Monthly Archives: April 2018

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MMT Spotlight: Maria Nichta

This week, our spotlight is on Maria Nichta! Maria is one of our wonderful Music Therapists who provides Hospice and Bereavement services through the Songs of Hope program, teaches music lessons (adapted and otherwise), and works with adults and older adults at a day program. She also works with veterans at the VA and through the Wounded Warrior Project as both a Music Therapist and a Community Support Specialist. Why don’t you tell us a little more about you, Maria?


Where did you grow up / go to school?
I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH (the East Side!). I’m a Midwestern girl at heart. I went to Beaumont School for high school, and was deeply shaped by a few of my teachers there. I love Cleveland and the people there, but those winters can be brutal! I always encourage people to visit if they’ve never been. In 2012, I moved to Charlotte, NC for college, where I attended Queens University of Charlotte. I’ve really grown to love the south. Sometimes I sound a little confused when I talk, though – I’ll say “pop” (NOT “soda”) and “y’all” in the same breath.

How did you decide to pursue Music Therapy?
I’ve always loved music, and my mom says I was singing before I could talk. I played the piano and oboe in elementary school, and I started to teach myself guitar in high school. I always knew I wanted to use my passion for music in some way, while also being able to help others. In the span of a few months, both my private voice teacher and my high school choir teacher told me about Music Therapy. So I started researching what it took to become a Music Therapist, and after that, I was determined! It so perfectly combined my passions. It was definitely challenging at times, but I’m grateful to be doing such meaningful work.

Can you tell us a few of your favorite Music Therapy stories? One funny, one touching?
One of the funniest Music Therapy memories I have took place at one of my practicum sites in college. It was right around Halloween, so I planned a dancing activity for my session with kids. Since it was Halloween, I obviously decided to do “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. I was rushing to get to the session and downloaded the song to my phone right before I left – I had no service at the school, so everything had to be downloaded beforehand since I couldn’t access the internet. Everyone was so excited to hear “Thriller” when we started, but a little over a minute into the song, I realized I downloaded a version that was ONLY the background music. Once I realized this, I started singing to distract from my mistake. I kept leading as if nothing was wrong since we were in the middle of the activity, but I was so thrown off that I forgot half of the words to the song! I laugh every time I hear “Thriller” now.

I feel lucky to have so many touching Music Therapy moments, but one of the most touching memories I have was during my internship. I provided music therapy for a patient for just over 5 months, almost during my whole internship. There wasn’t really one specific session with this patient that stood out, but just my experience with him as a whole. He was unable to speak, due to having a trach in his throat. Even though he was unable to speak, we developed a strong rapport. He passed away just a week before my internship ended, and I think that music therapy brought him so much in his last few months of life.

What song is stuck in your head right now?
“Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves. She just released her new album Golden Hour at the end of March and I’ve been listening to it non-stop! I’m not even a huge country music fan, but this album is turning me back into one.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
I’d have to say a Golden Retriever. I rejected this at first when friends and family said this about me because I felt like it was cliche, but I’ve come to happily accept it. I’m a very loyal, loving, and happy person – if I had a tail, I think it would always be wagging. I’m energetic and I really love to be around people. I’m a very animated person and am easily excited about virtually anything and everything. But, like Dug from Up, I sometimes get distracted and sidetracked (“Squirrel!!!”) when my brain jumps from one thing to the next quickly. I talk a lot and can be pretty persistent (like a dog saying, “Pet me! Pet me! Pet me!”), but at the end of the day it’s because I just love people so much! And I want them to know that.

If you could give a stranger an encouraging word, what would it be?
I would say, “You are enough. Exactly as you are.” This is something that I have to remind myself, time and time again. Yes, you should challenge yourself and strive to keep improving. But cut yourself some slack! You’re human. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to be late sometimes, and you’re going to forget that thing that you swore you wouldn’t forget! You might not feel like you’re good enough, or smart enough, or strong enough, or whatever else. But you are enough. Yes you, human who is currently reading this. You are enough. Go look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that! And imagine that I’m giving you a big hug (or a friendly pat on the back, whatever you need)!

Maria, thanks for all that you do!
You are a bright spot to our team, and we’re so thankful to have you around!

2018-04-30T03:38:53+00:00April 30th, 2018|Music Therapy, Uncategorized|

Welcome to Studio PTC!

Did you hear the news?
Studio PTC is officially open for business, and we couldn’t be more excited!


With a brand new space, we’re bound for brand new experiences, and we hope to offer the same to our brand new students! A world of music, exploration, and learning awaits in an environment we’re determined to make as motivating, rewarding, and downright fun as possible.
So what might you expect to find at Studio PTC?

First Things First: Let’s Boogie.
I think it says a lot about our team – and the type of instructional space this is turning out to be – that one of the first things to happen inside Studio PTC has been affectionately dubbed the #BlueWallBoogie.

Turning an empty room into a cozy and welcoming learning environment takes a bit of imagination and – sometimes – a bit of paint. And what better color for our brand new studio than “Metro Music Therapy Blue?”

Painting day – in true MMT fashion – became a dance party as the whole crew boogied away against the backdrop of a freshly blue-ified wall. Thus the #BlueWallBoogie was born, and we highly encourage any students, family, visitors, etc. to join in the dance craze that’s sweeping the nation (or, you know, Peachtree Corners, GA).


Here at Studio PTC, we engage in only the most serious and stoic of interactions.
Clearly.

Out-of-the-Box Learning
We know that not every student fits into the “box” that general music instruction may presuppose. Our sincere goal is to adapt our teaching methods to suit the needs of any learner. So we made it a priority to draft a general music curriculum that we can easily present in a variety of ways – both “traditional” and “unorthodox.”
If a student is a “typical” learner… great! We’ll have a blast making music together!
If a student is an “out-of-the-box” learner… great!
We’ll have a blast making music together, just the same!

