Vivo: with life and vigor. 

Always have lived my life with vivo, and never have had any regrets. Now I am adapting my vivo to help others, bringing session plans that hopefully engage and excite my clients without being a distraction. (I must admit that sometimes my vivo can cause a temporary distraction, luckily, I have great supervisors who gently redirect the distraction back on task).

I especially embrace my vivo when talking to others who ask “What is music therapy?”. I can make a three a hour plane flight seem like 15 minutes, talking about, and answering question on the topic of music therapy. People seem to be quite interested and engage by how music therapy works and how it is usually different then there preconceived notion of music therapy.




Meet the Intern Behind the Posts: Mark

markMark McKenna is currently a music therapy intern for The Music Therapy Center of California. He will receive his Bachelor of Music in music therapy from Arizona State University upon completion of his six-month internship.

Mark’s primary instrument is tuba, which he studied during his time at Arizona State. He has played in several ensembles, including wind band, marching band, orchestra, jazz band, chamber ensembles, and community ensembles. Throughout his years of course work, Mark has worked with a variety of different populations and age groups, including elderly adults with dementia, children with special needs, and adults with special needs.  Mark’s coursework has also led to him learning many different instruments such as guitar, piano, percussion, and voice, which he has been learning to adapt to therapeutic settings.

Mark’s Story

“For as long as I can remember, music has always been a constant, driving force in my life. My older brother and I were always listening to soundtracks from Disney movies, and other movies such as Ghost Busters and Blues Brothers. I first started learning the tuba when I joined the school band in sixth grade. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was fully enveloped in the world of music, and I knew that I wanted to make a living out of it. Initially, I wanted to be a music teacher. However, after discovering music therapy and doing a bit of research on the profession, I knew that it was what I wanted to do with my life, and I haven’t looked back since!”


Listening – To concentrate on hearing something

Listening is a term I learned to become very familiar with while studying for my music degree in my undergrad. Up to this point, I had thought of listening as being a very simple action; you’re either or you’re not. I did not think of listening as being a skill that can be worked on, practiced, and developed to a higher level, like many other aspects of music performance. It was a wild experience to see how much more some of my peers could get out of listening to someone play Ride of the Valkyries on tuba than I could. These classmates could pick out and analyze parts of the music that I didn’t even know were happening, because listening was a skill they have been practicing and developing for years already.

Ever since then, my entire approach to active music listening changed a great deal.  I’m always trying to find different things to listen to in familiar music that I might not have noticed before, such as vocal harmonies, time changes, musical nuances, etc. In time, the skill started to get easier. By practicing active listening with music, I noticed that many aspects of my musicality improved. My sense of rhythm and pitch got better and singing harmonies got so much easier. Many of these listening skills carried over to other parts of my life, the biggest one being the social skills and communication. For most of my life, hearing non-verbal inflections in the voice was not easy for me, and that’s such a big part of expressive communication. Now, however, hearing and understanding these non-verbal cues has become very natural for me, which has helped immensely in my music therapy internship. The skill of actively listening and picking out both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication has been essential while working with clients in music therapy. It helps to understand what kind of emotions a client might be feeling when they cannot verbally tell you. It also helps greatly while helping a client write song lyrics about something that has happened in their life. By practicing active listening, I was able to work on a lot of these skills and apply them to my practice as a music therapist.

The sense of hearing is the sense that we, as music therapists, connect with the most. It’s the medium by which we intervene and improve our client’s lives. We’re always hearing. We never stop hearing. In fact, the very last sense to go during death is the sense of hearing. However, hearing and listening are two different activities. Listening takes attention, practice, and development. Developing the skill of listening has helped to improve many aspects of my life, and the people I work with.


Meet the Intern Behind the Posts: Craig

CraigCraig Ruggels is currently a music therapy intern for The Music Therapy Center of California. He is pursuing his Maters degree in music therapy from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after receiving his Bachelor’s degree in music from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington.

Craig’s primary instrument is anything percussion. Craig as a music therapy student has become proficient in guitar and piano, as well. He has worked with individual who have mental, physical and psychological disabilities and/or impairments.

Craig’s story

“Music has always had a special place in my life; it has been there in times of celebration and not so happy times. Being able to play music gives me great joy. When returning to college to pursue my degree in music at a later stage in life I found the life of a college student to be incredibly stressful. I found music therapy as a way to relieve my stress and to give me a new direction to follow as a career. I have never regretted that choice, working as a music therapy give me a sense of fulfillment knowing that I am helping to improve the lives of others.”


This is one of the most appropriate words I have had the pleasure of writing on.

As a music therapy intern I am learning to translate client goals into a musical intervention and then translating those goals it back into a tool that the client can use out side the musical cues of music therapy.

Music therapist work closely with other disciplines (OT, PT, SPLA). In doing so, we coordinate and retranslate their interventions into a music therapy intervention, which supports the client in improving their quality of life.

As an intern I am honing my musical skills, translating music into a driving force, and improving the quality of life for the client’s that I am involved with. This is the most rewarding and full filing experience I have ever had.



Crescendo:  A gradual increase in loudness and intensity

In music, a crescendo is tool to add a level of excitement or suspense to a part of a song. They are often used to engage, excite, and elicit certain emotions from the listener.  A crescendo can be abrupt and startling, or it can be more gradual to build anticipation. When a piece of music crescendos to a high point, it is almost always followed by a decrease in sound and intensity. Many pieces of music can leave you with a calm feeling after the peak of a large crescendo. Like many other elements of music, a crescendo can be used as a great metaphor for many different aspects my life and experience being an intern with MTCCA.

My life is full of crescendos, of all different shapes and sizes. My days can often be one giant crescendo. From the moment I wake up the day gradually builds with intensity and excitement. My days are also filled with short bursts of intensity that can be startling or stressful. Similarly to a crescendo in music, the crescendos in my life are also followed by a decrease in excitement, leading to a calmer and mellower feel. My work as a music therapy intern has contributed a great deal to these crescendos, filling my days with constant excitement, stress, and anticipation.  Life is a constant crescendo and diminuendo.