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First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

[English Version] Berklee Music Therapy Students in Grand Cayman Island-part2


(Berklee Music Therapy major students: Georgia Wells, Eddie Konopasek, Jessica Brizuela )

2010 June, a shortly after Berklee’s crazy finals week, a group of Music Therapy major students of Berklee went to Grand Cayman Island to raise awareness about the benefits of music therapy.

Berklee Music Therapy Grand Cayman Island

( The day of arrival to Grand Cayman Island. Mike Simonelli in the middle)

*Berklee Music Therapy Students in Grand Cayman Island part 1 is published in Korean only.

Many may wonder what music therapy is. I would say itโ€™s a well-established health profession that uses the powers of music to help people accomplish individual goals in their therapy. Berklee provides the student majoring in Music Therapy skills necessary to practice as a professional music therapist. These include a foundation in music theory, history, composition, arranging, keyboard, guitar, voice, improvisation, and conducting, as well as clinical skills including principles of therapy, exceptionality, and the therapeutic relationship. Ok. That was a brief explanation about Music Therapy and what music therapy major students at Berklee study.

By the way, my name is MiHee Kim. I also study music therapy at Berklee. It’s been 2years since I started the major and so far, I’m loving it. In this blog, I will share an interview that I did with my dearest friend Jessica Brizuela who went to Cayman Island to spread not only the music therapy, but some love and helping hands!
Berklee Music Therapy Cayman Island

(Ready, Set, Go Go Go Berklee Music Therapists! )

Here you go!

MiHee: Hi, Jessica! Please introduce your self.

Jessica: “My name is Jessica BrizueIa, I am a nineteen years old, originally from southern California, and am about to begin my third year at Berklee. I am one of the few harp principles at my school. As a music therapy major, I believe the harp is an instrument perfectly suited for the helping and healing others through music. I am currently president of the New England Region American Music Therapy Association for Students (NER-AMTAS), and was fortunate enough to be able to take part in the NER-AMTAS 2010 International Service Project in Grand Cayman this summer.”


( Jessica Brizuela on the very right side, holding a drum!:-) )

MiHee: What did you do in Cayman Island? How was it!

Jessica: “Along with two Berklee students, Georgia Wells and Eddie Konopasek, I got to work at Sunrise Adult Training Centre, a day treatment center designed to help adults with developmental disabilities lead fuller, more independent lives. On the first day, we gave an in-service presentation to the staff about music therapy (what it is, goals, and what we are trying to accomplish). The rest of the week, we were given two groups to work with. We introduced activities that had goals that were tailored to each groups needs such as motor and social skills. We played songs that favored their taste in music, most of which were reggae style or traditional spiritual songs such as, โ€œJesus Loves Meโ€. In the end, the group members increased social interaction through sharing, independence through risk taking, eye contact, expressive and receptive communication, fine and gross motor skills, short and long term memory, and participation in general.”


( Jessica, leading a session with guitar at Sunrise Adult Training Centre in Cayman Island)

MiHee: Would you explain little about the whole Cayman Island Trip?

Jessica: “Sure. I was fortunate enough to be able to be a part of the NER-AMTAS international service project along with nine wonderful students. There, we spread the wonders of music therapy to the Cayman Islands. Most people associate the Cayman Islands with beaches, cruises, and other touristy things. However, individuals with mental or physical disabilities constitute an under-served sector of the population that would greatly benefit from an introduction to music therapy. Our team was divided into three groups – the first of which worked with toddlers in the early intervention programme, the second worked at The Lighthouse School with children with special needs, and the third group worked with adults with developmental disabilities at the Sunrise Adult Training Centre. At all three locations, we introduced musical activities to the groups with therapeutic goals in mind so that the staff could see the effectiveness of music in these populations so they could later hire a board certified music therapist to join their team.”

MiHee: I see. Were there any difficulties during the volunteering?

Jessica: “Yes…The main difficulty was helping the faculty at the sites understand that music therapy is to be practiced by a board certified music therapist, since there is technique and training required to understand how music can be used as therapy. We were there to introduce them to the power music therapy by introducing them to musical activities that had specific goals, and not just some “sing-a-long” type past time. In order to continue, they should hire a music therapist and not just have an untrained faculty member do music time. All other issues were small and were discussed with our music therapy advisor from Lesley University, Christine Routhier, through Skype.”


(More members from Berklee: Laurynn Scholar, Mike Simonelli, April Buscher leading a group session)

MiHee: Most memorable moment during the trip? ๐Ÿ™‚

Jessica: “Throughout the week, the whole Team Cayman group worked on a song based off of Jonsiโ€™s, โ€œGo Doโ€ and arranged into a reggae tune by our team member and fellow Berklee student, Michael Simonelli, to become the theme song of the trip. Our team taught this song to each of their groups as something they could remember us by. The Special Olympics was held the same week as our visit so we had the opportunity to sing this song at the closing ceremony of the Special Olympics. Many of the members from Sunrise were involved in the Olympics so we had them go on stage with us to play and sing along. They felt honored and proud to be up there and they helped fill the room with joy. It was the perfect way of ending the week.”

MiHee: Sounds great! Jessica, why do you want to do music therapy?

Jessica: “This trip has given me the chance to work with disabled adults, and through my practicums at Berklee I have worked with children with autism and elders with Alzheimerโ€™s. I have uncovered so much about music therapy, which makes it difficult to decide what population I want to work when I become a music therapist. The brain on music has sparked my interest, especially after taking a neuroscience class at Boston Conservatory, which has made me consider neurological music therapy.Whatever group I decide to work with, I know that I want to use my skill and love for music to help groups that are too often ignored and groups that not completely satisfied with all modern medicine has to offer. There is healing power to music and I want to be a part of that.”

Berklee Music Therapy Grand Cayman Island

( The last day of the trip. Final concert with clients in Cayman Island )

MiHee: Last but not least…what do you wish to get out from Berklee?

Jessica: “Unlike many other schools, Berklee has many options open to the study of music. The study of music therapy caught my eye and my curiosity. I came to Berklee wanting to combine both my interest in music and helping others, and ultimately to become a more versatile harpist. Even though I enjoy playing my instrument and performing, my main goal here at Berklee is to learn as much as I can about music therapy so I can become a successful music therapist in the future. I hope to soak up as much information from the faculty because they have so much to offer.”

Berklee Music Therapy Grand Cayman Island

( Huge thank-you-card from Sunrise Adult Training Centre, Cayman Island to Berklee

Music Therapists)


( A little vacation for the students after the program is over :-))


Thoughts from an Incoming Berklee Student


Musings of an LA Summer Intern: Dinners, Mixers, Parties and Shows

1 Comment

  1. Julia Bingham

    Wow, it’s really great to see all your work in action!

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