March is Music Therapy Awareness Month in Canada! The Coalition would like to acknowledge and highlight the work of Music Therapists, and share an insightful interview with Dan Bevan-Baker, MTA, who spoke to us about his experiences working and training in the field.
- Name: Dan Bevan-Baker
- Age: 25
- City: Toronto, Ontario (current), Crapaud, PEI (hometown)
-Bachelor of Music (Voice Performance Major, Psychology Minor) – McGill University
-Graduate Diploma and Master of Arts in Music Therapy – Concordia University
- What is music therapy?
As defined by the Canadian Association of Music Therapists (www.musictherapy.ca), music therapy is a discipline in which credentialed professionals (MTA, Music Therapist Accredited) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.
- How long have you been a music therapist?
I have been an MTA since January 2017.
- How did you decide to pursue a career in music therapy? What was the path that led you
In the second year of my undergraduate degree in music performance I started a minor in music education. This was a backup plan since a performance career can be a scary and risky endeavour! My first and last music education course was “Introduction to Music Therapy”, which opened my eyes to an entirely different way of using music in an intimate, therapeutic, person-oriented setting. It really resonated with me so I switched to a psychology minor in preparation for music therapy studies following my undergrad.
- Did you have a musical childhood? What did you want to be when you were little?
I’m fortunate to have been surrounded by music my entire life. Both sides of my family are full of musicians, so some of my earliest memories are being dragged to recitals. Looking back, I’m extremely grateful for that exposure! When I was little I wanted to be an actor, then a singer, then an anthropologist. In grade 11 I reverted back to wanting to be a singer after joining my high school’s funk band. It was an absolute blast!
- What does a typical work day look like?
Honestly, there isn’t really a typical day in the life of a music therapist, as we see such diverse people with equally diverse needs. I’m a traveling music therapist, so I use the TTC to get to sessions at all sorts of places in and around the city. One of my days looks like this: two group sessions in a school for neuro-diverse children, one group session at a day program for persons with physical disabilities, three one-on-one sessions downtown, and a group session downtown for persons with cognitive/physical challenges. The variety of people and places keeps the work exciting!
Sessions include interventions like singing, playing instruments, improvising, rhythmic activities, composing, songwriting, music and relaxation, music and movement, music and art, song lyric analysis, and music listening.
- What challenges or barriers do patients have when it comes to accessing music therapy?
Music therapy isn’t covered by insurance companies, so many folks have difficulty accessing music therapy. In Canada music therapy is a self-regulated profession, but we are working to get the government to provide more standardized funding, which would make sessions more accessible.
- What about challenges or barriers for music therapists (or those interested in a career in MT?)
Some challenges include: Isolation (due to low numbers – though we are growing!); lack of understanding, support, and funding from community/stakeholders; burnout.
- What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in music therapy?
Look for music therapists in your area (www.musictherapy.ca) and ask to shadow them for a day. Depending on the nature of their work, some music therapists can’t allow that, but some will. This will give you great exposure to what the work is like. I would then recommend volunteering with an MTA so you can learn about music therapy through a more active role. We are a very welcoming and warm community, so reach out!
- What information might you share with someone interested in trying a music therapy session?
I would first define music therapy, then, based on what the person shares regarding their situation/needs, explain some potential interventions or goal areas. This will paint a clearer picture of what sessions might look like. Other important things to talk about are fees, accessibility, consent, contact person, etc.
- What misconceptions do you think the public has when it comes to MT?
A lot of people think we are entertainers, music teachers, or anything BUT a music therapist. Many people think we only sing for people, but it’s much more comprehensive than that. We are trained in music, psychology, counselling, and music therapy; we establish individualized goals with and for our clients; clients engage receptively or actively in sessions; and, perhaps most importantly, we use music with intention and purpose to address those goals. “Singing songs to people” can be beneficial, but music therapy is different – it goes deeper. Every day music therapists are advocating and educating so that the public has a stronger understanding of our profession. Even a 30-second conversation can make all the difference!
- What is your favourite part of your job?
Seeing a person experience change, growth, or other kinds of meaningful moments. This could look like someone tapping their foot to live music, someone who is non-verbal singing with a loved one, someone experiencing emotional release, or someone gaining insight. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see the many ways in which music therapy can benefit people. I also love being creative every day!
- Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Music therapists are trained in how to make music accessible AND meaningful for people no matter their age, stage of life, or ability. We work in private practice, hospitals, long term care facilities, group homes, rehabilitation centres, correctional facilities, schools, hospices, day programs, and community centres.
If you or a loved one might be interested in music therapy, I invite you to visit www.musictherapy.ca for more information.
If you’d like to support music therapy, you can visit the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund’s website (musictherapytrust.ca) to donate OR buy one of their new, stylish hats. All the money will fund incredible music therapy projects across Canada!