I just returned from the annual conference of the American Music Therapy Association in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our conference is always a renewing experience for me and this year was no exception. I work hard at the conferences, including many meetings and presentations that I attend, and also look forward to networking with colleagues and catching up with many good friends in music therapy. I was not disappointed by any of this - the conference was really good for me!!
In addition, Kristen Chase, Michele Forinash, and I made a presentation, "Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing Classroom Learning with Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy," in which we shared our enthusiasm for Voices and some of the ways that we use it in our teaching.
My experiences at this conference prompted me to think of the most recent related experience that I have had, when I traveled in October to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to present some sessions on music therapy research. My trip and the presentations were sponsored by ASAM, the Music Therapy Association of Argentina, and brought me into contact with many Argentinian (and Uruguayan) music therapists. (The titles of three days' talks were as follows: Day 1: Definitions, Concepts, and Issues in Music Therapy Research; The Interdisciplinary Nature of Music Therapy Research; Getting Started in Music Therapy Research; Day 2: Research in Music Therapy: Challenges, Guidelines, Perspectives; Day 3: Research in Music Therapy: Quantitative or Qualitative? When and How?)
The presentations in Argentina were in a very different format than the U.S. AMTA conference, but both involved music therapists. Experiencing these two events so close in time to one another allowed me to think of some of the commonalities shared by music therapists in both countries (and, I suspect and know from other experiences, in many other countries). It is these commonalities that I would like to reflect on in this column.
The most striking similarity that I find is that music therapists are so very enthusiastic and committed to music therapy. Of course, this is probably not the case for all music therapists, but those who are planning and involved with conferences and workshops at this level tend to be this way. I was really struck in Buenos Aires by how hard those in charge, led by ASAM President Marcos Vidret, were working for the growth of music therapy and how much they wanted others to participate in the work that we were doing about music therapy research. The motivation for this, as I see it, is that these leaders believe in music therapy and believe that research is necessary in order to promote the growth of music therapy - thus they want others to learn more about research and be able to use this toward the growth of music therapy.
At our U.S. music therapy conference, I was also struck (as I often am) by the incredible commitment of people to music therapy. I am involved with the leadership of our association and know of the amazing amount of time that people spend working toward the growth of music therapy. On many levels, music therapists and others are committed to promoting music therapy, and people give much more than I think most people ever realize. One of the wonderful things about our association is that there are many ways that people can contribute to this "cause" - some people participate in the governance of AMTA, some do research, some make presentations on their work, just to mention a few. I am always astounded at the level of commitment and dedication that people bring to this work. So many people share this commitment and make contributions in various ways that, if I were to list the names of the people who come to my mind for their extraordinary contributions, this article would be much too long to read!
I am also moved at and grateful for the interpersonal connections that music therapists make. While I know, of course, that people in other professions also have meaningful personal relationships with others in their profession, I suspect that music therapists are on the high end of the "interpersonal" continuum. I was privileged in Argentina (and on a side trip to Uruguay) to spend time with music therapists with whom I have been involved for some years (Gabriela Wagner, Mayra Hugo, and Diego Schapira) as well as to make new friends and colleagues. Of course, spending time with people in this setting, away from my normal environment, presented opportunities for deepening our friendships, and I am thankful for these. My interpersonal connections at the U.S. conference are more extensive and many are with people whom I have known for many years - I spent time with several people from the early days of my involvement in music therapy going back more than 30 years. These relationships are very important to me, but so are the more recent connections with people whom I may have met just a few years ago - or am just getting to know. I know that much of the "nourishment" that I receive from these conferences comes from the relationships that continue to grow.
An incredible amount of intellectual stimulation also takes place at these gatherings. I saw this in both Argentina and the U.S. The topic in Argentina was music therapy research so, of course, intellectual stimulation took place around this topic. But many other subjects came up as people spoke of their interests, and I found many of them very stimulating. And the amount of stimulation that occurs at the AMTA conference is indescribable. Over the years, I believe that I have gotten very good at combining attendance at the planned program and speaking with colleagues about issues of current concern to me, both of which provide me with the intellectual stimulation that I am speaking of, with the interpersonal time that I spoke of above (and even some time to rest so that I can continue to enjoy the rest of the conference, something that many colleagues have not incorporated!) - all of which combine to create the optimal experience for me. This was certainly the case with our recent conference - my head is still buzzing with the ideas that were generated there, and I am working on the various thoughts and projects that I made notes about so that I could think about them later.
I am sure that I could continue with these thoughts on the similarities between the two music therapy gatherings that I have attended, and on being a music therapist, but I will stop here. I know that others have similar experiences and hope that others' conference and workshop experiences are as enriching as mine!
Wheeler, Barbara (2003) What Music Therapists Share: Impressions of Music Therapists from Two Gatherings. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2003-what-music-therapists-share-impressions-music-therapists-two-gatherings