Alumni Interview: Michelle Sanford #2

Michelle Sanford, intern #2

Interview by Brianna Larsen

Michelle was the first official intern to go through the interview process with Barbara 15 years ago.  From working with her first solo patient to getting an approval from the Interdisciplinary Review Board (IRB) at Scripps Memorial Hospital, Michelle helped pave the way for over 100 more interns following her footsteps to “live the life” of a music therapist.

1. What is your current job?

Senior Clinical Social Worker in Pediatrics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY

2. Would you say MusicWorx helped you get to where you are today?


3. What drew you to the MusicWorx internship?

I hadn’t yet found the best internship “fit,” when my academic advisor told me that her good friend (and National Association for Music Therapy President) Barbara Reuer was interested in formalizing an internship program within her practice in San Diego.  The diversity of client populations, unique settings (and beautiful locale) was very exciting and I wanted very much to be a part of this amazing opportunity.  I assisted with the internship review/acceptance process and became Barbara’s first official intern.

4. What was your favorite moment of your internship experience?

There were so many it is hard to pick one!  Throughout the internship, I had the opportunity to work with many outstanding clinicians and thoroughly appreciated and depended on the support provided by the rich San Diego music therapy community.  Being “the first,” I also had the flexibility to adjust my internship with Barbara’s guidance so that it fit my needs.  One moment that certainly sticks out is towards the end of the internship when (with Barbara’s help) I got my first professional music therapy job.


5. Are there any aspects of what you learned at MW internship that best prepared you for your career today?

Yes, definitely.  Even though I am not currently practicing music therapy, my internship at MusicWorx provided important education and training surrounding working within multiple settings, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, and feeling confident in my abilities and skills.

6. What was one of your biggest challenges during your internship? 

Lack of time was certainly a big one!  Probably the biggest challenge was going before the Interdisciplinary Review Board (IRB) at Scripps Memorial Hospital so I could complete my internship project in the surgical suite.  I think Barbara and I both learned a great deal about the IRB process and we needed to have a fast learning curve.  It seemed like Barbara was just about as excited as I was when the approval came through.

7. What was your biggest “aha” moment for your professional and/or personal growth?

I think it was just having the opportunity to see the impact music can make in people’s lives in an intensive and ongoing basis.  Being in an internship is very different from practicums as you really have the opportunity to “live the life” of a music therapist.  I remember working with an oncology patient my first week leading solo sessions who expressed how the relaxation music I played, and the music we created together, helped her tolerate her nausea from chemo.  It was such a compelling example to me that I could make a difference in this woman’s life experience through this powerful medium.

8. What would be your one piece of advice to future MusicWorx interns?

Take advantage of the amazing wisdom, experience, and support provided by Barbara and the entire San Diego music therapy community.  Their abilities are top-notch and their warmth and encouragement can be a lifeline.

And, to add a second:  When I was in intern, one of my assignments was to keep a journal of my experiences.  Keep it — it is a lot of fun to look back at your trials and successes, even 15 years later!!


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