As we approach the end of 2024, staff took some time to reflect on some highlights from 2023. As music therapists in private practice, we work with people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds on a regular basis. We’re blessed to share space with so many people, and it’s humbling to witness the power of music in so many different forms. Below are a few of our staff’s most memorable moments from the last year of work:
I have been humbled to return bi-monthly for co-facilitating drum circles at Charlotte Rescue Mission Dove's Nest. The residents forge such resilience and perseverance amidst their treatment. Witnessing residents genuinely connect, laugh and share with one another in their sobriety is an honor. Their honesty reminds me to focus on the present.
-Gretchen Benner, LMSW, MT-BC
I Hear Your Heart
I was so blessed to lead an 8-week music therapy program with survivors of SA/V through Brave Step. The women were passionate about regaining confidence and building community through songwriting, improvisation, and poetry. Each session held new and creative pathways to combatting grief and trauma, and I was honored to witness the resilience these women held.
-Gabby Jones, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist
“It’s a Good Day for Singing a Song”
We begin each session with this Peggy Lee hit at the Minds Matter Fort Mill location where I have thoroughly enjoyed leading music therapy groups for older adults. Each session I am able to witness participants engage in various activities and connect with one another through song. It’s so rewarding to see their bright personalities come together in a space where they can display their creativity and try new things!
-Molli Smith, MT-BC
Music and Growth
As a music therapist, I am honored to work with clients affected by stroke and how music can be used to facilitate growth as a person as well as a musician.
-Melissa Reinhardt, MSEd, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist
Third post in a series following ED, Gretchen Benner's attendance of the York County Non-Profit Management Certificate Program - Rock Hill, SC.
Tiffany and Dr. Scott Whaley presented “Board Governance” during this month’s series. One of the takeaways from this lecture discussed the importance for Piedmont Music Therapy (PMT) to diversify its Board of Directors - building a strong team! With enough support PMT will be able to open a digital application process for interested service members. The shared motto by the Whaleys was “always be building your board.”
The purpose of a Board of Directors is to act on behalf of the community while furthering the organization’s mission. PMT is grateful for its board members and their willingness to support our mission of providing music therapy treatment, music lessons and educational events in the greater Charlotte area. During our first year operating as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization), the extra level of accountability and support has been appreciated! The board also helps to dream into the future for capacity building. I look forward to attending the future lectures in next month and into 2024. Happy New Year and best wishes during your holidays!
Second post in a series following Executive Director, Gretchen Benner's attendance of the York County Non-Profit Management Certificate Program.
Collaboration, partnerships and alliances will help Piedmont Music Therapy to further its mission. Gratefully, we have leaned into community-based partnerships with area organizations and agencies over the past decade. Leaning more into managing those partnerships and sharing takeaways and metrics will assist to spotlight that work. As an Executive Director, my role is to manage the organization which includes the personnel and procedures to connect, play and grow with individuals of all ages and abilities through music therapy treatment, lessons and education within the community of greater Charlotte.
In exploring the stages of an organization's development from Mr. Charles Weathers of The Weathers Group, PMT aligns with the initial phase of forming. Learning how to improve sustainable service delivery was affirming. We explored how values, roles, expectations and responsibilities connect. PMT looks forward to the opportunity to work with more individuals and intentionally connect with them to improve their health & wellness in the Carolinas.
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PMT's Executive Director joined the cohort for the Non-Profit Management Certificate Program. This blog post is the first of nine with reflections on attending the monthly training through the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The first class I attended was inspiring! There were over 40 individuals attending from local organizations across the Palmetto State. It was wonderful to learn more about offerings for community members of varying ages and needs!
This picture on the grounds of the training site was meaningful.
The evolution of PMT's 10 history is amazing. PMT started as a "pop-up" mobile service provider that was a "for-profit". Today, PMT is a team of 5 employees, one intern, and many volunteers. PMT is still conveniently mobile, but also has two stationary locations. Staff overcame much education and advocacy within greater Charlotte in order to methodically introduce ourselves as a private practice and inclusive studio.
This leadership training is appealing as PMT is new to the non-for profit sector. One of PMT's main learning objectives is to improve communication. Specifically, we want to improve communication with stakeholders in order that we can best convey the impact of music therapy in our community. Though the nine-month course is not a brief journey, it is a necessary training that is conveniently located in our backyard.
Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost
It can feel daunting as PMT has shifted to a non-profit structure. However, this certificate program will inform PMT of resources and connections to smooth this transition. The countless clients, caregivers and organizations that we have served, fuels this long journey. Potential clients whom we could share services with in the future through donation or grant funded opportunities is also fueling our energies!
Thank you for supporting PMT's growth and evolution. If you have questions or ideas on our new path, please share in the comment section below:
Written by: Gretchen Benner
By: Nick Paredes, MT Intern
Music is an intrinsic part of being a teenager. From discovering new music to singing along to familiar songs, listening to, singing, and playing music can help someone open up and express themselves. Especially when words might not be enough, music can help relate and connect.
Music therapy with teenagers can look like all sorts of things; it all depends on the goals and interests of whoever is present, whether in a group or individually. Below are some examples of music therapy experiences a teen might participate in.
With songwriting, a person can have control over the words and sounds of a song while expressing their feelings or processing life experiences. They might choose to rewrite part or all of a song they already know, or start from scratch. The music therapist might help formulate the lyrics, give examples of melodies and harmonies, and be a sounding board for ideas.
Music listening can allow the opportunity to dive deeper into a song’s meaning and its relatability. When words are too difficult or feelings can’t be verbalized, a song can communicate what a person might be experiencing. Music listening could also include relaxation to music, such as progressive muscle relaxation or imagery-based relaxation experiences to help with anxiety and other stressors.
Improvisation in music therapy is when the teenager(s) and the therapist create music together in the moment to express and explore feelings musically; this could also look like one teen taking a turn expressing how they feel on one instrument, while the rest of the group listens and supports them with other instruments. Though the improvisation might be discussed afterwards, improvisation allows for a musical “conversation” to take place, and challenges everyone present to find different ways to communicate and connect. Improvisation could be instrumental (piano, drums, xylophone, body percussion etc.) or vocal, and often is a mix; it all depends on the teens’ preferences and the predetermined goal of the improvisation.
Music making encompasses the rest of what might occur within a music therapy session with teens: singing, playing instruments, and even performing for an audience. This might be playing a song together in a group or singing a favorite song along to a recording. Learning to play new instruments within a therapeutic setting could also give a teen new ways to express themselves and connect with others. Singing itself requires deep breathing, and has been shown to help improve mental health and decrease chronic pain (Bradt et al., 2016).
Creating music in the moment with a teenager is the purest way of working towards understanding, acceptance, and development.
Katrin McFerran, 2010
The flexibility that music allows gives the opportunity to a music therapist and teenager to explore whatever they might be needing in the moment. The music therapist, teenager, and the music itself can foster understanding, acceptance, and development at a time when music is already so intuitively a core part of self-understanding.
Bradt, J., Norris, M., Shim., M., Gracely, E. J., & Gerrity, P. (2016). Vocal music therapy for chronic pain management in inner-city African Americans: A mixed methods feasibility study. Journal of Music Therapy, 53(2), 178-206. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/thw004
McFerran, Katrina. (2010). Adolescents, music and music therapy. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Source linked here
Written by: Nick P., Music Therapy Intern
Every part of a music therapy session is planned with the growth and development of the individual or group in mind, even the “hello” or introduction song. For most younger populations, calling it the “hello song” is perfectly acceptable, as it reinforces social cues and expectations when interacting with others. But when working with most adolescents and adults, calling it the introduction to music therapy or not even naming it is more appropriate. Whether or not it has its own title, most people benefit from having a musical transition from outside life into the music session.
Hello songs with younger children have many benefits, including reinforcing the greeting of others, improving their understanding of sequences and the order of activities, and serving as a way to engage and prepare them for the session. The “Hello Song,” by The KIboomers, for example, can be used as it is or modified based on the group or individual to provide the above benefits as well as offer a way for children to begin to recognize and name emotions and feelings and possibly relate to other peers and how they might feel.
For groups of adolescents, giving them the opportunity to share songs that were or are meaningful to them or symbolize how their time has been since the last session can serve several purposes. First of all, it can give the music therapist some insight into their inner world without having to dialogue, improve the relationship between individual and therapist, give the rest of the group a way to possibly relate and connect with the individual who shared, as well as provide space for someone to communicate their feelings beyond just verbalizing them. For individual sessions with adolescents, song-sharing can be beneficial as well, and so can a short relaxation experience, or simply playing instrumental music from a speaker as they walk in to provide a simple but effective transition into the music therapy space.
