Alumni Interview: Anna McChesney #45




Anna C. McChesney currently works as a music therapist with two juvenile detention centers and is working towards a license as a professional counselor. One of Anna’s biggest learning moments during her time at internship came while beginning the contract for Healing Notes Inc. through the MusicWorx partnership at the time. She realized how persistence and commitment were essential to building contracts; while she describes it as a struggle, her hard work clearly paid off as we maintain a great relationship with Rady Children’s Hospital through the Resounding Joy Healing Notes program today! Lastly, she leaves us with a bit of advice: due to the diversity of the internship, you receive a lot of opportunities with different populations. She encourages current and future interns to specialize: “find your niche…where your passion and your career…meet.”


Read more of Anna’s interview below!


1. What is your current job?

I am a Music Therapist for two juvenile detention center education programs.  I am hired through Henrico County Public Schools as part of Virginia’s State Operated Programs. Because I have my master’s in counseling, I provide psychoeducational groups based in music therapy to all students at the centers.  I provide education and training to staff based in social and emotional learning as well as character education.  I have also co-authored and edited a curriculum guide for all art and music therapists in Virginia Department of Education State Operated Programs. I provide supervision to all music therapists in this program.  In addition, I am working towards my license as a professional counselor.


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

Of course!  I am particularly grateful that the internship experiences that Barbara provided pushed me both personally and professionally.  My undergraduate program prepared me intellectually, but the internship prepared me for a career as a music therapist.

3. What drew you to the MusicWorx internship?

Several things drew me to MusicWorx.  In 2003 when I was doing my search, I first looked for internships that had a website (there weren’t many!).  I figured that meant the internship director had his or her ducks in a row.  I was thoroughly impressed that there would be required readings, projects, and case studies.  And in addition, I would have partners to work with and learn from.  Next, I looked for a site that was far away…I wanted to travel for my internship knowing that I would eventually end up at home.  I narrowed it down to Denver, San Diego, and Chicago.  Then, being proactive and early, I sent feelers out a year in advance.  MusicWorx was the only one that accepted people that far ahead of time.  So I submitted my materials, had my phone interview, and got accepted! 


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

Co-leading sessions with my internship partner, and now best friend, Becky Riley Olin, is one of the best gains from MusicWorx.  Barbara placing us together was the perfect fit: learning about personalities and how some people seriously fit together; learning about our styles of leadership; playing together; having fun together; crying together; learning about music therapy; growing in our career; and creating a sustaining lifelong friendship.


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

When I was in the internship as well as when I was sub-contracting with MusicWorx, I thought I was going to start my own business.  So I soaked up everything I could about that.  However, so far, I have not gone that way.  I would say the types of sessions planned for McDonald’s center (substance abuse) parallel the plans that I write for the kids in detention. 


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

Preparing and doing sessions at McDonald’s were my biggest challenge (which is kind of ironic since that population most parallels the population I work with).  Because I was 21, when working with that group I felt young, immature, unprepared, nervous, and unsure of myself.  I was highly nervous about my music skills and what I would say.  It always seemed to run smoothly, but I was also terrified walking into a session there.


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

I was in charge of marketing for the older adult facilities as well as beginning the contract at Children’s Hospital from Healing Notes.  I learned about patience and that as music therapists, we have to constantly educate others about our profession, its benefits, and the necessity to pay therapists to provide the service.  I was constantly shot down and asked to do sessions for free.  Payment was sporadic as Healing Notes was gathering its funding, and even when funding came through, getting the buy-in from the staff at the hospital was not fluid.  I learned quickly that contracts do not fall from the sky, and they are earned through hard work and persistence.  


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

Take every opportunity that is thrown your way to learn and grow.  Six months disappear quickly, and it is likely the only time in your life that you can try many different skills, populations, and techniques while under supervision.  Learn from every experience you participate in or lead as well as each conversation with Barbara.   Learn about your likes and dislikes.  Learn about where your strengths are and where you need to keep working.  Realize that you cannot be the best in everything, but you will find your niche.  And that is where your passion and your career can meet. 





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