I am Board Certified Music Therapist, serving the Central Maryland area in my private practice, Annapolis Music Therapy Services. I’m also a classically trained pianist in the Liszt lineage. I’m honored to be thought of as a true ally by my friends in the Neurodiversity/Autistic Rights Movement, and this work came before my career as a music therapist. This made me a difficult student in grad school when we discussed autism, and the way many therapists tend to view their clients. I started out in music education, both in public/private schools and running my own piano studio. I got my music degree from CSU-Pueblo in 2003. After moving back to my native Maryland, I commuted over 2 hours (!!) from Baltimore to Shenandoah University, to continue my drawn out journey of becoming a credentialed Music Therapist (MT-BC). (That was my only option at the time, since there are no music therapy graduate programs in MD.) By May 2013 I had finished my internship, passed my Board Examination, and started my private practice. The following year I co-authored the article “Sensory Friendly Concerts: A community music therapy initiative to promote Neurodiversity” with Dr. Blythe LaGasse in the Int’l Journal of Community Music’s special issue on Community Music Therapy. If you’re interested in learning more about the Neurodiversity Movement (from the perspective of an ally and music therapist), you can take the continuing ed course I created on Music Therapy and Neuro Ed. This is a FREE course, intended to help start more Sensory Friendly Concerts around the country and even around the world. I received advanced training in Neurologic Music Therapy in November 2014 and am particularly interested in researching the motor differences of people diagnosed on the autism spectrum, through this approach. When I say “motor differences,” feel free to think about people on the spectrum who are nonverbal, and use Supported Typing, Rapid Prompt Method or AAC devices to communicate.
The Musical Autist 501c3 nonprofit organization is located between Baltimore and Annapolis, MD. We are a short hop from DC. We have awesome culture here! It is our vision to promote Autistic Culture by creating EQUAL ACCESS TO THE FINE ARTS in live concert settings, by creating venues that are both respectful and accommodating, and by training local jazz and classical performing artists to be understanding of their audience members. (For example, just because a person can’t sit still and be quiet, doesn’t mean they’re enjoying the music any less!) When I first started this work back in 2011, my goal was to define, establish and trademark “Sensory Friendly Concerts®,” so that these events would fall within the practice of Community Music Therapy and only be facilitated by credentialed music therapists. **Side note – yes we actually got the federal trademark, I still can’t believe it – but do I care about upholding this rule and telling people and venues they can’t use the name? No way, I’ve got way more important things to do with my time and essentially, when I see people using the name I think “Mission accomplished! These ideas are catching on and society is becoming more accommodating to autistic people!”
Liszt’s, ‘Valise Oubliee’ no.1 in F# (The Forgotten Waltz)
at the Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Dec.03
Here’s a few interesting things about me. I’ve always been madly in love with hot air balloons and mini horsies. I have a pet sheep named Snuggles, among other furbabies. I’m a sinner saved by grace. I wasted quite a few years trying to make it in the music business. I am *severely* left-handed….I like that description, it makes me laugh! Because it is really true and can sometimes even be disabling. Another great description/nickname, given to me by the esteemed Stephen Shore is “Token NT” (NT means Neurotypical). This was at an Autism Society conference when Sunny and I attended a self-advocacy workshop he was leading. Sunny and I go to a lot of conferences and honestly, for as much as I love my friends in the music therapy field, I much prefer to go to conferences like AutCom, that are primarily led and attended by autistic people. I’m much more comfortable with my autistic friends, where there’s no expectation to interact or make small talk. At music therapy conferences I need to hide in my room a lot to decompress after lots of socializing. I thrive in social atmospheres where I need to be very extroverted, especially if I sense a mission I can accomplish for something I really believe in. But I can also crash from it and need lots of time being a homebody. I think this makes me an “ultra-vert” and also pretty spectrumy.
Though I have no autism diagnosis, ever since I was a little girl, riding in the car through trees that create that blinky kind of shade – well, that is enough to make me flap my hands or completely shutdown. As well as sitting next to someone who is chewing loudly, that is enough to make me push my hands into my ears and rock back and forth…seriously, the sound bothers me that much. Just ask my family! I definitely have some sensory processing issues. I keep earplugs in my purse at all times and keep noise reduction headphones around the house. (Ps my husband is a saint and I adore him! He is so extremely accommodating and sensitive to all of my needs.) As a teacher and therapist, I strongly believe these sensory processing issues suit me well, giving authentic empathy for my students and clients with the same type of challenges. I constantly wonder at how frustrating it must be, to deal with hyper and/or hypo-sensitivities AND deal with being born into a society that aggrandizes and promotes a person’s value based on what they are able to vocalize!! If a person on the spectrum is not capable of, or chooses not to SPEAK, therein lies the need for the universal language of music. This is a primary reason why I became a music therapist.