Mariagracia Rivas Berger, MT-BC
How did you find out about music therapy as a profession?
“I had never really known what music therapy was until I met music therapy students in undergrad while studying vocal performance. Despite hearing about it (or more like hearing the word) I was still unfamiliar. About a semester into my degree, I realized I wasn't passionate about performing. I didn't know what I wanted to do... but I knew opera and performance were definitely not it. I got into the music education program but couldn't follow through as my scholarships were tied to my major. In my four years, I became passionate about volunteering, sexual assault awareness, and women's studies. After graduation, I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession to some capacity because I loved working with people, but the thought of not having music as a part of my every day life made me extremely sad.
I decided to take a year off to reflect on my values, my future, and not rush into another career (although I applied and got into a Masters of Business in music- but that's a different story lol). In my year off, I remembered I had attended a "Chimers Concert," which was a group led my MTs and MT students for adults with varying disabilities. I remember how touched I was (bawling my eyes out as I thought of my brother Carlos, who has autism, and loves music) and that sparked an interest in me.
I used that year off to research all things music therapy, watch videos, read articles, ask my college friends that studied or were studying music therapy more about the field- and I simply fell in love with it. When I applied and began studying music therapy in grad school, I remember sitting in my first class with Dr. Meadows and as he talked, I knew deep in my heart this was "the one" career for me. And I've never looked back since!"
What are your hopes for music therapy in terms of equity, diversity, and cultural humility?
"I would love love love to see more people of color in leadership roles. And not only be in leadership roles but being paid to do so and being featured beyond the field of music therapy. Because our field is constantly growing, I feel like many BIPOC music therapists (including myself) are happy to simply "have a seat" at the table without realizing we do a lot of free labor.
I also hope to see a change in university programs so that students are introduced to varying cultures, music, and their history. Unfortunately, sometimes, the only time some people are exposed to other cultures are in college. Without exposure to other cultures and the mention of cultural biases, it's easy to go through life thinking you don't have any and this will directly affect how you speak to other colleagues, patients, or humans in general.
I also hope to see an increase in cultural humility by seeing an increase in students and professionals taking the time to learn and research on their own time instead of relying on others, especially BIPOC, to teach things to them. There is a lot of valuable and great information on the internet, in our Music Therapists Unite Facebook group, and on people's instagram pages. People just have to take the time to type the key words and search."
- Mariagracia Rivas Berger (@mgrivasberger)
Submitted in January 2021
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