Music Therapy degree opens worlds of opportunity for graduate
Rebekah Miller sees the effects of music's transformative power in countless different ways every week. No two days on the job are ever alike for the music therapist and educator.
"One day I'm working with two-year olds and then the next I'm working with 102-year olds," says Miller, who graduated from CMU with a Bachelor of Music Therapy in 2018. "What I love the most about my work right now is the diversity. I love working with different age groups and having different goals."
Every day brings a new challenge and focus. She teaches private violin lessons in Winkler, MB one day and on another she runs music classes for children ages one to five through Prelude Music, a music therapy and education business. Using shakers, bells, and singing, she helps kids learn colours, shapes, and their first music.
Miller also does music therapy in Winnipeg several days a week, both through private contracts and with Prelude Music. She sings and plays violin, guitar, and piano, using those skills to work with various ages, from children to seniors in personal care homes.
"I love my music therapy work so much because it's about connecting with others through music," she says. "It uses music as a vehicle to help emotional, social, spiritual, and physical needs... that's what music is all about for me, it's finding joy and meaning in life."
Music therapists often work with people who have limitations and don't respond to other types of therapy or use music therapy in addition to other therapy, Miller says. Music often works in special ways that other types of therapy might not.
"Some of my residents [in the personal care home] may not be able to speak anymore or remember things, but through music they are able to verbally communicate at times and reminisce about experiences," she says.
Just last week, she was introducing music for spring, which helps clients with dementia remember and adjust to the change of seasons. The same residents that couldn't speak or remember much could sing every single word of "You Are My Sunshine" from memory.
It's because of CMU that Miller got her private contract at the personal care home. She did a practicum and internship for her degree and they ended up loving her, and music therapy, so much that they hired her after she finished her placement.
She also did several other practicums during her degree. Miller says the extensive practical experience the music therapy degree requires benefits her now as a professional and helped her get to know other music therapists and facilities in the community that use music therapy. She is now a supervisor for a CMU music therapy student, giving back to the program that gave her so much.
Miller's plan wasn't always to be a music therapist, though. When she started at CMU, she didn't think she could pursue that path because her piano skills weren't strong enough. But as she studied, she realized with her other strong music skills, hard work, and support from faculty, she could make this her future.
"The faculty really strive to help their students learn and be the best students they can be," she says. "With the help of the faculty in the music department, an unrealistic dream for me became a reality."