Alumni Interview: Jenna Bollard, #108
Interviewed by Kristen McSorley, Current Intern #124
Jenna Bollard speaks passionately of her growth during her MusicWorx internship. She recalls learning immensely from the diverse settings available, in turn opening her mind to potential job opportunities once she left MusicWorx. She also learned how to stay positive when facing the job market as a new professional; by telling herself she is capable, she was able to land several contracts and maintains her own business, Medicinal Melodies. Jenna reminisces about a memorable client at MusicWorx. She witnessed this client change from a cold, distant person to one who was open and creative. She believes we all can learn from this client and encourages MusicWorx interns to allow themselves to be vulnerable and recognize each difficult situation as an opportunity for growth.
Enjoy Jenna’s answers to our interview questions below:
1. What is your current job?
After graduating from MusicWorx, I moved to Los Angeles, started my LLC, “Medicinal Melodies” and worked several jobs before deciding to move back to the East Coast. In Los Angeles, I worked in an in-patient psychiatric setting, and in pediatric and hospice settings. Last year, I transferred my business to New York City and now have contracts at various facilities (primarily geriatric settings at the moment). I am also enrolled in graduate school full-time at NYU pursuing my Master’s Degree in Music Therapy, and I work part-time for the Music Therapy Department at NYU doing administrative work. My current Graduate level fieldwork placement is within the pediatric oncology setting particularly within the bone marrow transplant unit.
2. Would you say MusicWorx helped you get to where you are today?
Absolutely!! I think about my experiences at MusicWorx on a daily basis! So many of my intervention ideas used in Music Therapy sessions today are inspired by what I learned at MusicWorx from Barbara, Noelle, my co-interns and all of our wonderful supervisors. I truly feel that I was provided with so many practical tools to use as a Music Therapist during the MusicWorx internship.
I also feel that the diversity of populations served within the MusicWorx internship, helped my overall understanding of Music Therapy’s potential in practically every setting. I feel that MusicWorx opened me up to almost any job opportunity because I can say “Yes, I have experience in that setting!” I am so grateful for the exposure and opportunities available at MusicWorx; they helped me to understand how adaptable Music Therapy can be. MusicWorx is an incredibly well-rounded internship. You are exposed to many different approaches to Music Therapy in virtually every setting. As part of a Music Therapist’s development, it is important to be exposed to different approaches in order to further develop one’s own personal approaches. I especially appreciate this exposure now that I am deepening my understanding and continuing to develop myself.
Barbara inspired me not only as a Music Therapist/overall amazing human being but also as a businesswoman. Barbara instilled in each of us that there is always a way to create jobs as a Music Therapist. She taught us to advocate for the field and ourselves in a professional, respectable and progressive way. Through Barbara’s constant encouragement and support, I began telling myself that I could achieve anything I wanted to. I was able to suppress my negative self-talk, “I’m not good at math…I’m too new in the field to create my own jobs,” and replace it with positive self-talk, “I am going to start my own business and pitch my own contracts to facilities. I am a professional!” Barbara’s faith in us gave me the extra courage I needed to step out into the world as a professional. Not to mention, the amount of experience I gained during those six months. We were so busy and we had so much responsibility! Barbara had us out there in the field taking risks, leading all different kinds of sessions and growing from each experience. I have so many fond memories of clients from MusicWorx in the hospice setting, the hospital, the breast cancer support group, the substance abuse recovery group, the military PTSD group, the children’s hospital, the NICU, homeless organization … the list goes on and on! I learned from the hands-on experience and am so grateful for the level of trust Barbara had in us; without it I would not have learned half of what I did!
3. What drew you to the MusicWorx internship?
The diversity of the populations served in the MusicWorx internship intrigued me. I also had heard so much about how the internship challenged interns and provided interns with so much responsibility. I wanted to grow, that was important to me. I also wanted exposure to the west coast Music Therapy world, and I was really excited for the chance to work with other co-interns; it was something I was really looking forward to. I had heard so many good things about MusicWorx and my professor/advisor at Berklee, Karen Wacks, thought that it would be a good fit for me…she was right!
