Among the new graduates who start looking for their first job as music therapists, I observe repeatedly the same situation. I allow myself to reflect about what I insist in calling "the community of Music therapists", as part of a global community.
These thoughts remind me of the words of Jane Edwards in her column "Giving Thanks", when she says:
It is hard for me to think of giving such thanks now for food grown in countries where the workers are exploited and often work in dangerous conditions, or even thinking of giving thanks for the fact that as a permanent employee I have no control over my compulsory pension being invested in global faceless companies that without conscience are destroying the world. I am so full of complaints; about the world, about the government, about greed and about complacency. I feel furious. I haven't had TV channels for many years because I get too angry and feel too helpless watching the indiscriminate violence we do to each other and being constantly fed values about the importance of being preoccupied with appearance and having more and more things. I want this to change and to change now.
We live in a global world; and none of us can get away from that, even when we try hard not to get trapped by its negative effects. It happens, for example, that a shepherd from the Patagonia walks in front of an oil well in his way to a gas station, where he finds out that the price of the gasoline rose as a consequence of a war that takes place in Iraq, 20.000 kms. from his home and his habits.
Maybe someone chooses to live in Tierra del Fuego, the most southern city of the world, with the intention of getting away from the industrialized world. That man moves to a cabin from which he can observe the woods that cover the mountains, and soon a multinational industry appears trying to transform those millenary trees into small wood chips that will turn into paper which will be used by a newspaper from some capital city of the world.
A Tsunami causes death and destruction in the islands and coasts of the Pacific Ocean, and while help is sent from different corners of the world, there are people thinking in how to drift tourists to the Caribbean.
But also, in this global world, there are possibilities, like this forum, Voices, which connects and helps to build the music therapy community, and within it, connects the community of music therapists. Here, also, everything that happens inside this community affects us all. If a colleague reflects about a situation with one of his clients, his thoughts maybe help to solve the problem of another music therapist from another country.
It is not hard to obtain information if we are willing to find it. It is not hard to exchange between colleagues if we are willing to communicate. I say this, but not in a naïve way. We know that today, communication can be multidirectional and simultaneous, but we also know that due to social, political and economical problems, the speed of this communication can be extremely variable depending on the direction it takes.
I was saying at the beginning that I observe a situation that repeats itself year after year between young music therapists looking for their first job. They deliver resumes to different institutions, ask for interviews, and when they get them, they usually leave frustrated. Sometimes because of the ignorance of whom are supposed to hire them. In those cases, institutions that gather music therapists probably need to play an even more active diffusion role.
But many other times the negative answer is due to a negative impression left by some other colleague who, after graduating did not continue properly with the permanent training that music therapy requires, in the theoretical level and in the musical level. As Carolyn Kenny says in her column Reflections on Music as Knowledge:
By considering music as knowledge, I am reminded of how important it is to continue to be "drawn by the strong pull" of the music we, as music therapists love, and the experiences we have playing our own instruments. No matter how many theoretical ideas we create and no matter how scholarly our works, if we do not engage in continuing to develop ourselves, in one way or another, musically, we are loosing the parallel tacit knowledge of the experiences we are asking our clients to have.
We never get tired to repeat to our students that university training is just a chapter in the study of music therapy. But, there are people who graduate and do not dedicate to deepen their study. They just dedicate to work "to put bread on their tables", not realizing that their lack of actualization degrades their professional practice and threatens to take away their bread. This is a serious situation, for their clients or patients in first place.
But it is also serious because this attitude builds a distorted image of Music therapy to other professionals, who are part of the interdisciplinary teams, and helps maintain, in the collective imaginary level a not very serious consideration of the true possibilities of our profession.
The decision of any colleague to avoid participating in the music therapy community is a simple lie. What we do in our private work affects every other music therapists, directly or indirectly.
If someone accepts working in bad conditions, or even supporting in silence situations of exploiting conditions, is authorizing the institutions to abuse of other colleagues. But if each one of us defends the idea of working in good conditions, we are facilitating our colleagues work.
No one is isolated, even though not maintaining active bonds with others. Each one represents itself, but simultaneously is representing the whole community of professionals.
"Collaboration is the key", reminds us Carolyn Kenny, in one of her columns, allowing us to reflect about how we are inserted in the institutions and how music therapists connect among each other, even from different places or from different generations.
I think that we have a hard job ahead of us. I agree that the results, if we work with a constructive spirit, can be very good.
Schapira, Diego (2005). Representing Everyone. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 12, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2005-representing-everyone