.  I only remember the date because I was driving to a school on my second day, listening to the radio deejays talking about a plane hitting a tower.  Needless to say, it was kind of a surreal day.

I finished up my internship in 2002, and moved to Mesa, AZ to began my first music therapy job in August (not a great time to move to Arizona).  I worked with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities in home-based settings.  It was interesting work, but I found that I needed more structure in my life.  I was essentially self-employed, and was definitely not ready to be doing that.

In 2005, I moved to San Diego.  My girlfriend was going to SDSU for her Master’s degree.  Neither of us really wanted to do the long-distance thing, so I followed.  I slept on a couch with some guys we knew through church for several months before getting married in June of 2006.  During that time, I applied to a couple of music therapy jobs, but didn’t get them.  I got the feeling from one of them that it was because they preferred someone with a Master’s, and the other one just decided they weren’t ready to hire.  I ended up starting to work at the Stein Education Center, a school for kids with behavioral issues too severe to be worked with in the public schools.  I started out in a classroom, and then moved into the OT department.  There, I probably learned more about behavior management than I ever had in schools.  Nothing like a little hands-on experience with hair pullers, hand biters, projectile vomiters, etc. to really learn how programs work.

In 2008, we moved to Illinois and I began my Master’s studies at Illinois State University, which I completed in May of 2010.  My exit project was all about music therapy and sensory integration therapy.  I worked a lot with this in San Diego, and would love to see more studies on it in the field of music therapy.  I’m sure I’ll talk more about it as the blog goes on.

And that brings us to today.  Today I began my new job working with Innovations in Learning, a behavioral therapy clinic in Merrillville, IN.  There’s a part-time music therapist there now who will be leaving in a few weeks.  I will be full-time, and will be building the program.  I’m still not ready to be self-employed, so I’m really glad they already have assessments, progress notes, and a facility in place.  I’m looking forward to it, but there’s still a bit of apprehension there.  I haven’t been responsible for clients in five years, since I left Arizona.  I was inspired to start this blog after listening to a recent episode of Music Therapy Round Table, and I’m hoping it will be a place where I can reflect on my challenges, talk about issues I care about, and generally promote music therapy.  Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you again soon!


  1. Hey Jesse! Thanks for sharing your story. I also went to ISU for my masters degree 🙂 I’m so glad you were inspired by our podcast, and I look forward to reading your blog.

  2. I second Rachel–thanks for mentioning us! Best of luck and I look forward to catching up with you here. ~Kimberly

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