Music Therapist Alison Davitt: “Everyone Has The Potential to Create Music Within Themselves”

Career Night for the Arts is this Thursday, Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in McMullen Museum. Join the Arts Council and the Career Center in welcoming BC alumni with successful careers in the arts for an evening of networking and conversation. Talk to professionals working in fashion, photography, music, theatre, writing, visual art, and arts administration; ask the questions you really want the answers to about forging a career in the arts after graduation. All majors welcome!

For the last couple of weeks, we have been firing questions at our alumni guests for a sneak preview of their insight and advice. Today, we got the lowdown from Alison Davitt, ’07, who, of all our alumni guests this year, has the most unusual occupation: Music Therapy. We’re delighted to have Alison join us for the event, as she represents the sheer breadth of arts careers available, and is living proof that the arts and the sciences aren’t from different galaxies after all. Alison talked to us about her experiences with therapy, the importance of music in our lives, and how to find a fulfilling career.

Alison felt she needed to find a career that incorporated her science background with her love of music.

Alison felt she needed to find a career that incorporated her science background with her love of music.

Your job sounds like such a fascinating blend of science and the arts. Can you tell us a bit more about it, for those of us who aren’t sure what music therapy is? How does something creative like music benefit the clinician (or patient) in therapy?
Officially, Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program (American Music Therapy Association, 2013).
The music therapy interventions mentioned above include everything from instrumental and vocal improvisation, writing and recording original music, singing, listening to well known music, and even music for relaxation or movement.  Music Therapy is based on the idea that everyone has the potential to create music within themselves.  This natural ability is therapeutic and can help accomplish their goals in a variety of ways, from providing an alternate means of expression, to teaching a stroke victim how to walk and talk again.
Is there something fundamentally therapeutic about the arts? What role do you think music plays in our lives?
Many people have forgotten that artistic expression is not only for those of us designated as “talented.” In my work as a music therapist, I have worked with trauma victims whose rediscovery of their voice through vocal and instrumental improvisation has made a major impact on their overall self-esteem. I have also seen elders with dementia sing the words to an entire song despite their inability to speak coherently. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said that, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” I have seen music succeed with clients when words did not.
It is an understatement that music plays a huge role in the majority of human lives. Music has the ability to remind us of past events, both good or bad, whether it was the song at our wedding, or a song our mother sang to us, or even the song that was playing on the radio during our first break-ups. It also has the ability of soothing our moods, or alternately, getting us excited. It is always there when needed, and best of all, it does not judge us or make us feel guilty.
How did you figure out that this is what you wanted to do? What would you say to a student who loves nurturing their creative side, but worries about finding a career in the arts after school?

 After I graduated from BC, I used my biology major to obtain a job in a transplant laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. During this time, I was in a rock band with two other BC graduates. We met frequently and wrote original music that we eventually recorded and played in several Boston venues. Initially, my involvement with the band was enough to satisfy my musical cravings and make me feel fulfilled. However, I realized quickly that the position at BWH did not utilize my full potential. I needed to find a way to combine my scientific background, my desire to help people, and my love of music. After researching the Masters in Expressive Therapy program at Lesley University, I knew that it was exactly what I had been looking for.

Finding a career in the arts is always a scary thought for students, and it was for me as well. I took comfort in the degree at Lesley since it provided not only Music Therapy licensure, but also Mental Health Counseling licensure. For me, the dual licensure provided some practical insurance that I would have options following graduation.  In reflecting on my job searching after graduation, I would advise students that there are opportunities for careers in the arts for those who actively seek them out. There are also ways of incorporating the arts into other job roles. Often this requires perseverance, networking skills, and personal assertiveness. If there is something that you would like to do in the arts, you will most likely need to market yourself for it!

What’s your best memory of BC? 

My best memory of BC is watching the Red Sox win their first World Series in many years. As a freshman, one of my first activities was a game at Fenway park.  Sitting in Vanderslice Watching everyone stream out of their dorms onto lower campus was really exciting.

For students interested in finding out more about music therapy, there are expressive therapies information sessions at Lesley University: Friday, October 25th 10:00 am and Friday, November 15th 10:00 am. The next Open House is January 15th, 2014.

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