My Skills

Before I become a music therapist, there are many skills that I need to either work on or develop in order to be successful. Two of the main skills I need to acquire are an openness to change and a more flexible mind.  Throughout my life, I have always been a very organized and detail oriented person: I make lists and schedules, and I plan everything down to the minute. However, I have a very hard time adjusting when things do not go according to plan. As a music therapist, I know that there will be many times when the experiences I choose do not go as well as I had hoped, and it is very important that I be open to trying something new that would be more beneficial to the person I am working with.

I also believe that I need to work on being more confident and sure of myself.  Self-confidence is not something that comes easily for me; I am constantly doubting myself. But, I know that if I am going to be successful in any field of work, I am going to have to learn to be sure of myself, my goals, and my beliefs, regardless of how others feel. This transfers into my need to be more creative and imaginative. As an artist, being creative has always been a part of who I am; however, there has always been a part of my imagination that I have held back because I was always afraid of my ideas being “too imaginative,” if there is such a thing. I know that if I am able to develop my self-confidence, I will also be able to develop my imagination and creativity as I become more open about sharing my ideas with others.

The final skill I will need as a music therapist, as an artist, and as a person in general, is the ability to accept the good with the bad, the ability to not let small things discourage me from pursuing what I want. I believe that this is a crucial skill for me to have because when things go wrong, or when I make a mistake, I tend to exaggerate the situation in my mind and make it a lot worse than it truly is. When I accept the good with the bad in myself and in the world around me, I allow myself the opportunity to focus on the positive rather than spending all my time worrying about the negative.  I believe that having this kind of positivity in my life will be essential to my being happy and successful no matter what career path I pursue in life.

Elevator Pitch Rough Draft

Hello!  My name is Brittni Watkins. I’m a music therapist interested in working with children with special needs and mental illness patients. I have always had an interest in teaching, and I would like to work in a school setting so I may help children dealing with these issues to adjust to and cope with the educational and social demands of school. Songwriting is also a large part of my life and my therapeutic technique. I believe that it gives the clients more freedom to express themselves if they’re able to start with a clean slate, and when they’re done, they have a product that’s completely their own that will stay with them forever.

What Motivates Me?

This week in FACE, my professor asked me to investigate what motivates me to create and do what I what I do.  He gave us a passage to read from Ken Bain’s What the Best College Students Doand a YouTube video, adapted from a lecture by Dan Pink , entitled “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.” I admitted in last week’s blog post that I valued my grades the most for a very long time, and as much as I try to break the habit, I still value them very much.  They have also been my prime motivator throughout my schooling thus far. According to Bain, this makes me a “strategic” learner, meaning that I figure out what I need to do to make the A; nothing more, nothing less. I don’t venture out and try new things, because doing so could affect my grades; and one of my biggest fears is failure.

As much as I would like to say that I am trying to change my ways and focus more on understanding and truly learning from my classes here, I cannot. For the past month, I have been trying to find meaning in all my assignments and to connect them to my personal life and things that I have learned before. I have tried to be an active learner, giving my best and accepting my grades no matter what the outcome because I know that they are an accurate representation of how well I understand the material. However, I need my grades to keep my scholarships, and I need my scholarships so I can continue to go to school. If it came down to it, I would put aside my quest for knowledge for the sake of my grades, and I am not ashamed of it.

With music, my motivations change completely. I did not choose to pursue a career in music because of money; I chose it because music is what I love. I enjoy making music, and I enjoy listening to music, and I enjoy learning about music. That’s part of the reason why I am now a little reluctant to keep studying it. According to Dan Pink, when trying to give people incentives to do tasks that require more complex cognitive activity, increasing the incentive results in a worse performance.  My main incentive in school    my grade    is now an incentive in my music, and I am faced with the question: which is more important? Will I still enjoy making music after four years of having my subjective performance judged on an objective scale? Is there any way for me to take my grades out of the picture so I don’t have to worry about them any more?  I feel like the answers to these questions are the key to how happy I will be during these next four years at SMU.

