I thought I would take this opportunity to divulge a little bit more about me and where I came from. Growing up in Austin, Texas, I was from an early age surrounded by a phenomenal music scene that called on all different types of music. I’ve been singing in the shower (the test of a true musician) for as long as I can remember. I still have fond memories of playing Grandma in my fifth grade Christmas show and singing my first solo, a DVD that my dad still haunts me with today. But I think that it was the guidance and passion of many influential mentors that has brought me here to SMU now, studying Music Therapy. The first of these mentors entered my life in 6th grade as my very first choir director. Kendra Welton was unlike any music teacher I had had before. While she built the foundations of singing classical music for me, her impact was felt most in a time of hardship. When a fellow classmate from my school tragically was killed in a car accident, Kendra was the first teacher to ever introduce music to me as a healing agent. Kendra talked to us about using our music as a vessel to vent our emotions, and to share a sense of togetherness. It was the first time I saw music as something more than just a beautiful pastime. This philosophy followed me into high school where I continued choir with two more amazing choir directors.
During this same time, I was finding my other love for volunteering in my community. The summer after my freshman year of high school, I made a last minute decision to volunteer for a week at a summer camp for teens and adults with Down Syndrome, Autism, and Mental Retardation. I went with a friend expecting to help the campers have the best week of their life at summer camp! Loading the campers in canoes, helping with arts and crafts, and two stepping, I knew it would make me feel a sense of worth to give them an unforgettable summer. But little did I know, I would be coming home having gained the most from my week at camp. I chalk it down to one moment that changed my outlook on my volunteer work there. It was in the cabin after campfire, and one of the other counselors Zach was strumming on a guitar, singing softly to a camper Paige who was feeling homesick. The other campers and counselors quickly gathered around to hear the music and cheer up their friend. Suddenly, one of the girls raised their hand and loudly said, “Zach, Paige is sad and Paige loves Taylor Swift. Please play Taylor!” Not a moment passed before everyone in the cabin, camper and counselor alike, was belting Love Story at the top of their lungs. Looking around the room and feeling the pure, unfiltered happiness that the music put on every person’s face, I knew that I wanted to continue to bring people joy through music. After some research, I discovered Music Therapy and the numerous physical and emotional benefits that it can bring to such a wide range of clients.
And so here I am, one week into my Music Therapy training and all the more confident that I am right where I am supposed to be.