Thursday, July 21, 2011

Early Work History

During my junior and senior year at Duke I worked as an attendant on the locked psychiatric ward in Duke Hospital. Second semester senior year (1971) I worked there 32 hours a week and then full time that following summer. Duke Hospital was (and remains) the top level referral hospital for a large geographic area, so the docs and nurses were top flight and the patients tended to be difficult cases.

From '71 to '73 I worked as a group therapist at DePaul Hospital (now defunct) which was the old line Catholic mental hospital sitting right on the edge of Audubon park in the Garden District. The unit I worked on there was a locked long term one for adolescents and young adults who received no psycho-tropic medications. It was all talk therapy with their docs, combined with a group therapy session every morning and evening shift. (It was at DePaul I encountered my first "music therapist", albeit without formal credentials.)

From '74 to '76 I worked as an attendant on the locked admit unit of Santa Rosa Hospital (now defunct) at the Medical Center complex in San Antonio.

All that time my music making was mostly recreational folk guitar and singing, with a couple of gigs singing in bars and restaurants.  

The point of all this is to explain how where I'm coming from is usually very different than where most music therapists and educators are coming from. In my experience all music therapists and music educators went straight from high school to an undergraduate music degree, their options then being performance, education or therapy. Their background and skill set is heavily weighted towards musical issues and they have to work to acquire the skill set to teach or to be a therapist.

My strong suit is the experience of being a therapist and I've had to struggle to gain the musical skills needed to be an effective music therapist. Because of that I tend to see the elements of music and music making more in the overall realm of what's going on with the person involved, than the purely musical and pedagogical aspects.

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