My Values

I feel that I should begin this post by admitting that my highest priority for a very long time was my grade point average. Somewhere along my path to young adulthood, I got the notion into my head that good grades translated into intelligence. If you made A’s, you were smart. If you didn’t make A’s, you didn’t try hard enough. I’ll admit, my reasoning was flawed, but that was how I thought, and there wasn’t anyone around who was about to challenge that reasoning except for my mother. She would always joke with me about being at a job interview and having someone pull out a piece of paper and say, “Well, we would hire you, but it says here that you made a B in English your Sophomore year of high school, so we think we’re going to go with someone else.” I would laugh and say that I’d try to relax a little bit, then be up at three in the morning that same night putting the finishing touches on a paper. That was the problem with valuing my grades; they came before everything else. Even when my mental, emotional, and physical health began to be compromised because of it, I still pushed myself no matter what the cost. It wasn’t until I started college that I began to reevaluate what was important in my life and started trying to change my priorities.

At the top of my “new” list of values is family and friendship. I don’t know where I would be if  I didn’t have my family and friends to help me through the tough times I’ve had in my life. I am comforted every day by the knowledge that if I ever need anything, they will be for me regardless of any obstacles that seem to be in their way. I also value kindness, and empathy, and respect. I believe that all people should be kind to each other, even when facing conflict or adversity, and I believe that the ability to empathize with others is an invaluable skill that helps to prevent us from making hasty and unfair judgements. I also believe that everyone deserves respect until the time comes when they demonstrate that they do not.

Over time, I have also learned to value the ability to do nothing. I admire people who know how to relax because it is something that I struggle to do. Even when I have nothing to do, I will sit around in my room and create a list in my head of all the things that I should be doing but am too lazy to do. I cannot relax, but I want to learn how; I need to learn how, and I treasure every second that I have to practice because it is one second that I have to let all of my worries float away with the tide of my thoughts. I value silence, as well. As a musician, I know that silence can be just as powerful as sound, and I enjoy taking time to explore just how powerful it can be. I’m not usually a talkative person. I don’t like big crowds. I believe there is a profound simplicity in silence, and I don’t feel the need to unnecessarily complicate things by filling it with words.

In my work as a songwriter, my values impact what I write about. When I was struggling in my personal life because of my battle with my grades, I wrote about trying to keep the balance, and I wrote about the stress and pain I was experiencing while attempting to keep everything exactly where  I wanted it. As my priorities evolve and grow, my songs evolve and grow in tandem and reflect the changes that I am experiencing in my life. In my work as a music therapist, my values will, hopefully, translate into my work as a therapist, and help me to give my clients the best possible care. My values may also affect what kind of music therapy I do and where  I decide to work. Seemingly small things: a love for family, a need for silence, a desire to relax, yet they are things that will impact how I live my life and how I find my happiness.

Work Habits

This week in FACE, I was asked to examine how I work and what habits I have developed that either help or hinder my creative process.

I am a night owl. I tend to be most productive at night, beginning at about 9 or 10 pm. I also work best on my own. I don’t like having a lot of people or activity around me because I tend to get distracted easily. With distractions, I am able to finish a task, but my retention of the material decreases significantly, or the finished product is poor quality. I live in a dorm with three other girls, and I have to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to be on time for class, so at this point in my life, the way in which I work is not very conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Although I am very self-motivated, I do think that my self-regulation could be improved though stress reduction techniques and better time management.

My favorite piece of advice from my reading assignment on work habits was “don’t always study…in the same spot.”  It piqued my interest because, up until now, I have always been told the exact opposite. I was taught to choose one place to study and stick will it so that my brain, over time, could fall into the habit of studying in that certain spot, which would help my concentration. However, I now see the benefits of moving around when you study because I can create associations in my mind of where I studied or practiced, which will help me retain more of what I learn.

The worst work habit that I have is procrastination. I have been working very hard to break myself of this habit and replacing it with better habits, such as setting long and short term goals for myself, and planning out my week in advance so I know how much time I have for studying, practicing, sleeping, and relaxing. I then realized that there was an imbalance between the first two areas and the latter two, and now I am taking steps to try and balance out my work and relaxation in order to promote a state of wellbeing that will positively influence all areas of my life.