For adults and older adults, especially if working on memory recall, choosing a song that’s familiar to everyone in the group and singing it every week can be a great way to signify the transition into the music therapy space. Though for some groups of adults, a verbal transition or simple musical transition into the space might be more beneficial, such as a relaxation experience or verbal check-in. Currently for a group of older adults, my internship supervisor and I are using the song “It’s a Good Day,” by Peggy Lee to open up each session. Once the song is over, the group is asked “What makes today a good day?” This gives the group a chance to share something personal with the group, and gives opportunities for connection and relation.
These are some of the ways I have incorporated opening experiences in sessions, mostly during my practicum experience while studying music therapy. While a hello song or introduction song may not always be appropriate, they can be a useful way to transition into a session in a routine and beneficial way.
Will the real PMT please stand up, please stand up, please stand up...
~ inspired by Eminem's The Real Slim Shady (2000)
Piedmont Music Therapy (PMT) chose to change classification from a Limited Liability Corporation to a not-for-profit organization (NFPO) earlier this year. This structural difference will now provide funding options to clients who could not previously afford "out of network" options. Grants designated only for NFPOs are one such funding option that will be newly accessible under this designation. Although this means many additional hours of PMT staff writing and applying for additional grants, PMT believes this change will grow its mission!
Over an estimated 125 hours of work was placed into completing necessary NFPO documentation. PMT wanted to maintain its history of inclusive service to greater Charlotte (CLT). When energy was running low during these months of paperwork, PMT gained inspiration modeled by the perseverance and self-advocacy of clients, families and organizations with whom we have served!
PMT received the 501(c)(3) categorization as a tax-exempt organization effective March 1, 2023. This structural change will yield a sustainable way for clients to receive highly qualified services, AND fair wages for clinicians earning their livelihoods. Maintaining the name "PMT" allowed the continued use of established email accounts, website branding, employee uniforms, etc.
The seven member Board of Directors was formed spring 2023. These volunteers aspire to promote increased access to music therapy. PMT is grateful these individuals are sharing their expertise and time!
As we officially embark with the tax-exempt status, we ask for your ideas, feedback and vision approaching the reformed identity. The private practice once solely geared towards mobile service delivery has evolved to provide more appointments for individual clients of all ages visiting PMT's location in South CLT.
Our organization hopes to improve its reach within our community. Tailored offerings for veterans, individuals with Parkinson's Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury, and post-stroke will be a new focus. We also hope to improve group opportunities for children, youth and young adults of diverse abilities.
Please consider PMT with your yearly tax-deductible contributions. Thanks for encouraging our formation as...
the real PMT please stands up, stands on up...
Written by: Gretchen Benner, Exec. Director
Written by: Molli Smith, Music Therapy Intern
In wrapping up my final two weeks of internship here at PMT, it’s been nice to look back on this journey and think of how far I have come. I’ve learned so much in the past 6 months and I feel more prepared to enter the professional world as a board-certified music therapist. Through my reflection, I figured compiling a list of songs was a fun way to represent each month of my internship! I’ve also highlighted some of the lyrics that stick out to me the most.
Change of Seasons - From graduating college, to finally starting internship, month one was a big period of change! There was a lot to learn and adjust to - especially with a larger clinical caseload. I had to remind myself to not worry too much about what was to come and simply focus on taking things step by step.
Where the Adventure Begins - As I started to gain more clinical experience and refresh all the skills I had learned in college, I sort of rediscovered my passion for music therapy and was reminded of why I chose this career path in the first place. It was exciting to be on this new adventure.
Keep Your Head Up - While I began taking on more responsibilities, my days were growing busier. At times it was a lot to keep track of, but I reminded myself that I could do it and that my hard work will pay off.
Try Everything - At month four, I was feeling more confident in my abilities and was just ready to try anything! It’s also important to learn how to keep going and make the best of the situation if things don’t go as planned. Having the opportunity to try new things with support from my clinical supervisors truly helped my growth as a music therapy intern.
Brand New - Nearing the end of my journey, I was worrying less and enjoying each experience I had. Although I still got a bit nervous before some sessions, I was beginning to feel a lot more at ease.
Thank You For The Music - Finally in month 6, I am so thankful for all of the experiences and music I have gotten to share with others. The best part has been seeing positive change in many of my clients and being able to make connections with them through song. It is something I shall never forget.
I hope you have enjoyed this collection of songs. They each tell a little story of my time here at PMT.
What are some songs that relate to your own experiences in life?
Providing music therapy services for early childhood to older adults, music instruction and enrichment plus continuing music therapy education in Greater Charlotte Area of the Carolinas.