The heat of late November in Buenos Aires announces that the summer is close, and marks the end of another academic year at the University. I have the good fortune to be a professor in the 4th and last year of the Music Therapy training program at the University of Salvador in Buenos Aires, where I am in charge of the Music Therapy class. In a few weeks, my students will be, I hope, brand new colleagues. I watch them, with their fears, waiting for their final exams, preparing of their theses, and all of their expectations and enthusiasm to start their work as music therapists.
In a short time, these students will be able to assume the responsibility of helping people who will place their trust in the professional suitability of these new professionals. The inevitable question that arises for me, as one of their professors, has to do with my responsibility in the construction of that suitability. It is obvious that my duty, as for all professors, is to give useful and up to date knowledge.
During this course we have studied not only the pioneers, the "parents" of this beautiful discipline, but also some aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings that, although they are well known and recognized in Europe and the USA, they are not part of the common vocabulary of Argentinean Music Therapists. Thanks to the many possibilities for exchange that communicational technology offers, distance is no longer a valid argument for ignorance. My students graduate having studied the works of music therapists such as K. Aigen, D. Austin, J. Eschen, M. Pavlicevic, E. Lecourt, S. Hadley, C. Lee, B. Stige, T. Wigram, H. Sjmeisters, I. Pedersen, B. Scheiby, B. Wheeler... They, among others, enlarge the field of knowledge and leave their own marks in the theory of Music Therapy.
Are Latin-American theorists like R. Milleco, P. Pellizzari o R. Tocantins Sampaio studied in other latitudes?
My role is to be a knowledge transmitter, but I also feel that I have to awaken new and original opinions and theoretical positions regarding what the students receive and the work they do in class. I do not impose, or at least I try not to, my own theoretical positions, but I try to instill the students with the ideas of the above authors. They can agree with what they study, or they can exercise what we call a "constructive dissent", which is to look for what, in each theory may be useful and beneficial for each one working with patients, in spite of disagreements with the global music therapeutical vision that the author presents.
In various Voices columns, it has been said that to get to know someone from another culture who wants to go through a music therapy process, we must know his music. I agree absolutely with this concept, but what happens with the Music Therapist's culture and the theoretical model in which he or she has focused his or her studies?
Going through Barbara Wheeler's last column, in which she refers to the cultural aspects of Music Therapy, I think again that to study theoretical models also requires studying the cultural contexts in which those models were conceived. They are a logical and almost expected result of the prevailing cultural context of the moment in which they were born. It is also interesting to observe how different models or approaches have settled more in some countries than in others, and, how, through the years, the mutual influence between different approaches allowed new readings, modifications, divergences and convergences. At the same time, the social, cultural and communicational changes in the last 50 years contributed to this phenomenon. In fact, this column can be read at the same time in Norway, Korea, South Africa, Uruguay or Canada, and surely not evenly interpreted by the colleagues of each of those countries. But, there are cultural imprints in each place that globalization, fortunately, has not been able to erase, and that allow new nuances that enrich the theory. I would allow myself to say, going through their work that the analytical Music therapy that Mary Priestley's disciples learned is different from the one that may be actually learned by Inge Pedersen's students in Denmark today, as it is also different from those who are studying the Plurimodal Method in South America, although they share the basic concepts of the Analytical Music Therapy. Culture gives particular nuances to different Music Therapy models and approaches.
I go back to my students. Everything I give them, in spite of the supposed abstinence that the objective reading of texts supposes, is colored by the lens of my subjectivity and by the limits of my knowledge. How can we overcome this? We do it by appealing to basic ethical concepts that are part of a university professor's role. One of them is the permanent compromise with the actualization of the theoretical contents of the material I work with in class, and the renewal of references. This, that can be more than obvious in developed countries, is not so in this region where there are hardly any resources for research, where the cost of buying a new book can mean a third or half of a professor's salary, or where the sabbatical year does not exist. Here again, we can see culture influencing in the construction of knowledge. Another ethical postulation is being able to challenge your own students about what they have studied throughout the year. They are excellent judges, as they are interested in receiving the best possible information. Some of them are very young, yet they are the ones who will become part of the music therapy professional community. Each of them will be somehow representing all music therapists at the institution where they work. Each of them, in spite of the permanent knowledge they will acquire in their careers, will help people to promote health with the tools we give them at the University. That is our major responsibility.
Schapira, Diego (2002) Welcome, New Colleagues! Some Reflections at the End of a Term. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2002-welcome-new-colleagues-some-reflections-end-term