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5 Things To Know When Opening A Music Therapy Location

5 Things To Know When Opening A Music Therapy Location

This blog entry is late for the  #MusicTherapyBlogger Challenge hosted by Julie Palmieri at Serenade Designs. Better late than never! I skipped Week #4 post, but I will get back to it. There are so many books that I love. I just have to choose one. For Week #5, I chose to create a list of 5 things about my current experience in preparing to open a music therapy location in Duluth, MN.

At the beginning of July 2015, I signed my first lease for a physical space to expand my music therapy services. It was an exciting and scary experience all at once. I am now responsible for paying rent and the “extra” prep work that comes along with taking on a brick and mortar location. That “extra” came in the form of a marathon renovation tearing down walls, sanding, re-carpeting, and a lot of painting. That’s a lot of physical work, and boy, oh boy it is taxing on the body and mind. I’m so very excited about seeing the development and getting the work done, that at the end of the first week, I was crashing every evening. Thankfully, I have a wonderful, strong, supportive husband to help me with the physical work. Otherwise, I don’t know that I could have done this on my own. In this journey, I have already been blessed with so much experience and a little wisdom about the work involved that I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far in  just 5 “little” suggestions. My first one is…

#1: Don’t overwork yourself. Get help from others. Take breaks, relax, and listen to your body.

If you don’t do this, you may end up somewhere like the emergency room with kidney and bladder trouble, as I did after the first week. Exhaustion can take a toll on the body.
On the business side of things, make sure you have plenty of time to get organized. I’m sure you will have groups to plan, sessions to schedule, financial planning, and marketing to roll out. I have given myself 1 1/2 months in total to prepare for my opening. I feel confident in that timeframe. I have been working with the NE Entrepreneur Fund to assist me in preparing financial projections, program calendars, navigating Quickbooks, and start-up funding. I have found them to be an invaluable resource which leads me to my second tip.

#2: Work with an entrepreneur organization that can guide and educate you.

I manage my website myself, so in preparation, a month prior, I hired Carrie Schaefer of to create a new logo for Access Music Therapy, and I love it. Totally worth the investment!
For my online presence, I’ve added an online registration for groups and classes to my website. This should cut down on my time taking registrations and organizing payments manually. The new system will take payments online for each individual class. For anyone who is interested in the WordPress app I am using, it is called Event Espresso (under $100).
It’s even more important to create marketing materials. I must get the word out that my services exist. So, I have created flyers for each music therapy group that will be offered starting in September.  In person, I’m offering brief presentations to specific populations. I’m participating in community events, posting updates of our progress, and building anticipation with my storefront windows to get the word out and impart information about my services to the community. I might even try an online contest from my windows!
There are so many things to plan, and if there were not enough time, I would imagine it could be disasterous! My third point pretty much sums it all up.

#3: Be organized, have a plan, plan again, and plan some more.

I love being creative! If you have storefront windows as I do, design them creatively. Think about the foot traffic, privacy, and educating the community about your services by way of your window display. One tip I learned is that vinyl lettering on the outside of the window versus the inside is more visible. My large group area is visible through the windows, so it will be important to provide confidentiality and avoid distractions through smart design. I love Pinterest for getting ideas for designing the inside and outside of my studio. I created a board with all of my colors and fabrics to keep me focused when looking for things. You can view my “AMT Studio” inspiration board at @AccessMT on

I have a large group room, a 1:1 room, and an office as well as a kitchenette and bathroom. It’s an adequate amount of space, although I could see myself growing out of it eventually, so I must be smart in the storage of my equipment. I love to sew, and refinish wood, so I put my skills to work in some of the needed storage equipment in order to save money. And, that leads me to tip #4.

#4: Don’t be afraid to make your dreams come true. Be creative!

Celebrate the opening! Have an Open House. I’m planning mine for August 24.  I’ve created a low cost budget with a marketing plan, food & drink, activities and contests. To get the word out, I will use Facebook, send postcard invitations to the community through snail mail, email invites to friends, family, clients, and networking agencies.

To gain attention from people passing by, I made a chalk sidewalk sign out of picture frames I bought at the Goodwill and will attach balloons to it. This sign will be awesome on a daily basis too!
When the open house is over, I plan to send thank you cards out to everyone who attended. I think an open house will be an excellent way to inform, educate and celebrate the opening of my music therapy location!

#5: Celebrate! Have an Open House.

