Meet Sarah Bell, MTA: Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
How did you get into the music therapy field?
From a young age I’ve always been interested in music and creating music and I think the concept of music and therapy made sense to me.
Music has always felt like a friend, a safe space I can always come to and this idea of nurturing musical safe spaces for my clients to explore resonates with me.
Regarding the steps of how I got into the music therapy profession, after high
school, I pursued my undergraduate degree in music education at Western
University. Before I accepted music education as an avenue to pursue, I was
researching music therapy at Acadian University. Before I finished my
undergraduate degree I knew I wanted to pursue music therapy and started taking
the psychology requirements for acceptance. I applied to Concordia University for
the music therapy program in 2014, I had an audition, and interview and I received
my acceptance letter months later. At Concordia I enjoyed exploring research,
counselling skills, improvisation and doing clinical work at varied practicum sites. I
also really enjoyed my time with my fellow music therapy students, amazing women
and musicians who I have learnt so much from. I was and am still greatly inspired by
my professors and supervisors, who helped me grow immensely.
What are your main passions and areas of interest within music therapy?
I’m interested in the many intersections of music therapy and how broad the field is.
For my masters I studied Indigenous healing traditions and how music therapy could be beneficial with Indigenous peoples of Canada and around the world. In
Canada we have a long road of reconciliation between Indigenous and non
Indigenous peoples and I want to be part of this journey to healing, reconciliation
and truth. I’m interested in how music therapy could look working cross culturally with
newcomers, people who are without homes and working in areas of social justice
and peace. I’m also curious about psycho-spiritual aspects of music therapy and how
music can transcend and meet us in all aspects and stages of life.
Where do you currently practice music therapy and with which populations do you work?
I live in southern New Brunswick and work primarily in Saint John. I have been
subcontracting with Arpeggio Music Therapy since the summer of 2015. I work with
seniors with dementia, children/teens with autism, adults in acute and recovery
mental health sites, and adults with Parkinsons. I enjoy how varied the work is, and
that I have the honour of working with people in all walks of life.
I have also worked with Syrian newcomers to Saint John on pilot projects for mental
wellness. It’s been rewarding to have the new experience of working with
translators, trauma counsellors, and learning more about Syrian music and culture. I
am deeply inspired by their resiliency and hope for the future. I’m glad to have been
part of their journey to becoming more settled in Canada.
What are your professional goals and aspirations?
I have always wanted to supervise and in 2019, I have taken on a music therapy
intern. Being a supervisor has been a joy, especially co-leading group sessions and witnessing their eagerness to learn and grow as a professional.
In the future I would like to continue to be a supervisor and one day work at a
university as a music therapy professor. I would like to continue being involved in
research and continue to explore equity, inclusion and diversity in music therapy
education and practice. Lastly, I enjoy listening to podcasts and would love
to have a podcast on music therapy and healing in the future.
Do you have a favourite music therapy book or quote?
I first read this quote applying to music therapy at Concordia University and it has stayed with me since.
Barbara Crowe "(Music therapy) can make the difference between withdrawal and awareness, between isolation and interaction, between chronic pain and comfort -- between demoralization and dignity."
I think music is beyond powerful. It has the power to transcend, to bring beauty to places that seem at first bleak. Music can be a bridge, a symbol of peace and bring together people who would normally not interact.
I want to use music as a force for good, peace and light, to connect where there is loneliness and despair.
It is an honour and privilege to walk alongside people in their deepest hurts, and this quote makes known the power of music therapy to heal, console and bring freedom.
Through my own personal therapy I have realized all of the parts of me that long to be free, to be accepted and heard and I hope this for my own clients as well, that they will experience freedom through music and know they are accepted as they are, for all of who they are.
Malcolm Guite, is a favourite poet of mine and in Singing Bowl he writes,
"Begin the song exactly where you are, Remain within the world of which you’re made. Call nothing common in the earth or air,
Accept it all and let it be for good. Start with the very breath you breathe in now, This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood
And listen to it, ringing soft and low. Stay with the music, words will come in time. Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.
Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime Is richness rising out of emptiness, And timelessness resounding into time.
And when the heart is full of quietness Begin the song exactly where you are."