Joy Allen, the new chair of the Music Therapy Department at Berklee College of Music, is an accomplished clinician, supervisor, researcher, teacher, and administrator. We’re delighted to have her on the faculty of our 2016 SPARK! Leadership Conference in Boston Nov. 5, where she will co-teach the skill building workshop “Art: A Gateway to Cultural Humility” with Samuel Bradley, Jr.
Cultural humility, typically defined as the “ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the [person]” is essential to developing trusting relationships with clients of different backgrounds in a clinical setting. Music therapists practice cultural humility in part by utlizing music that is culturally relevant to the client. “As music therapists we have to be very familiar with all genres of music, whether it’s classical, jazz, show tunes, pop music, R&B, rap,” Allen noted in a 2011 interview conducted while in her former post as associate professor of music therapy at Loyola University. “Our students when they leave here have to…show the wide range of songs that they can play, because ultimately, while we could use recorded music, the elements in the music allow us to reach our clients—whether it’s us changing the tempo, us changing the melody lines us holding, or creating more tension in a piece that wouldn’t normally be there to help access or explore what’s going on with them intrinsically.”
Allen has expertise applying a family systems approach in her work with children, adolescents, and adults with mental health. She is particularly passionate about working with individuals and families facing chronic illnesses, including cancer. Allen wrote movingly about her work with a 31-year-old African American schoolteacher soon after his diagnosis of Burkitt’s lymphoma and HIV, a complex case that forced her to examine her own vulnerabilities and motivations as she watched his suffering, and that of his mother. “It was a reminder to me that we cannot force a client to go where they are not ready to go, but we can remain a presence to offer the client what only music and the therapist can provide: a tool to access, a tool to re-create, a tool to redefine, a tool to express, or a tool for life,” she said of the experience.
Allen’s workshop promises to be a unique and enlightening look at the practice of cultural humility. Register for the SPARK! Leadership Conference today so you don’t miss it!