There you have it! My list of 5 important things to keep in mind when you are opening a brick and mortar music therapy location. Personally, I am still walking through this process as I write this. I know there are additional areas of business that I haven’t covered here, but I wanted to keep it short. There are many music therapists out there who have already opened a music therapy location (or multiple locations), and have many pearls of wisdom. Please share in the comments

A Quote To Change Your Life

A Quote To Change Your Life

A Quote To Change Your Life

A quote from Oprah Winfrey, “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

This is my post for Week #3 of the #MusicTherapyBlogger Challenge hosted by Julie Palmieri at Serenade Designs. Thank you Julie for encouraging me to keep going with these posts.

What does this quote mean to me? It defines the decision that I made to become a music therapist. The adventure was direct. It was one decision to make a difference. Becoming a music therapist was an adventure. After working in dead-end and unsatisfying jobs in my 20’s, I decided to go to college to be a violinist. I thought being a violinist would be a glamorous, successful job, and it would have been. But, I was 27 years old, a parent of two babies, and wife. I had played the violin at church for 10 years on and off since high school, and I really didn’t have the chops to be a professional violinst. I had completed a clerical certificate program in 1996 at the community college. It was a good accomplishment, although it left my soul unsatisfied. On a daily basis, I came home crying. I desperately needed something meaningful in my work life.

When I began to take music classes at Augsburg College, I found music therapy through my violin instructor, Mary. She told me about music therapy, and I was sold. After my coursework, internship and my first position as music therapist in Minneapolis, I continued on to develop a position in Duluth, MN. This was my dream job! Hospice work is very meaningful. It is always an honor to be in the presence of someone in their last days, hours, or minutes of their life. Wonderful moments happen when facilitating families into a gathering that focuses on the patient, what’s important to him or her, and tying it all together with music. I had truly found my calling in music therapy. I went on to work in hospice care for 10 years.

Photo permissions on file

Since 2008, I’ve owned Access Music Therapy, llc. While working in hospice care, I had been requested by families in the community to provide music therapy for their children with developmental disabilities which was the beginning of my private practice. I never thought I’d be comfortable working with children, except that God had a different plan for me. Currently, my caseload is 80% children with varying challenges. The adventures I’ve had as a music therapist have been so amazing. Over a year ago I resigned from hospice care. I still love it and eventually hope to contract with a program. It’s been over a year now operating my private practice full-time as Access Music Therapy, llc. My future plan is to open a music therapy studio/clinic to increase the services in the Duluth and Superior communities. This is certainly an adventure that my heart was longing for from the beginning. I just needed to say “yes” when I heard the call

AMTA Conference 2014 Review

AMTA Conference 2014 Review

Guittens Booth at AMTA ConferenceGuitten Conference booth at AMTA 2014, Louisville, KY

Me-Roberta copyIn review of the AMTA Annual Music Therapy Conference in Louisville, KY in November, 2014, I thought it was an amazing conference! This was the first time the Guittens (patent pending) came out to play in the real world. They had a great time, and people loved them. Pretty much sold them all! West Music quickly became a fan, so you just might find them online, at conferences, and conventions in the future with West Music.



Here I am with Roberta Kagin, Professor and Director of the Music Therapy Program at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. I received my Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy from Augsburg in 2004. She purchased Guittens for the music therapy students at Augsburg!

Joe-GuittenMy lovely husband (as they say on Wheel of Fortune) assisted me in promoting, sharing my story, and selling the Guittens. He even performed a few songs as people walked by:) He’s such a trooper!






While Joe was holding down the fort, I was free to attend concurrent sessions. It was really good to be at a conference after such a long break from attending them. I think it had been 3 years since I attended a national conference. Conferences are great for connecting with colleagues and friends that I have not seen in awhile. For me, it’s like getting a boost of energy to keep on going. It stirs up ideas that have laid dormant for too long. It’s motivating! It helps me relate to others who are going through similar clinical, business, or life situations. I highly recommend YOU attend the next music therapy conference within reach! My FAVORITE part of the conference was the Opening Session on Thursday with the bluegrass band, “Down on Fifth,” and when people went up to the front to dance! It was sweet!
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MichelleErfurt Interview
Lastly, it was an honor to be interviewed by Podcaster of On the Mic and Music Therapist, Michelle Erfurt. She asked me about music therapy experiences and the Guittens.
Overall, it was an awesome conference. It was actually the best one I’ve ever been to. I can’t wait to do it again!

Photo by Rachel Rambach of Listen & Learn


Stressed? Sew a Dress.

Stressed? Sew a Dress.

Do you have stress? I bet you do. Most people have some level of stress. Do you like to craft, paint, sew, or make music? I do. In regards to stress, I deal with stress everyday. Stress over family issues, business, money, and the dreaded upcoming Minnesota winter! Lately, I have found myself doing a lot more sewing than I had been in the past few years. Unfortunately, I had stopped sewing for a number of years despite how much it was part of my life. It happened because back in 1999, when I decided to go back to college to get a degree, I made the decision based on my two talents, sewing and music (violin player). My music influence started when I was 10 years old in the public school system, and continued on until graduation. I played the violin occasionally over the next ten years before going back to college. My sewing influence came from my mom and the sewing/vacuum store my parents operated. I used to sew all of my girls clothes, and anything else I needed.

