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News From the Nominating Committee - Question #2

September 25, 2015 03:52 PM
To give members the opportunity to interact with the candidates for the office of President Elect and Vice President Elect, the Nominating Committee is pilot testing a project whereby a question and candidates’ responses are posted on the website. About every two weeks the Nominating Committee will post a question (selected from the pool of questions members submit) and responses. We invite you to review the following and to submit your questions for the candidates to Piper Laird, at: Please indicate whether your question is for the President Elect candidates, the Vice President Elect candidates, or for both. Questions and responses will remain on the website until after the election.

Candidates for Vice-President Elect

Question 2: “What grass roots experience(s) have you had that might contribute to your leadership ability?”

Tina Haynes, MT-BC, LCAT:

Two specific experiences stand out in my memories, one professional and one community related, as they pertain to two causes especially meaningful to me and had the greatest impact in the lives of others.

When I first moved to Nashville, the local professional therapists met occasionally for an informal potluck.  The socialization was great and music therapy, of course, was the main topic of conversation.  There was no structure or a state association at that time. Why isn’t there an organization, I asked, but no one particularly had an answer. After I moved down the road to Murfreesboro and began my professional career, I missed the contacts with peers.   So, along, with a couple of other willing women, we gathered up all of the contacts we could find in the state, polled them on their interest, and formed the Tennessee Association for Music Therapy. This was long before computers, internet, and smart phones.  We did the groundwork the old fashioned way:  phone calls and letters!

For many years, I volunteered in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization based in Nashville. There was no such organization based in the county where I lived.  Six of us “Bigs”, all residing in Murfreesboro, decided to form a local chapter to serve more children.  We got permission and guidance from the Nashville director and began approaching business leaders. And Buddies of Rutherford County was established!

Kristen O’Grady, MA, LCAT, MT-BC:

Several years ago, I was approached by our newest pediatrician and another music therapist about a very special and unique camp that they believed would benefit from music therapy. This was a free camp for families in NYC who were affected by HIV/AIDS, staffed entirely by volunteers and subsisting on donations and grants. We arrived at camp bold in our assumed knowledge of what the campers would need. What we found was that music, dancing, and laughter flourished here already.

In order to truly develop a music therapy program at camp, we first needed to immerse ourselves in understanding this unique and amazing culture. The addition of the therapeutic songwriting sessions provided opportunities for campers to express their experiences in a way that had not previously been available to them. However, had we not first opened ourselves up to the understanding of what previously existed, we would never have been able to partner with the campers in music in this way. I am proud of the way that the program developed, but even more so that it developed in a way that was indigenous to the camp’s awesome culture.

This experience continues to shape many aspects of my life, even years later. As a leader, I learned that the most effective leadership can only occur once the leader has truly understood the group which they propose to lead. I carry that lesson with me as a music therapist, but more importantly, as a human being.

Candidates for President-Elect

Question 2: “What grass roots experience(s) have you had that might contribute to your leadership ability?”

Amber Weldon-Stephens, EdS, MEd, LPMT, MT-BC:

While still an intern, I successfully interviewed for a new music therapy position to be created in the Fulton County School System in Atlanta, GA. I set out to implement a program that covered 13 schools across a very large metro county.  Over the past 26 years, I have been privileged to build this program into one of the largest music therapy departments in the nation.  We now have 14 music therapists on staff, serve 65 schools, and have trained over 75 interns.  Throughout my tenure as music therapy department chair, one of my goals has been to educate new teachers and administrators about the effectiveness of music therapy as an integral part of the students’ educational plans.

In addition, my leadership abilities have been honed through many years of service with NAMT, AMTA and the SER.  Almost 20 years ago, after serving on the planning committee that wrote the inaugural bylaws and constitution, I was elected the first President of the Music Therapy Association of Georgia.  Recently, I served with an amazing Government Relations Task force to educate and advocate for licensure in the state of Georgia. I was on the Senate floor when the final vote came down with tears in my eyes as I witnessed history in the making.

As a music therapist, department chair, internship director, part time college instructor, state and regional president, and national vice-president, I have come to realize that I am wired to lead, serve and expand the profession of music therapy!

Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC:

I have participated in many grassroots movements.  The experiences of developing music therapy programs, co-leading the Archive Fund, and leading Team Rainbow have been significant learning opportunities which have positively impacted my leadership abilities. First, I developed several music therapy programs, in hospital and nonprofit settings, in my 20 year career. These experiences taught me that, to build a strong program, staff and management must be engaged to create the culture shift to support changes incurred when music therapy is introduced to an organization. Next, I collaborated with Blythe LaGasse to fundraise for the AMTA Archive Fund. We adapted grassroots fundraising techniques using humorous social media outreach to create the most successful fiscal campaign at that time, raising almost $4500 in two months. Finally, I am most proud of Team Rainbow’s impact on our field. I spearheaded this informal nationwide working group 6 years ago and now our LGBTQ best practices are used for education, practice, and advocacy internationally both inside and outside the field of music therapy.

These experiences and many others have taught me some key concepts. First, grassroots movements become marginalized unless mainstream leadership is included. Second, leadership needs grassroots energy and enthusiasm to facilitate positive change to prevent becoming directive. Finally, organizations function best with a combination of grassroots advocacy and dedicated leadership. If I am elected president of AMTA, I will listen to the ideas of both the members and the leadership of AMTA to create synergistic movement that will bring positive and impactful changes.



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