After a few days of pondering on what Music Therapist would be the first I blog about, I had an “ahah” moment. It only makes sense to have the first person I ever filmed for the Music Is My Therapy documentary be the first person I blog about. Duh… Jessica Brizuela, a professional Harpist and Neurologic Music Therapist was one of the first people to embrace me on my journey. Friend, creative soul, and true supporter are a few things that come to mind when I think of Jessica. She also attended one of my studio sessions last year. After leaving I had to add lyricist to the list of words that describe this incredible woman. I can’t wait for the world to hear our song! I had some questions for Jessica. Below are the answers in Q & A format. Enjoy!
How did you discover music therapy?
At the end of high school, I discovered music therapy upon doing research of careers that met my two interest of pursuing a career in the health field and in music. Although I wasn’t exactly clear on all the field entailed, I was able to discover more before declaring it as my major by taking an Intro to Music Therapy class at Berklee College of Music.
Did you ever have a hunch music could be used in a therapeutic setting prior to discovering clinical music therapy?
Yes and no. Yes, I knew music was powerful and could make impact in peoples lives however, I did not know to what degree and how extensive its uses could be. Before entering music therapy, I shadowed a therapeutic harpist and I thought that was the same thing as music therapy. It made sense that music, especially harp music, has therapeutic effects such as relaxation. However, after studying music therapy, I was in awe of how versatile music can be in its therapeutic aspects.
What is the main population you serve?
My service is broad covering various populations over the lifespan including children, adults, and the elderly. I work with children with Autism, adults in rehabilitation, and with the elderly with a variety of diagnosis from Azheimer’s to Parkinson’s Disease. I tie them all together by focusing on Neurologic Music Therapy based techniques within each group I serve.
Outside of your clinical work do you create any personal music?
Yes, I do. I continue to nurture my musical and creative skills by continuing to take lessons on a variety of instruments, making time to play with others, and experiment on my own. Although I do not necessarily write original music, I do play and improvise around songs for my personal enjoyment and for community when playing with others. It is important to keep doing this to remind yourself of the magic and fulfillment music has on a freer/personal level as opposed to working with clients in sessions.
What is one fact or something interesting people might not know about you?
When I was young, I broke my arm badly in gymnastics. I had various surgeries done, however I suffered from nerve damage and lost feeling in my right hand. This incident helped me learn to write with my two hands, and it brought me closer to music as my harp, piano, and percussion teachers at the time all adapted my lessons to suit my needs and gradually helped me strengthen my hand. Now that I’m a music therapist I am able to reflect on and realize the therapeutic qualities I’m grateful for in that journey.