Keep calm and play violin
In thinking about these two talents and possible careers in either area, I decided to go the music route. I thought I would become a violinist with a Music Performance degree. However, three weeks into violin lessons, as my instructor was asking me questions about my life to see how music performance could fit. And, since I was 27 years old at the time, a mother of two little girls, I had already done some living, and she suggested other music career ideas. She told me about music therapy. I just happen to be at one of the two schools in the state of Minnesota that offered the music therapy degree (Augsburg College).
I checked into the degree, and I was SOLD! I never looked back. However, sewing was always there for me. As I started college, I made the mistake of selling my sewing machines as I thought that I wouldn’t have time with all the demands of college and running a family. After a few years, I started sewing again.
Now, another ten years later, I am sewing a lot more. Especially with the creation of the Guitten. I am finding myself thinking about other sewing projects that I could do. When I shop for clothes, I find myself thinking, “I could just sew that for less money, and I could make it exactly how I want it.” It makes me feel good to be creative, and I love brainstorming new ideas.
This creative thinking and doing is actually healthy for anyone. With all my busy-ness with my business and family, I have been sewing more, and realizing how relaxing it is to my well-being. It’s really good to be in the moment with any task, but with sewing you have to be completely mindful of what you are doing. Multi-tasking is not an option.Keep calm and craft on
Did you know that creative expression helps you to relax, reflect, distract your mind, and relieve stress. I love to be creative in many ways. One way is sewing. I also like to collage, resurface furniture, and remodel areas of my home. When I sew, I can’t multi-task. I must devote all of my attention to the project. Sewing requires you to be in the moment. I have found that sewing helps me to slow down. I love the creativity of designing the product that I plan on creating. I start by putting on my “Happy” iTunes playlist while I sew. For me, playing music while I create adds to the therapeutic benefits of creative expression. Happy Playlist
Research has found that crafting activities involves many areas of your brain. It works your memory, attention span, visuospatial processing, creative side and problem-solving abilities. Whether you draw, paint, craft, quilt, sew, or chainsaw wood into beautiful works of art, crafting has been found to have physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. Gail McMeekin, MSW, a career coach in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and the author of the books “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women,” said “Crafts are a way of valuing yourself and giving to yourself. They allow you to express what’s inside.”
Professionals in the creative arts such as music and art therapy use these and other unique forms of expression to communicate, and release tension. In working with elementary children and teens, I often use collaborate with a fellow therapist, Nikki, on using art in our music therapy groups.
Not only can crafting ease stress, increase happiness, but it could protect the brain from damage caused by aging. According to CNN, “Neuroscientists are beginning to see how studies on cognitive activities such as doing crossword puzzles might also apply to someone who does complex quilting patterns.” Scientists are studying these type of activities. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry reported that you could reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30%-50%.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmigalyi first described this phenomenon as flow: a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter. “Flow” can dampen and calm internal chaos. It’s like a natural anti-depressant.
I certainly like that data. It’s motivating for me and encourages me to KEEP ON being creative. So, for all of YOU, get that project out of the box that you’ve been procrastinating! Turn on the tunes, complete it, create more, and you could be contributing to your own health!


Lewis, R. (2011). Engaging in cognitive activities, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: a population-based study. Journal of Neuropsychiatry.

McMeekin, G. (2011). The 12 secrets of highly creative women.Conari Press; 10th Anniversary Edition edition.

Wilson, J. (2014) This is your brain on knitting.

Entrepreneur Music Therapist in Action!

Entrepreneur Music Therapist in Action!

Entrepreneur Announcement!

The time is here! I decided to resigned from my position at Essentia St. Mary’s Hospice as Music Therapist. My plan is to work my music therapy business full-time. I am very excited! Scared? Of course. This day has been coming for awhile. I was never sure when or if it would ever come. I was concerned about losing our family medical/dental coverage, retirement benefits as well as that steady paycheck. The fear of jumping in with both feet with the possibility of not being successful was a very difficult thought I struggled with for a long time.

But, for whatever reason, the reality of resigning from the security of that job I had for almost 10 years started to feel more realistic. Some people would think I’m CRAZY! But, most people have been so supportive and encouraging. Those in my life that have known I’ve operated Access Music Therapy, llc over the last six years along side of working at Essentia have been a great source of support with my decision. I’m at a place where I believe this will be a beautiful thing.


WHY do I want to be a full time entrepreneur? (more…)

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