Alumni Interview: Carmen Steele-Abundex #17

Interviewed by Kristen McSorley, Current Intern #124

This next interview is with Carmen Steele-Abundez, Intern #17. Carmen currently works in several positions, effectively balancing time between her career and family. She recalls an early internship memory at MusicWorx that taught her the importance of asserting yourself in the professional world and taking charge of your own situation. Read more below to hear this learning experience and others!

1. What is your current job?

  • Music Therapist at One. TLC School for Homeless Children (Stockton, CA)

  • Music Instructor at Mary Graham Children’s Shelter (French Camp, CA)

  • Substitute Music Therapist for In-Harmony Music Therapy Services (Stockton, CA)

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

Yes … Even though I’m not currently working with a population covered during my internship or focusing on private practice work.  All the program development discussion and practice articulation,  “What is music therapy?” covered in the MusicWorx internship was invaluable.  I was hired to develop the programs I’m working with from scratch by people unfamiliar with music therapy.  I can’t imagine being able to do this without my MusicWorx experience.

I also love the work/family balance I’ve been able to set up for myself.  I work sixteen hours a work doing what I love, take music therapy temp work on the side here and there, and still have plenty of time to dedicate to raising my children.   I think Barbara really planted the idea that I create my own work situation to match my interests and priorities and I’m very grateful for this.  Neither my work life nor my home live feel like a burden or chore to me.  It took some work to arrange it all, but I did it.

3. What drew you to the MusicWorx internship?

It was close enough to my parent’s house (free room and board!), it covered a variety of populations, and it was private-practice orientated.

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

Bonding with co-interns.

5. What aspects of what you learned at the MusicWorx internship prepared you for your career today?

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned in the second question, developing independence as an intern. Also, seeing how Barbara neatly fit all her equipment in that tiny office!

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

Addressing spiritual issues with cancer patients and their family/friends.  I had not had much experience viewing spirituality as a domain covered by music therapy and initially felt caught off guard and inadequate when patients initiated discussion regarding spirituality. I had to do extra research and talk to others in order to prepare myself to be able to handle these moments.

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

It was during the first week of internship when we went to get our photo IDs at the hospital. We arrived at our appointment on time and the guy at the desk (not sure what his title was) told Barbara that we don’t have an appointment, and that we should come back another time.   She stood her ground, told the man that we did have an appointment.  He tried to argue with her and asked for documentation.  She marched us right past him and politely told the photographer that we were ready for our appointment.  He took the pictures and we received our IDs as scheduled.  The guy didn’t say a word as we left.  At the time, I would have turned away as soon as I was questioned if I had been by myself.  Watching Barbara handle that moment, communicated to me the intrepidness required for working in music therapy private practice.  I knew I didn’t have it yet, but I knew I wanted to have it.

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

The experience is what you make of it.


Carmen Steele-Abundez
Photo – Carmen singing with co-interns in La Jolla Lobby for the holidays.
Angela Neve, Julie McGlinnen, Deb Cowan, Carmen Steele-Abundez


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