It’s hard to believe more than a week has already passed since I presented at my first ever national conference for the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) in St. Charles, Illinois. AMTA always puts on a great conference, and this year was no exception! Here were some of my highlights:
1. Spending time with my hotel roomies. Despite what people may assume from there being so few Board Certified MT’s in the state of North Dakota, we don’t actually see each other that often. Conference is the longest span of time we’re ever able to spend with each other, and I look forward to it every year! Late night dinners, stories, and giggles always abound between my colleagues and I this time of year – I am always inspired to hear of what they’re doing in their corners of the state and sometimes even motivated to join them in their pursuits. This year one of my roommates may just have inspired me to run my first marathon (though for now, a couch to 5k program is all I’m able to keep up with)!
2. Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Last year’s conference was the first time I ever attended a “Tweet-up,” a real-life, real-time gathering of individuals with profiles on Twitter. There I met in person many of the people I connect with and learn from on a regular basis online, and it was wonderful to see them all again this year! In addition this year, I got to take part in a booth at the conference “exhibit hall,” where vendors and service providers related to the field of music therapy gather to advertise and network. The booth I hung out at was for Kat Fulton’s Music Therapy Ed., the website where I contributed my first ever continuing education course on using Music with the Blind and Deaf, which was also the subject of my presentation this year. Kat had set up a wonderful scavenger hunt for visitors at her booth to meet and acquire signatures from myself and other instructors on her site (also great professionals to meet and spend time with!) – it was a great way for me to network and connect with other individuals interested in or already serving the same population as I was, and I can’t thank Kat enough for thinking of it!
Another great connection made this year at conference was with the two person team of Terra Rising, a film crew hard at work putting together a documentary on Music Therapy! You can check out the teaser for their film here. Two of my colleagues from North Dakota and I were interviewed as a panel for the film, and we look forward to having the crew in North Dakota very soon!
3. Attending (and for the first time ever, presenting for!) concurrent sessions. There is always a tremendous variety of subject matter covered at the AMTA national conferences: from counseling strategies to drumming and beyond – it’s hard to keep up with it all! The minute the full conference schedule went online I downloaded it and began highlighting the subjects I was interested in – on the flight to the conference hotel I narrowed the field to those presentations I thought would be most important to attend or receive notes from, and once I landed in the Chicago area, I consulted with my roommates to see what presentations they’d be attending, so if there were any overlapping ones both of us were interested in we could perhaps each attend one and then trade notes. This year was tough! There were a lot of presentations I wish I could have gotten to, but just as many that I did and learned a lot from, including my own. Presenting was a tremendously valuable learning experience for me – from the people who attended with such enthusiasm and shared their stories in discussions that went well after the presentation over ice cream and warm waffle cones (there was a Ben & Jerry’s inside our hotel – yum!) to the actual experience of presenting itself (technical difficulties and all – I learned that it was a good idea to have as many backup plans as I did!) it was an amazing opportunity to share my own knowledge with the world and network with other professionals who shared my interest and had their own unique perspectives and knowledge to offer. I look forward to maintaining these connections and expanding on our shared knowledge for years to come!
In summation, this was another great year of conference, from the people I met and was able to spend time with to the valuable experiences and learning tools I acquired over the four days I spent there (yep, that’s right, four days! It’s amazing how much can happen in that time)! I look forward to implementing some new counseling techniques I learned at a few of the placements I serve and I can’t wait to present for my next conference. Tuesday afternoon I began my couch to 5k training as well, so I suppose you literally could say that I’m hitting the ground running! And, as I’ve been able to say every year after conference, I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and inspired towards another great year of service doing what I love!