From the Desk of Hannah Avery…

On March 4th, I walked out of HGMTS as a college graduate, freshly finished with my music therapy internship. I floated on clouds all the way home and felt a sense of satisfaction and pride. Not only had I just completed an intense, six month endeavor, but I had also walked out with a signed employment agreement that was effective for the very next week. I, the no-longer music therapy intern, was seen as an individual with potential, and ability to serve as a now-professional music therapist. 

I rested for what felt like a hummingbird’s heartbeat and found myself making the commute back to Jackson on the morning of March 10th. My nerves jittered as though I was coming back for my first day of internship all over again. Was I sure that I was qualified to be a professional music therapist? Was I really going to start making a living? Did I actually have what it took?

My first day on the job consisted of meeting many new client groups as well as reuniting with clients whom I had seen the previous week. I felt a new sense of confidence and empowerment as the day went on. Something had changed. I was not the intern anymore. I was no longer supervised and given critique. I was now considered on even playing ground as all of the other music therapists working at HGMTS. I sensed it in the way that my coworkers interacted with me. They no longer approached me as a teacher or mentor, but as a friend. This long awaited connection and relationship washed over me and overfilled my cup. All of my self-doubt and worry was rinsed clean and I felt my professional confidence take root. 

As I completed my second day on the job, I started to hear murmurs of a virus. This virus had made its way to the United States, and was a potential threat of a pandemic. Sure that it was a long way from Michigan, I set this on the backburner and drove home, unaware that I would not return. As though overnight, this virus had spread like a ravenous weed searching for good soil. It had shut many doors and bolted the locks. One by one, each and every session I had scheduled for the month disappeared into thin air. A few days of uncertainty later, I received an official, emotional, dreaded termination notice.

It all happened at the speed of light. Six month internship. Employment. Two days of work. Fired.

What gave me the most pain was the emotion in Jaime’s voice as she called to let me go. Through tears, she strained her voice to deliver the swift and unpredictable news. Baffled, we both sat in shock on opposite ends of the phone. How had things come to this so suddenly? What did the future hold? Where did we go from here?

One of the most challenging aspects of COVID-19 has been the unknown. As humans, and especially as Americans, we typically grasp onto any opportunity to take control of our lives. We make money, we budget, we ask Siri, we plan, we stock up, we post the good things, we buy the new things, we eat too many things, we want all things. We hardly ever allow ourselves to be content with not knowing what comes next. People without a plan are considered “unsuccessful” or “lazy”, rather than “patient” or “trusting”.

As music therapists, we are blessed to have a bit of an upper hand in this area. We walk into each and every session with a plan, but are often stripped of this cush luxury. We are trained, through repeated exposure, to expect to lose control. We are veered into an entirely different route and an even exponentially varied outcome. We learn how to adapt, be flexible, and go where we are needed. We trust. We hope. We make do. We allow the therapeutic process to be captained by the client themself. We are merely the wind in their sails, providing support, encouragement, and a professional standpoint.

After a month of rest, trust, unknowing, and prayer, a miracle was for me and for HGMTS. This miracle was a temporary financial blessing which has given three music therapists the opportunity to serve and return to their work. Through the hard work and provision, HGMTS has been granted a loan which will cover all payroll expenses for eight weeks. The gang is getting back together! Virtually, that is. 

Can you imagine going through this season without things like FaceTime, Zoom, Netflix, Amazon, or takeout? We are facing a challenging, intimidating, and scary time in history, but think of all the ways in which we can support each other and maintain the relationships that keep us going. It is truly amazing how far technology has come, and we should be taking advantage of the connectedness that technology can provide during this time. Technology can now be utilized as a platform to facilitate music therapy sessions! Without it, I would most likely not have a job. 

I am glad to say that I am back in business! I have decided to pick these blog posts back up for the next eight weeks as a way to stay connected to all of you and, hopefully, to encourage you. What happens beyond these next eight weeks is up to the Lord and out of our hands, and for all I know, tomorrow is not even a guarantee. In the meantime, I will bathe in the many blessings and trust that tomorrow is taken care of. 

-Hannah Avery, music therapist