Assignments: Weekly Symposia

Opportunities to Think Outside the Box

A cornerstone of the MusicWorx internship experience is year-round weekly meetings at the MusicWorx offices in Sorrento Valley. Symposia are sacred blocks of time each Monday afternoon during which both junior and senior MusicWorx interns engage personally in insightful dialog with the clinical internship directors/supervisors.

Weekly Symposia

Interns begin every week with a block of time dedicated to their growth as music therapists. The symposia with the internship directors/supervisors covers patient highlights, discusses recent challenges, and provides a forum for constructive criticism and peer learning.
Symposia’s structure provides guidance for new topics and populations, as well as ongoing feedback about current programs. This large portion of Mondays is spent ensuring the interns are receiving the feedback they require, practicing self-care and addressing any compassion fatigue, and maximizing their potential.


  • AMTA: Pro Video Lessons
  • MARI/ Mandala
  • Music Therapy Business Marketing Strategies
  • MusicWorx Toolbox Implementation
  • New Music Therapy Research Results

Group Discussion

  • Hospital-Rounds Scheduling
  • Therapy Intervention Innovation
  • Patient Breakthroughs
  • Music Therapy Conference Summary

Oral Presentation

  • 20 Weekly Patient Highlights
  • 1 Term Case Study (Analysis of at least 8 sessions with 1 client)
  • 1 Term Project, Self-Chosen Topic

Assignment Highlights

As a part of weekly symposium, interns share patient highlights.  Below are some accounts of recent experiences; for more examples, read the collection compiled by Sarah Sendlbeck, “Six Month Chrysalis.”
End Of Life

End Of Life

Sharon loved music, had played the piano when she was a child, and later in life, took up playing the organ. She played annual concerts for many years with a jazz pianist who lived in her building and also led frequent sing-alongs. When Sharon could no longer read music because of macular degeneration, she sold her organ. She had never learned to improvise or memorize music, so she couldn’t continue playing after age 92.
Read More >

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury

When admitted in November 2009, the patient was unable to speak and exhibited much agitation (reason for first referral). Music therapy services have been provided since that time. I observed the patient lying in bed, wife and mother-in-law at bedside. As soon as he saw the paddle drum, the patient stated, “I remember the drumming and when you came to see me!” The patient immediately began playing, laughing, and singing; an instant improvement of patient’s mood as evidenced by facial affect and eye contact.
Read More >

Abdominal Cancer

Abdominal Cancer

I was working with a fellow therapist who had brought her cello. It was a real treat to hear her play at bedside for all who listened. In particular, when we entered MP’s room, the patient told me that she had played violin and that strings were her favorite instrument. She was lying in bed in a pool of perspiration, looking very uncomfortable. She said she was in a great deal of pain, and it was one of the first times I could pull out the pain chart and have her rate her pain. She chose level eight (on a scale of one to ten) and agreed to some music played softly.
Read More >

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

DM’s diagnosis required precautions: gloves, mask, and gown. Upon entry of the music therapist and interns, DM was sitting on her bed. She was extremely open to music therapy. She reported that she was in pain (eight on a scale of one to ten) and experiencing a great deal of anxiety (ten on a scale of one to ten).
Read More >

Personal Growth through Mandalas

Interns are encourage growth and self-care through various media. A commonly used form of expression at MusicWorx is mandala art, performed individually or in groups.

How does music therapy use mandala art?

The word mandala is Sanskrit for ``sacred wheel.`` The circular confines of the mandala provide music therapy patients a place from which to start as well as an assigned place for containing subliminally evoked expressions of unhealthy negative and healthier positive experiences.

How are mandalas used by music therapists?

For example, one mandala intervention may begin with centering or relaxation exercises and very few specific instructions other than to fill three blank mandala templates with strokes using crayons, pencils, or chalk while listening to several minutes of three consecutive sound environments: silence, peaceful music, and emotional music.


Individual mandalas vary widely even though group members listen to the same sounds. Altering the color of the template paper from light to dark can stimulate patients to experiment with color and imagery in delightfully unexpected ways.