My History

My story began eighteen years ago in Oklahoma. Then, it moved to Texas, then to Georgia, until it finally settled in a medium-sized suburb outside of Atlanta when I was eight-years-old. When we lived in the city, my little brother and I would always go to our grandmother’s house to watch Disney movies and make arts and crafts with “GG”. I adore Disney. For as long as I can remember, I have known almost every song from any movie you could possibly imagine. I believe that it was my love of Disney movies and music that eventually led to my love of music and singing.

In the living room of GG’s house, there was an old upright piano pressed up against the wall. Of course, I didn’t know what type of piano it was when I was six, but I did know that it was beautiful and that I wanted to learn everything I could about how to play it. GG explained to me that the piano belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother. She was a singer, a songwriter, and a musician through and through. I remember sitting at the piano with GG while she taught me how to play one of the songs she had written. It was the first song I learned to play on the piano, and I still play it from time to time when I miss my family.

The summer before seventh-grade, I traveled with the People to People Student Ambassador Program to England and Scotland. It was, by far, one of the best trips of my life, second only to my People to People trip during the summer before my sophomore year of high school. After I got back from my first trip out of the country, my aunt asked me if I would like to take piano, voice, and guitar lessons from one of her close friends. I had been taking chorus classes in school, and my aunt knew that I still wanted to learn how to play the piano. I agreed, and after the first lesson, I was hooked.  It wasn’t soon after I received my first guitar and learned my first chords that I had written a song. I kept writing new songs, and soon my lessons shifted from classical training to working with my original pieces. Most of my songs are written with a guitar accompaniment, but as time went on, I began trying to write with piano as well.

As time went on, I became less focused on music and more focused on keeping my grades up in school. However, I continued taking chorus classes, going to my lessons, and writing songs in my spare time. When I began the admissions process for Southern Methodist University, I followed a recommendation to check out the Music Therapy department, and I instantly knew that I had found the program for me. I had been interested in working with special-needs children for a very long time, and I knew that with Music Therapy, I could combine that interest with my love for music and singing. The wide range of music therapy applications also appeals to me because it means that even if I decide not to work with special needs children, there are still a number of fields open to me as a Music Therapist. I am also attracted to the field because for many years, I have used music a therapeutic tool on my own, and I am very interested in learning how to teach others to use music as a means of healing and self-exploration in a similar way.

In FACE last week, we scored ourselves using a Personal Effectiveness Rubric. Overall, I gave myself very low scores, especially in the courage and entrepreneurial criteria. I don’t think I am very courageous at all. I am afraid of taking risks, I am afraid of failure, I am afraid of change, I am afraid of the unknown, I am afraid of looking stupid, and I am afraid of being told that I am wrong. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, and I’ve always been slightly anti-social. I think a lot of this stems from my songwriting. Because my songs are so personal, I have always been reluctant to share them with people because I fear the criticism that could come with doing so. If someone were to criticize one of my songs, if they said that it wasn’t good enough, in my mind, I would twist that into the idea that I wasn’t good enough, that something about me was wrong, and I don’t think I could deal with that. I feel like I have always been hypersensitive of the people around me, to the point where I start to lose myself trying to be what I think they want me to be. I get bogged down in the details, and I lose sight of the big picture. That’s something I really want to work on this year: finding out who I am and focusing on the big picture of my life rather than the minuscule details. I can already tell that this year is not going to be easy. But, I am confident (a first for me) that by the end of this year, I will be one giant leap closer to finding my “calling.”

A Little About Me

Hello Everyone!

My name is Brittni Lauren. I am a singer/songwriter majoring in Music Therapy and Physics at Southern Methodist University. I’ve never had a blog before, so I’m really new to all of this. My favorite cartoon character is Winnie the Pooh; my favorite city is Paris, France; and despite multiple tests and quizzes on the subject throughout the years, I still have yet to memorize all of the state capitals. Music means everything to me, and I am so happy that I am going to be able to study what I love for the next four years and pursue it as a career for, hopefully, the rest of my life.