How a Job as a Music Therapist Changed My Perspective
Rachel Hastings is a music therapist at Shalom Community Alliance in St. Paul. She began playing piano when she was 8 years old and has sung in choirs since middle school. She graduated in 2015 from Augsburg College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in music therapy. She was born legally blind.
Music has always been one of my greatest passions, but it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I knew for certain I was meant to pursue a career in music. At the end of my junior year of high school, my SSB counselor at the time introduced me to music therapy which I had never heard of. I wanted to pursue a career in which I would work closely with both music and people. After observation and research, I realized music therapy fit the bill. From then on, I worked hard as both a musician and a student to become the best music therapist I could possibly be.
I graduated from Maranatha Christian Academy in 2010 and proceeded to take a year off from school. During my gap year, I studied classical piano intensely. I practiced approximately thirty hours per week and played many solo recitals, one of which took place in August of 2011 in Norma, Italy as part of an international piano festival. I grew so much as a classical pianist during this year, and I was able to apply what I learned during this time as an undergraduate student. One month later, I began my career as an undergraduate at Augsburg College and obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in music therapy in May of 2015.
After graduation from Augsburg, I completed a six-month clinical music therapy internship at Good Samaritan Society Specialty Care Community in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. I then proceeded to pass the music therapy board certification exam on September 27, 2016, giving me the credentials of MT-BC (music therapist – board certified).
That day in September was an unforgettable date for me not only due to my passing score on the boards, but also because this is the day I received my first music therapy job offer. I turned my phone back on after the exam and had received a voicemail from Sholom Home West, a Jewish senior living community in St. Louis Park, offering me a full-time music therapy job. What a dream come true! I had achieved my long-standing goals of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, passing the music therapy board certification exam, and having a full-time job by age 25!!
I know for a fact, however, that I could not have achieved this goal without the support I received from the state. I worked hard with orientation and mobility specialists, job coaches, and rehabilitation counselors from State Services for the Blind. The orientation and mobility specialists helped me gain independence by showing me ways that I could safely travel and adapt to my surroundings. Additionally, rehabilitation counselors and job coaches devoted hours of their time assisting me in finding the right career path and job fit for me. I am eternally grateful God provided me with such incredible services.
With all this being said, I didn’t let my blindness prevent me from achieving this goal, and I do not let it stop me from doing my very best at my workplace today. On the contrary, being blind has made me a stronger therapist. It has given me a greater sense of insight into the lives of my clients; it has allowed me to more easily walk in the shoes of those who are hurting and struggling. Having a deep sense of empathy is absolutely crucial for a therapist, and I know being blind has given me greater empathy for my clients at Sholom. All in all, I have allowed blindness to serve as an “ability” in my life rather than a “disability,” and I believe all individuals with disabilities have the power to let the same phenomenon occur in their own lives.