Alumni Interview: Mary Altom #66

Esther Craven, intern #125 interviews Mary Altom, intern #66

Mary’s experience as a MusicWorx intern truly stretched her to exceed her comfort zone and foreshadowed her current positions working with students in special education and private practice. Mary Altom gives a helpful piece of advice for interns with overwhelming projects… read on to learn more!

What is your current job?

First of all, I am the manager of client services for Music Therapy Services of Texas located in Dallas, TX.  We contract with school districts and work in the special education setting with students who have Autism and other intellectual disabilities.  We have seven music therapists on staff, and I am responsible for making it run as smoothly as possible.  I also conduct evaluations to determine whether a student qualifies for music therapy services in the special education setting.

My second job is my private practice – Sound Starts Music Therapy (  I provide music therapy and adapted music lessons for children with Autism and intellectual disabilities in an individual setting from my home clinic/studio.

Would you say MusicWorx helped you get to where you are today? (If yes, how?)

Oh, definitely!  I learned so much during internship about managing a schedule that changes daily.  I came out of internship with the ability to wear many hats – clinician, project manager, secretary, driver, technology specialist, etc.  Though I wasn’t ready to go into private practice right out of internship, I have certainly drawn on those experiences as I am going through the process right now!

What drew you to the MusicWorx internship?

Well, I always said, I was going to move to California from the time I began college my freshman year.  When it was time to think about internship, I was not ready to pick a “specialty population.”  So after searching the AMTA database, MusicWorx was the internship site that I really wanted.   I was excited to be able to work in a variety of clinical settings AND get the private practice component as well.  It was a win-win for me!

What was your favorite moment of your MWx experience?

I loved having colleagues to share my internship experience.  My senior and junior interns were fabulous.  And my co-intern Tiff was amazing!  … Having someone to share the highs and lows … made being so far from home much easier.  I never in a million years could have been as successful during internship if I was alone!

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

My placement at TERI introduced me to work with children diagnosed with Autism.   Back then I didn’t know the path my career would take, but when I got a job working in the special education setting, I had that foundation.

What was one of your biggest challenges during your internship? (Besides gas money and lack of time.)

My internship was schedule from January to June.  With a wedding date set for July 14th and my fiancé back home in Tennessee, wedding planning in addition to internship responsibilities sky rocketed my stress level!  In the end, the wedding was everything I had hoped for, but I still ask myself why I put myself through that!

Also, during part of my internship Barbara assigned me to make cold calls to older adult facilities.  Being a total melancholy/total introvert, I hated every second of that (which of course is why I was assigned to the task!!)  In the end I was no worse for the wear and gained valuable experience with talking to facility administrators.

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

We had the opportunity to attend a drum circle workshop conducted by Arthur Hull at the Remo Recreational Music Center in Hollywood.  I loved every minute of that workshop and was really empowered to use my facilitating skills.  So when it was my turn to lead a solo session at the drug and alcohol rehab facility, I was really able to draw on what I learned from Arthur Hull and facilitated an excellent music making therapy session!

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

One of the biggest things I am still learning is how to work on a project in small intervals.  I tend to want to conquer the world (see a project begin and end) in one day or over a weekend spree.  The real world doesn’t work that way (sadly!).  So my advice is to take internship one day at a time — one tiny part of a project each day  — an hour each day adds up to making a big difference over time.


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