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Music therapy major Maddie Horton ’22 uses music to connect with clients at Music Worx internship

Music therapy major Maddie Horton ’22 has found her passion for helping others through music. She has completed her coursework requirements at Pacific, and she is working at a six-month internship with Music Worx in San Diego. It’s a unique opportunity because Maddie gets to serve a wide variety of clients from hospice or pediatric care to homeless populations and more.

How I found my internship

My internship is with Music Worx in San Diego. It’s a six-month internship required after four years of undergraduate coursework. Then you have to pass the board certification (MT-BC) exam before you can be a professional music therapist.

I’d heard about them for the first time from an older Pacific student who’s also a very close mentor and friend of mine. Music Worx is kind of unique in that they offer a huge array of client populations to work with. There aren’t many opportunities like that. A lot of internships are focused, say only on hospice care or on pediatric care.

How I prepared for the opportunity

Every single part of my foundation as a music therapist came from University of the Pacific. Dr. Eric Waldon and Dr. Fei-Lin Hsiao spend a lot of time, energy and expertise ensuring that we have these fundamental skills to jump right into an internship and just grow exponentially from there.

We do have four semesters of fieldwork during the course of studies, so we get hands-on experience once or twice a week working with different populations each semester. But when you go into an internship, you are acting as a professional in the field. It’s the first opportunity where we must apply to real life settings all of the skills and knowledge that we’ve learned from our professors in our various college courses.

My basic music, therapeutic, interpersonal, time management and collaboration skills were developed through the lessons and courses that my Pacific professors executed so beautifully.

What I learned through my internship experience

It’s one thing to sit in classes and learn about how we would interact with patients or clients, but it’s completely different when you are working full time as a music therapist. It’s so important specifically because we are such a hands-on profession.

An internship offers us six months to really get all our skills and tools in order. And the professional supervisors can dedicate a lot of their time to us to ensure that we are interacting with clients in a way that’s productive, supportive and helpful.

I think the biggest thing is learning how to balance the full schedule of a music therapist. It is a lot, especially because the company that I work for is a private practice and they contract with many different places. It’s similar to learning how you would manage a class schedule, except in our free time we do a lot of office work, administrative tasks. On top of that, I also work closely with an intern team. I’m learning how to collaborate with others artistically, musically and therapeutically.

Receiving feedback is another important thing. We’re constantly receiving comments on things that we did well or that we need to improve on. Just being able to implement those lessons really quickly has definitely been some of the things I’m absorbing the most.

The internship experience that really stood out

I have sessions with a group of people experiencing homelessness. I work with this group with my co-intern every week. We were having a really hard time connecting and they didn’t really want to participate or engage in what we were doing, so there was a lot of trial and error to get them to engage.

This last week was the first time that I was leading and facilitating the session by myself. I had decided we were going to do a songwriting type of intervention where I took the chorus of “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers, and I was going to play that over and over again and have a discussion about what things in our lives help motivate us to keep moving forward. I then implemented the clients’ responses into the chorus of the song to validate their answers.

And this was the first time that they were really receptive, and they gave very serious answers. Every single person had something relevant to say, they spoke to each other and they built off of each other, and you could just feel the connection from everyone in the room.

We also use drums fairly often with this group, but I decided that instead of basic drumming exercises, we’d use them in a more collaborative way. Among other things, we did “call and response.” I started as the leader and they were all following along, and then I gave them opportunities to lead instead. It only took one confident person to lead for the rest of them to give it a shot. That was really cool.

My advice for future Pacific students

Listen to your heart and your body for what it wants to do. I started at Pacific as a vocal performance major, but I don’t think I would be nearly as fulfilled today if I had stayed in it. I do love performing with all my heart, but I think my passion truly lies with music therapy and the ability to help others. So, just listen when your mind gives you little hints about things and follow your calling.

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