Whenever one conjures up a picture of what is often thought of as the "American West", stereotypical images of a wild and wooly frontier with wide-open spaces often come to mind. And, as it has been historically the case, some of the impressions are accurate and well deserved, while others represent nothing more than someone else's exaggerations or fanciful dreams. Still, these reflections are well grounded in the pioneering and independent nature of the people who moved into the West, along with the spirit and energy of the indigenous peoples who populated this region long before the others' arrival. The expanse of the territory, the majesty of the mountains, the richness of the deserts, the rapidly flowing rivers, the comfort and cruelty of the climate, and the power of the Pacific Ocean all contribute to this "idea" of a region that is complex and unique, filled with imagery and mystique. Yet, it is also surprisingly simple. Music Therapists in the Western Region Chapter of the American Music Therapy Association are "pioneers", "homesteaders", "dreamers", and "builders." In the Western Region, our profession is active and growing with ever increasing levels of breadth, depth, and complexity.
The Western Region includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah, and the U.S. Territories and outlying areas in the Pacific Ocean. The region is currently home to six AMTA approved academic programs in four states: Arizona State University, California State University Northridge, Chapman University (CA), the University of the Pacific (CA), Marylhurst University (OR), and Utah State University. There are twenty-one AMTA approved internship sites in four states (Arizona, California, Utah, and Washington). Our membership is highly concentrated in California followed by Arizona, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, and Alaska. The geographical breadth of our region makes our annual meeting and regional conference an important time for all of us to come together to celebrate the work that we do and indeed our profession. It also provides an opportunity to explore new possibilities through continuing education, concurrent sessions, and networking.
In 2007, a visionary group of WRAMTA members made a dream, reality: the first professional music therapy association conference in Hawaii. The 47th WRAMTA 2007 Annual Conference "Music Therapy: Crossing Oceans" was held at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. Highlights of our 2008 conference in Seattle will include our first Passages Conference for students, a technology expo, and a Silent Auction in the Space Needle. In 2009, we will host our 50th Annual Meeting and Regional Conference in Stockton, CA to commemorate the first regional meeting at the University of the Pacific. The 2009 AMTA Annual Conference will be held in San Diego, CA., and we look forward to holding our 2010 WRAMTA Conference at a non-gaming facility in Las Vegas, NV. We have also been able to come together to support each other in various times of crisis including the California fires in October and widespread floods in Washington and Oregon in 2007. Sadly, we are finding an ever-increasing need to be prepared to respond to emergencies and assist our members as we can, and it seems to be the distance between us that brings us together.
The geographic diversity of our region is also reflected in the various areas and levels of practice that exist, not only in each state, but also within each community. Thus the need to clearly articulate the role, function, and intent of music therapy is constant. Yet, describing what it is that we do is most often as diverse as our members. In addition to the typical models of music therapy that are taught in the United States academic programs, complementary or relatively similar approaches to the use of music for health, wellness, or healing seem to find fertile ground in the West. Still, the breadth of opportunity for music therapists is akin to those pictures of westwardly migrating families with their wagons lined up on the Mississippi river, awaiting the starting gun to go forward and build their "homestead". Traditional job opportunities persist in the Western Region and in many cases there are no music therapists to fill open positions such as at the state forensic hospitals in California. New areas of practice are continually opening in programs and facilities that have heard about music therapy, wondered about its application, and sought out clinicians. Entrepreneurial enterprises continue to be developed by forward thinking music therapists who seek to find new ways and vehicles for delivering and funding music therapy services. The future of music therapy professional practice is constantly evolving in the Western Region.
Reuer (2007, 1996) discussed the importance of understanding trends in our own work environment, as well as those that may either directly or indirectly affect our professional practice. Among others, she noted changing trends in demographics, increasing interest in integrated medicine and wellness, and building business partnerships. Additionally, changing political, economic, and social conditions provide continuous opportunities to adapt to emergent trends and conditions. Changes in service delivery models continue to influence existing treatment paradigms and employment models while also providing new opportunities for program services and the delivery of those services. For example, two emerging trends in California seem to be (a) a move towards a patient driven rehabilitation model in mental health with an ever-increasing emphasis in out-patient treatment, and (b) a shift from government supported long-term residential care to community living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Adapting to these trends requires creative thinking, entrepreneurial understanding, passion for the work, focused work habits, attention to detail, and a good "business sense" in order to insure that people in need are provided adequate access to quality music therapy services.
The cultural diversity of our region requires that we continue to learn and understand the nature, relevance, and poignancy of music therapy outside the contexts of a Western European framework. For example, in the last official census, the majority of the population in California was comprised of people from around the world, representing distinct cultures and significantly different ethnicities, values, beliefs and attitudes towards health and healing, as well as the function of music and music therapy within those contexts. As we are all beginning to understand this cultural diversity, we are challenged to continue to engage in dialogue, seek and develop our understanding of cultural contexts, and adapt our treatment regimens and protocols in order effectively to meet another person or group of people in music therapy.
As creative individuals and musicians driven to service, it is truly an exciting and auspicious time to be a music therapist in the Western Region of the American Music Therapy Association. As we continue to draw upon our creativity, sensitivity, education, clinical training and personal commitments to service, we are rewarded daily with simple gifts from the people we serve, their families, and our communities.
Western Region Chapter, American Music Therapy Association : http://www.wramta.org
WRAMTA 2008 Conference information page: http://www.wramta.org/conference2008.html
Chapman Music Therapy Program : http://www.chapman.edu/musictherapy.asp
Chapman Conservatory of Music : http://www.chapman.edu/music
Reuer, B. (2007). An entrepreneurial journey: A music therapist's story-personal reflections. Music Therapy Perspectives, 25(2), 108-114.
Reuer, B. (1996). Posturing for a changing world: Consulting as a career option. Music Therapy Perspectives, 14(1), 16-20.
Luce, David (2008). The State of Music Therapy in the Western Region of the United States. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=country/monthusa_march2008