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Music Therapy and Me – when we were young

Over these first few weeks of the #JBMT30 on social media (30 posts to JB Music Therapy‘s 30th Anniversary), we will visit the early 90s  – which had some carryovers from the late 80s pop culture-wise, the Cold War had just ended. Internet was in its infancy, PCs were becoming more affordable which resulted in a higher percentage of households – but the majority of my friends would not have one for a few more years.

Imagine a young 21 years old who just finished the music therapy program at Capilano University (then College), who thrived when at practicum but struggled when sitting in class trying to absorb all the layers of information you needed to know to forge your journey to becoming a certified music therapist (MTA).  Where would I work? Where would I live? What would I do next?

The internship.

Gaile was my internship supervisor and the primary reason I migrated to Calgary from the West Coast after I completed my education at Capilano.  She had been a mature student and had only practiced for a few years when I met her.  It was her life experience that drew me to learn from her.

Until I met Gaile, I had yet to witness anyone who worked in private practice, and immediately I found it suited me.

Gaile sitting on the floor holding her guitar with me sitting in a chair wearing in a large white hat with a flower, oversized pink t-shirt, white shorts and white sneakers
Gaile Hayes, Music Therapy Supervisor

Several years later Gaile would be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer – a shock for the non-smoker.  She was given a short time to live.  As I started my practice I became very absorbed in my own work and my relationship with Gaile had fallen away.

During her last few months of life, I nervously called her.  I could hear the smile in her voice as she invited me over.   As I rubbed cream in her thin, dry arms we shared stories of some of our favourite clients and discussed the music she wanted at her celebration of life.

She never told me I would be okay, and I never told her she would be okay.  We both knew it was what it was – and okay didn’t quite fit the moment.  I think of her often and the drum she made is sitting in front of my desk as I type this.

The first day of JB Music Therapy

Also known as the second Friday of September in 1991!

At the end of my internship, I returned back to my hometown of Langley, BC, but I couldn’t get Calgary, and more importantly the clients I had met, out of my heart.  I knew I would return there, but I didn’t know I would do that turnaround within a couple of weeks.  I was broke, with a crushing student loan at a hefty 12% interest if I recall correctly.

On my second day back in the city where I would begin my new career, I would visit the local library. That doesn’t sound too revolutionary, but you must understand there were no search engines. The library and the books within it were your primary resource.

A woman with silver hair and a warm smile approached me at the circulation desk. I said something along the lines of, “I just graduated with my music therapy degree and am not sure where to start.” She asked me the most critical question any business owner needs to answer: “Who are you hoping to work with?”  I began to list all the people I looked forward to serving and, with that, she smiled again and said five magic words, “Yes, I can help you.”

Hearing the words “Yes, I can help you” when I felt my most vulnerable and unsure was so comforting. Today, I pay particular attention to those who say those five simple words, make direct eye contact and then follow through.

I contacted the first name in the book and was able to solidify my first contract. I started a part-time job at a clothing store in Market Mall with one of my favourite bosses of all time. It was a great start.  After 8 months I was working more than full time and began to think about a team.  Next week you will learn more about that.

These beginning moments were a time where I learned to value supervision, good information, and leaders in my life. It was also a time when I made decisions based on gut – many times this worked but occasionally it didn’t. That is when surrounding yourself with people who would hold out a hand and help you up so you can get going again.