Welcome to the Franciscan Life Process Center‘s Franciscan Rhythms Blog! We hope to use this as a forum to share our mission to release the potential for wholeness in each individual through music. Our music therapy program has been in existence for nearly 40 years and we help people in all stages of life, from children with special needs, those with severe mental illness, the frail elderly, those with neurological disorders, individuals diagnosed with cancer or other medical conditions that put them at risk, young children, and people in hospice or palliative care. We believe music therapy is a time when a secure relationship is established and new skills are learned that fortify our patients to successfully meet and deal with difficult life situations. Please follow along as we share a bit of our history, highlights and challenges of music therapy, and tools and best practices from our talented team of therapists.
As a music therapist, I often encounter questions, comments and confusion about my profession. “Music therapy? I didn’t even know that existed!” “So, you play songs for depressed musicians to make them feel better?” Or my personal favorite, “You get paid for that?” It can be frustrating at times to advocate and educate others about my profession. But speaking to almost any music therapist, you will find the value of their work far outweighs the inconvenience of explaining the job description.
My co-worker Miranda Eden recently discussed the moment we knew we were meant to be music therapists. It’s incredible how many MT-BCs can remember a specific moment they realized this was going to be their career. Miranda’s moment happened when she discovered her grandmother’s favorite high school song, Stardust. Her grandmother was living with them at the time and was demonstrating confusion and disorientation. Miranda began to play Stardust on the piano and soon her grandmother was seated next to her, humming along with her head on Miranda’s shoulder. Her grandmother was able to recall the music and share that it was her favorite song. “In my opinion, the music always takes us back,” Miranda said.
Emily Smith, a hospice music therapist became excited in her tenth grade health class after researching music therapy online. “I was floored! Job shadowing really clinched it for me. I spent time with an MT-BC working at a VA hospital and saw how interactive the veterans were during her session,” Emily recalled.
Even though her professional career hasn’t started yet, Amber Lodewyk, a music therapy student at Western Michigan University is passionate about what her future holds. “Through my research and observations of a music therapist I realized music therapy combined everything I ever wanted to do: counseling and therapy, psychology, science and research, helping people, and of course, music!”
After observing a client in a music therapy session Lindsey Perrault, MT-BC fully understood how powerful music can be. “I knew it was my calling,” she said. “I remember working for a month in the hospital and it seemed like every patient I saw was moved to tears after I played for them. I was able to find the song they needed and reach them where others couldn’t. I recall playing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” for a patient who shared that it was her favorite song. ‘I just want to go home’ the patient told me. A few days later, she passed away. This was a really powerful moment for me.”
My moment of realization happened during a conversation in orchestra my freshman year of high school. A classmate mentioned music therapy and it was as if a puzzle piece clicked into place—I
knew immediately this was what I was supposed to do with my life and I have never looked back.
As music therapists, we face many challenges in our careers explaining our jobs or even defending the merits of our profession to skeptics. But one thing that holds me together during these challenging times is remembering that instant in the 9th grade when I knew beyond a shadow of doubt what I was meant to do with my life. I encourage other MT-BCs to think back to where it all started; remind yourself why you do what you do. Remember your moment.
Amanda Partlo, MT-BC
Franciscan Life Process Center
Lowell, MI 49331
Amanda Partlo graduated in 2005 from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Music Therapy degree. She worked with Sonata, Inc. and Capital Hospice as a contractual music therapist in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. She continued on to conduct music therapy sessions in a maximum security forensic facility in Florida before beginning an eight year journey providing music therapy and therapeutic activities in nursing facilities. Amanda has a passion for seniors and has a big heart for hospice work as well as Alzheimer’s and dementia care and is currently working to complete her Hospice and Palliative Care MT Certification. She started work at the Center in February 2016. Amanda also teaches piano and violin.