Research Meets Creativity in Music Therapy: Elly MacPhail Keyser ’09
Music Therapy major
“I grew up in a musical family. Music has always been a passion of mine, so I considered being a performance major at first. Then, however, I realized that as wonderful as performing is, it wasn’t going to be enough for me. It is the close relationships that I build with others that make my life feel worthwhile. I have always enjoyed helping others and doing volunteer work. Music therapy is the perfect way to synthesize all of these passions in my life.”
“I carried out my music therapy practicum unit in the behavioral health unit in the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. There, I worked with adults with mental disorders. This experience was fascinating and forced me to be creative, to challenge previous ideas and conceptions, and to interact with people who are very different from those with whom I normally work.
“Through Converse’s Nisbet Honors program, I carried out a project entitled ‘Music Preferences of Pediatric Patients: A Survey’ which I presented at the Southeastern Region American Music Therapy Association in New Orleans. I have always loved working with kids. As we played ‘traditional’ children’s songs in music therapy classes, I began to wonder whether children today actually still learn the same songs that we grew up with. That led me to also question what the current trends are in children’s music today. I completed surveys with 23 pediatric patients between the ages of 5 and 12 years. The survey included questions about their music preferences. I also played ‘traditional’ children’s songs on the recorder to see if the patients could recognize them.”
Creativity and its Importance
“Creativity is crucial in the field of music therapy and in life in general. In music therapy, the more creative you are, the more interesting interventions you will come up with, the more your clients will benefit, and the more you will tend to enjoy your work.
“In other areas of life, I have found creativity and adaptability to be essential as well. For example, during my tenure as Music Director for the Clubs program at Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina, I received constant, enthusiastic feedback about the creativity I tried so hard to incorporate in our activities and the flexibility with which I led our music sessions. I firmly believe that incorporating creativity into anything makes it more exciting and worthwhile for all involved.”
Growing as a Performer and Researcher
“My views on research have certainly changed. Before college, I felt that research was boring, a chore forced upon you by teachers who already knew the answers which you worked so hard to find. However, in the real world, someone does research because they have a burning question to which no one yet knows the answer. Research is incredibly exciting! It is a result of a passionate thirst for knowledge.
“I have definitely grown as a performer since I have arrived at Converse. Most prominently, I have grown comfortable enough with myself as a performer that I am able to take my focus to others instead of myself. For example, when I play the guitar with a child on the pediatric unit, I am better able to remember that I am doing this for them. The performance is not about me; it is about helping them, connecting with them through music.”
(Photo: After graduation, Elly applied her music therapy education working with Save the Children in Uganda.)