This past November, as part of the American Music Therapy Association's annual conference I hosted an international panel of distinguished guests from around the world. Panelists included Marcos Vidret from Argentina, Maria Hernandez from the Dominican Rebublic, Moahn Sundararaj from India, David Akombo from Kenya, Kris Stachyra from Poland, Thomas Wosch from Germany, Masoud Nematian from Iran, Inge Nygaard Pedersen from Denmark, Robert Krout representing New Zealand, Paige Robbins Elwafi representing Qatar, Alexander Grauer from Italy, Sandi Curtis from Canada, Fumio Kuribayashi from Japan, Byung Chuel-Choi fromKorea, Patsy Tan from Singapore and a spontaneous panelist from Cypress whose name I did not get.
It was really a thrill to chair this panel and I was very impressed that they all came together and shared their thoughts on the current state of music therapy in their country as well as where they would like to see music therapy heading in the future. There were many interesting topics raised and it is clear that music therapy is really is blossoming around the world.
Having this group together reminded me just how much I value the international community and how lucky I have been to be able to travel to other countries and see music therapy in action. Yes, there is great diversity in practice and I have learned from seeing and hearing music therapists who work in ways that are very different from my way of working. I have also grown as a music therapy educator by learning about how and what other music educators teach. But quite possibly the most important things I have learned are much more subtle. It has been in the nuances of being in an international group where I have best been able to understand myself and the lens from which I see the world both personally and professionally. It is those moments of realizing "I never would have thought about it from that perspective" that helps me identify my culture bound perspective.
It is hard to step out or sometimes even be aware of my culture bound perspective when interacting with just my US colleagues. We often reinforce our worldview. That isn't inherently a bad thing, but for me it is important to balance my personal and professional view by looking at the world through a different lens. I think this was especially true for me as I chaired this panel in Orlando. As President of AMTA I had spent nearly a full week dealing with many aspects of music therapy in the US. I had been thinking about association policies, educational issues, legislation that impacts music therapists, clinical training issues, etc. Then on Saturday afternoon I chaired the panel which took me completely out of the American way of looking at music therapy and the world. I was suddenly thrust into different ways of seeing the world. It was a wonderful experience which highlighted the importance of the international perspective on music therapy.
I joined Barbara Wheeler and several of the international guests for dinner that evening which served to further this experience. Sitting between Kris Stachyra and Marcos Vidret at a Brazilian Restaurant, sharing wine and stories really helped to invigorate me. Much later that evening, at the cabaret, I witnessed an amazing drumming performance by Dr. Masoud Nematian from Iran. I have never heard such beautiful drumming. I am grateful to be part of the larger community and look forward to more international connections in the years to come.
Forinash, Michelle (2005). The Importance of International Community. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2005-importance-international-community