4. What was your favorite moment of your MusicWorx experience?
It is hard to choose just one favorite moment but I will explain one of them! I had a beautiful session with a client in hospice, whom I had built a great relationship with. Throughout my internship, I witnessed her health declining and I was there with her multiple times a week during the last months of her life. She never had any visitors. She was initially cold, guarded and didn’t say much. As we built a relationship together, I learned what a creative spirit she had. To help manage her pain, we would do creative arts, guided imagery and write improvisational songs together. I saw her initially guarded persona gradually bloom and burst with passion and life. One of the sessions I had with her before she passed away consisted of us creating songs (in her own words) about life’s meaning. We created music together and she narrated scenes with her imagination of elephants walking to the water. I asked her what colors she was seeing as she listened to the music and I invited her to draw the scenes she was making in her head with pastels. During this session, she sang gentle words about life — “peace and harmony is all we should be”; she guided me along with her in her imagination creating vivid imagery of elephants bathing in the water. We mimicked the sounds of the elephants walking on the drum, and she drew with a shaky hand what she was imagining. She gave me the drawing and insisted that I “keep that peace”. I still have it. When I imagine that scenery, I think of her and I feel peace. I feel honored to have spent those moments with her.
5. What aspects of what you learned at the MusicWorx internship prepared you for your career today?
Mostly, I feel confident in advocating for myself and for Music Therapy. Barbara would always tell us to be “working on our elevator speeches” in which we could communicate effectively what Music Therapy is in a concise way (by the time the elevator ride was over). This has helped me to understand what I have to offer, to make standards for myself, and therefore the field. Also the exposure we had to leading groups (which initially terrified me) helped me to feel confident in what I do today. The amount of risks and new experiences I had during MusicWorx helped me to feel prepared for almost anything that can come up in Music Therapy!
6. What was one of your biggest challenges during your internship?
One of the biggest challenges I personally faced during the MusicWorx internship was facing some of the personal growth that I needed to experience but wasn’t aware of. I didn’t realize how much I needed to grow as a person and in my relationships with others until I felt so exposed and challenged at MusicWorx. I learned so much about myself and that isn’t always easy! I learned the best and the worst things about myself. Looking back, I learned not to make assumptions about what others are feeling or experiencing and to welcome the differences that each person brings to the table as something that we can all learn and grow from. I found it challenging at times when things didn’t go the way I expected them to, but this was an important lesson for me and I still reflect on these experiences today. MusicWorx has the potential to reveal so much about yourself if you are open to it.
7. What was your biggest “aha” moment for your professional and/or personal growth?
I had many “aha” moments during the internship but even more came after I finished my internship and began to work in the field. One “aha” moment that comes to mind is when I was leading a drum circle on the locked psychiatric unit of a hospital in Orange County (my first job as an MT-BC). I realized that I felt completely confident to do so which is something that I would have previously been terrified of/avoided. I thought back to when I lead my solo session with the substance abuse recovery group during MusicWorx, and I realized that if I had the strength and abilities to do this before, I certainly had no excuse now! I was able to facilitate this group in an effective way, implementing several therapy techniques within the session and with this confidence I was capable of exploring the true goals of Music Therapy within the setting. My “aha” moment was when I realized in that moment that I have the resources and training to provide the clients what they need…and that’s a great feeling! This feeling is one that I am continuing to strive for by continuing my education and development. I feel that MusicWorx contributed to this thirst for more education because it got me asking more questions. Post-MusicWorx I have had many “aha” moments regarding my Music Therapy philosophies and also on a more personal level the areas in which I must grow in order to be the best Music Therapist and person that I can be.
8. What would be your one piece of advice to future MusicWorx interns?
As I mentioned earlier, MusicWorx has the potential to reveal so much about yourself if you are open to it. My most important advice would be, just try to be open to it all! If I could do it all over again, I would push myself further to be more open, understanding and less fixated on what I already know and rather be open to the things I do not know yet. If I could do it again, I would embrace the varied personalities and backgrounds of my co-interns more so than I did at the time, and I would use each and every opportunity as a way to grow (I’m trying to apply these lessons while I pursue my Graduate degree). I can’t emphasize enough to incoming MusicWorx interns that this internship provides endless opportunities for growth everyday. There will be times where you may feel resistive or find that you have conflicting opinions but I urge you to explore that with an open mind. I urge you to remain positive, to find the silver lining and opportunity for growth in difficult situations and to look beyond yourself at the bigger picture if you can. I advise future interns to pay attention to their own behaviors and responses (e.g., how you handle stress) and learn from these reactions. Use this internship as a way to grow not only as a Music Therapist but also as a person in general. Mostly be aware of your defenses and prepare yourself to become vulnerable, allow your defenses to come down and recognize the opportunities for growth.
My last piece of advice for interns is, “Buckle up! It’s quite a ride! Be prepared to work hard!” But in all seriousness, it is what you make of it! When else in life are you provided with the opportunity to work in this many settings? Try it all out! Try different techniques, try different settings, and sample it all! And utilize the wealth of resources you have available to you!