My Music Therapy Journey: Stephanie Leavell
My path to becoming a music therapist is kind of an interesting one. I didn't start out being interested in music therapy, mostly because I didn't know about it. Initially, I went to school to study composition, but it didn’t take me long to realize that composition wasn't really my thing.
Why? I'm a songwriter… not a composer. (They’re more different than you’d think!) This realization, combined with a deep love for contemporary music and improvisation, encouraged me to transfer to Berklee College of Music. But my journey as a music therapist student did not start there either! I planned to study music business and I imagined myself living in New York City and working for a record label. It’s funny to think back on now!
Here comes the weird part: Three weeks before I started my first semester at Berklee I had a dream. I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember the next part very vividly. At some point in the dream, I woke up with one very clear thought in my mind: I needed to be a music therapist. Huh?!
By that time, I had heard of music therapy because I had looked into each of the majors at Berklee. And my composition instructor at the time, who used to provide music in correctional facilities, kept assuring me that I was not really a “music business major” type. She was right. I ended up taking Music Therapy 101 my first semester at Berklee and each and every class confirmed that I was made for this.
15 Years Later
Fast forward fifteen plus years to the present day, and I’ve had the opportunity to work as a pediatric music therapist at a children’s hospital, work at a sensory integration clinic, facilitate early childhood music groups, and create music and educational resources for other music therapists and music educators through MusicForKiddos.com. The bulk of my music therapy work has been focused on working with children from 0 to 6 years of age.
Upon reflecting on my role as a music therapist and the impact it has made in my life, I realize that it has made me a more understanding and empathetic human. It has also had a significant impact on the way that I parent my own child.
For example, everything that I learned while working as a music therapist in a sensory integration center has helped me to understand people in a deeper and more profound way. Similarly, working in a children’s hospital made me realize that there's a lot more going on in the world than what meets the eye. People are complex! Music therapy has opened my eyes and broadened my mind, and I’m very grateful for that.
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