Because each of us here at Metro Music Therapy is a Board-Certified Music Therapist, we all have some practice in making music accessible, engaging, and fun for people of all ages and learning styles. We’ll be bringing that experience with us into every bit of music instruction at Studio PTC.
Will it always look like your typical music lesson? Probably not.
And that’s the way we like it!

Take a look at this sophisticated graph.

Here you’ll see the “box” of expectations for music lessons.
If you look closely, there is also a happy chick.
The chick is not inside the box. It’s a metaphor, see?
We are the chick. We are out of the box.
At Studio PTC, a slogan and social media hashtag of ours is as follows:
#BeTheChick

Lights… Instruments… Music!
So what kind of music lessons do we offer at Studio PTC?
We’re glad you asked!

For students as young as Kindergarten, we recommend starting with Music Fundamentals. In these lessons, we’ll focus on all the fundamental musical concepts and skills that lay a foundation for everything to come. That means rhythm, dynamics, tempo, melody, music reading, voice, and piano exploration – Fun stuff!

After Music Fundamentals, students 2nd grade and above are invited to experience more fully the wonderful world of the Piano – a personal favorite, I have to say! During Piano lessons (as in all of our lessons), we’ll combine our curriculum with the students’ favorite music. After all, the music a student already loves will be the most exciting for him/her to learn!

Once a student has reached 4th grade, they’ll likely have developed their fine and gross motor skills to a point that they’re ready to try a stringed instrument – like Guitar or Ukulele! This is also the minimum age we recommend for Voice Instruction. If you’re wondering: “Why wait until 4th Grade?
We want our students to feel successful as they begin their musical journeys, so we’d hate to jump into something too soon before they’re ready! As such, voice lessons beginning before age 12 will focus mostly on vocal exploration, choosing appropriate repertoire, and caring for the voice.

Whether it’s Music Fundamentals, Piano, Guitar, Ukulele, or Voice —
Whatever the avenue, we believe that making music is a life-giving experience that anyone can enjoy.
We want to help our students do just that!

So drop on by!
Do a #BlueWallBoogie!
Remember to #BeTheChick!
There’s good times a-plenty to be had at #StudioPTC.
We’ll see you there!

Expecting the Unexpected

I am a planner. I like to have a plan for most things that I do, and even when I don’t have a plan, I like to at least plan for the fact that there will be no plan. I think it mostly comes from a desire to know what I should be expecting. A desire to be prepared, mentally, emotionally, etc.

In other words, me and Surprise don’t quite Harmonize.

But the world of Music Therapy is full of surprises – some big, some small – and that’s something that I’m growing to at least appreciate, if not yet fully embrace (I’m working on it!)
Rather than a predictable and repetitive melody, this job feels more like free jazz sometimes. That is to say: it can feel a little all over the place! Just when you think you know what chord must be coming next, you’ve shifted into a new key. Right as you get a feel for the beat, the drummer drops his sticks and starts playing trombone instead. During a session with a client in a common area, a well-intentioned passerby visiting the facility hands you a grapefruit with a wink and a, “What you’re doing is so nice, keep it up!” (True story.)
You never quite know what your week might entail!

There are certainly constants that remain true in every session, every interaction, every song and every intervention. And, as mentioned in a previous post, structure and repetition are valuable tools in Music Therapy (See: Déjà Vu! Repetition in Music Therapy) But I’ve started to notice that one of those constants is fluctuation. One of the things we as therapists can Expect – with some degree of certainty – is the Unexpected.

We can expect songs and interventions to take a turn and become something entirely different.
We can expect clients to enjoy instruments and songs we never thought they’d like.
We can expect to forget instruments and materials and need to improvise – and we can expect those moments to perhaps be even more engaging and beneficial for our clients than whatever we had initially planned! (Who knew?)
We can expect cancellations, rescheduling, relocating, and visitors.
We can expect to be offered a grapefruit in the middle of a session.
(Okay, maybe that one’s a stretch.)

A lot of these surprises are good things! When we can embrace the Unexpected, “roll with the punches,” and learn to improvise (musically or otherwise) to suit the situation, our clients often benefit. And so do we.

But other surprises can be more challenging.
Other surprises can be harder to respond to.
Because no matter how much you think you’ve prepared, no matter how long it might have even been Expected, no matter the fact that you know full well what Hospice care means…

The death of a client can still knock you off your feet.

Which, I think, in its own way, is a good thing. Therapeutic relationships are meaningful for the therapist as well as for the client, and grief is a natural, human response to loss. So the fact that it can be hard to “roll” with this particular “punch” is no surprise. In fact, it’s evidence of empathy, confirmation of care, the mark of a meaningful relationship. But it is still hard.

If we can Expect the Unexpected, isn’t the opposite also true?
Something Expected can still catch us off guard.
So what do we do when an Expected outcome arrives Unexpectedly?
How do we make sense of the surprising event when it suddenly comes?
I certainly don’t have answers, but I know that it’s okay to feel shocked.
To feel uncertain.
To not be prepared.
To not have a plan.

Rather than trying to file those things away with a logical (but maybe somewhat robotic), “It was Expected, and I had prepared,” we can try to appreciate the (natural, human) feeling of surprise, even if not quite embracing it yet. And maybe that can better equip us to support those who are feeling significantly more shocked and uncertain than we in the wake of this “Expected” event.
Because remembering that even the Expected can still be entirely Unexpected might just help us to Harmonize with the Surprised.

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

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