A few weeks ago Dr Alison Ledger graduated from her PhD at the University of Limerick. Alison is a University of Queensland music therapy graduate, earning a BMus and an MPhil from UQ. She came to Ireland in 2005 to work with me on a project for which I had received funding from the Health Services Executive evaluating the effects of the introduction of music therapy and art therapy into a dementia service in Limerick. We finished the project within 18 months, and she returned to Australia. She came back to Ireland soon after, teaching on the course and leading the development of a local schools based parent-infant music therapy programme.
Three years ago Alison enrolled in a PhD and within a year had secured substantial funding for a fellowship from the Irish Health Research Board. Her PhD explored the experiences of music therapists in developing new programmes in healthcare settings. She travelled extensively under the terms of the fellowship and harvested marvellous narratives from an international group of practitioners. There are important distinctive ways Alison contributed to new knowledge with this research. One way was in her contribution to knowledge about healthcare ethnography (Ledger, 2010). Another was in showing the way that poetry could be used as a means to reflect on the narratives during the process of analysis of the findings. She also used extensive literature and theory from management and business studies to consider issues in establishing new positions in music therapy.
Saying good bye to Alison last month marks the end of an era for the music therapy programme at the University of Limerick. Alison supervised many of the graduates and current students. She taught specialist modules, and built up the teaching that we do outside of the programme to the final year nursing students and the final year music and dance students. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I saw that the official photographer for the day had captured our image under the words in a ceramic mural behind us that states ‘would have died’.
Alison’s departure reminds me of many other collaborations and goodbyes over the years. Dr Simon Gilbertson was here at the University of Limerick for 3 years in a lecturing post before moving with his family to the University of Bergen as an Associate Professor in music therapy. Simon, Alison and I enjoyed great times including developing the MA programme to run every year, starting the Music & Health Research Group, and running national and international conferences and seminars together. We enjoyed a great team spirit and I miss each of them but also the collective energy of our collaboration. There have also been many visiting course directors during my time because of my project work and sabbaticals including Bent Jensen from Denmark, and from Australia Vicky Abad, Dr Kat McFerran, and Jeanette Kennelly. Each visit involved anticipation, problem solving, information sharing and general excitement and then an inevitable sadness in saying goodbye.
Back in Brisbane Jeanette Kennelly and I worked together for five years at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane when I was course director for the music therapy training at the University of Queensland. Jeanette was in the second cohort of postgraduate diploma students of music therapy and then successfully applied for a full-time post at the hospital through funding I had received from the ANZ Trustees. I had already developed the programme at the hospital over the previous two years and had also run a short pilot project with Dr Barbara Daveson at the hospital, again through some external funding. Barb holds a special place as the first music therapy graduate from the University of Queensland undergraduate degree course. After graduating, Barb ran a survey project with me about music therapy and special education. Barb returned to RCH a couple of years later for 3 years as the Clinical Tutor in music therapy; a full-time joint appointment between the University of Queensland and the Royal Children’s Hospital.
In the transition between leaving Queensland and coming to Ireland I wrote the first pilot funding proposal for what is now the renowned Sing & Grow programme with my music therapy colleague Brandy Walker. Watching the developments under the guidance of the very capable Vicky Abad and then Kate Williams and now Toni Day makes me a very proud former teacher of theirs, and reminds me of my own teachers and mentors over the years. I spent 7 years studying at the University of Melbourne, 4 in a BMus degree, one in a transition year of study to a research masters and then 2 years in a research Masters. Professor Denise Grocke was my teacher all through that time and gave me many opportunities to teach and to build my skills in research and development through a sessional teaching and a part-time tutor position. I went straight from completing my masters study into teaching a full course programme at the University of Queensland which is some testament to the training I had received. I also remember some wonderful days working with Dr Helen Shoemark at Melbourne over a couple of semesters. I have dedicated my book Music therapy and parent-infant bonding (Edwards 2011) to Professor Dorothy Scott, a professor of Social Work and the director of a social work module that Denise organised me to tutor for the music therapy students Human development through the lifespan.
Somehow in transitions one has to find the good to remember, the problematic to forget and a future to be hopeful for. Each departure and transition creates a link to a new place, a new map of one’s history, influence, communication, and support; not to mention the tricky business of new time zones to incorporate into calculations of when best to call or skype.
Congratulations to you Dr Alison Ledger and every good wish for your new postdoctoral research work in the Leeds Institute for Medical Education, University of Leeds, UK.
Edwards, J. (2011)(Ed). Music therapy and parent-infant bonding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ledger, A. (2010). Exploring multiple identities as a healthcare ethnographer. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9, 291-304
Edwards, Jane (2011). Collaborations and transitions: You say goodbye and I say hello...hello, hello?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2011-collaborations-and-transitions-you-say-goodbye-and-i-say-hellohello-hello