April Hickey, MT-BC (she/they)

Where do you work and who are your clients?

I am the founder and sole music therapist of a private practice called Your Song Music Therapy, LLC. I live and work in the city of Chicago on the southside in the Bridgeport neighborhood. I have an office location in the Pilsen neighborhood, and I also provide in-home sessions in downtown Chicago. The majority of music therapy work I do is focused on mental health. My clients range from children to adults with various needs, and most of my clientele are adults who have always loved music and are seeking out a creative outlet to support their mental wellness.

What is your favorite part of your profession?

My favorite thing about being a music therapist is the flexibility we have in our work to meet the needs of our clients in the moment with music. I love that our practices don’t have to be standardized and that we are able to be creative in finding ways to support our clients that can include any genre of music and any use of music! I also love that music interventions can have an immediate effect on our clients- while we see progress happen over longer periods of time, we can also often see immediate responses to our interventions, because music truly is a powerful force! My favorite thing about having my own private practice is the freedom to create the life I want to live.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

I feel so lucky to say that music therapy found me- I just happened to be attending Eastern Michigan University (one of only 2 MT programs in the state of Michigan) because my viola teacher had sent me there for their school of music. My freshman roommate as well as some other friends were in the MT program. I had never heard of MT before as I am from a really rural and isolated area where there are not many music therapists even in the region, but I knew I wanted to have a music career that was not in music education. I took the intro class at EMU and knew right away that it would be a perfect fit for me! I love getting to use music every day, and I love being able to support people of all backgrounds through this profession.

Melliza Malabanan, MT-BC

Melliza Malabanan photo

Where do you work and who are your clients?

I currently work at Streamwood Behavioral Healthcare Systems. I provide group music therapy sessions for the inpatient child, adolescent, and adult units.

What is your favorite part of your profession?

I enjoy creating music with my patients. I recently had a session where we did group songwriting. The patients decided they wanted to write about one of the staff members they all admired. We were able to create the song from scratch and present it to her.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

I come from a musical family and was raised by a single dad. Being the first child, I had to set the stage for my brother, so I originally majored in nursing in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to care for others. I discovered music therapy while my grandmother was in hospice care and realized that I could use my love for music and caring for others at the same time. It was a surreal realization for me. I went to my Trio counselor at my community college and told her, “THIS. This is what I want to do.” and we made it happen.

What do you do for self-care?

I’ll admit, I haven’t been doing much self-care lately because I work two jobs, working 7 days a week, but what works for me is songwriting, talking and hanging out with my friends/family, and sleeping. Oftentimes sitting in silence and binge watching TV shows helps me relax.

What’s one piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

Patience and perseverance. You’re not going to know everything but you have to be willing to try and learn. Everything good that has happened to me was because I stepped out of my comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to do that. Small scale, large scale, the scale is your own. Don’t compare yourself to others either. You belong here. You have something to bring to the table. You’ve made it this far, so take that next step you’ve been holding back on. I believe in you!

Allison Gunnink, MBA, MT-BC

Where do you work and who are your clients?

Since March 2018, I’ve been a full-time music therapist at Joliet Area Community Hospice, soon to be known as Lightways. I provide support to patients and families in the field and at our inpatient unit alongside two other wonderful music therapists. We also assist the grief support department with various events and/or groups.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Outside of supporting people in one of the most vulnerable times in their lives, the part of my job that I enjoy the most is working together with my teammates to try and provide the best care that we can. It is such a privilege to work in this setting. I enjoy taking time to get to know the people we are working with and collaborating with the team to try and best meet their needs.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

My family is service oriented. I grew up with my parents setting the example of giving back to the community through serving on various boards and participating in different events. My three brothers and myself were all in band, so music was a big part of our lives. I knew that I did not want to teach and I did not want to perform for a living. My bassoon teacher mentioned music therapy to me and after I read more about it, I was sold. The idea of using music to help others just felt right to me.

What do you do for self-care?

There are many different things that I do for self-care. I guess it starts with first tuning into myself and figuring out what I need at that time. From there, I have my main go-to self-care activities. A big part of my self-care routine includes exercising; I’ve done Orangetheory Fitness for the last 5.5 years, and I’ve also run a total of 5 half marathons since 2014. I try to eat well to nourish my body and mind. Receiving my own counseling regularly is something that I’ve prioritized over the years as well. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, as well as hanging out watching some favorite TV shows with my two cats.

What’s once piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

Regardless of the setting that you work in, there will be systems in place that have existed for some time. It is important to learn how the systems work, and to work within the system when needed. However, it is also important to question and advocate for changes when necessary. Try not to become defensive about the value of music therapy and what it can do. Just like we do with those we work with, meet people where they are at and go from there. I’ve learned through experience that these things can lead to burnout quickly, so take care of yourselves so you can continue to help others.

Elizabeth Klinger, MA, MT-BC


Elizabeth Klinger

Where do you work and who are your clients?

I work at Lurie Children’s – my clients are hospitalized children and their families. I primarily serve the hospital’s NICU and PICU, but do work with inpatients on every unit.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy the variety, unpredictability, and the ability to use my creativity and experience to be helpful in the moment.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

I grew up as a caregiver for a disabled parent, so was always on a helping path. Music was one of the things and sources of community that I sought out for myself – I loved playing the flute in band, singing in choir, participating in theater. I chose to double major in music performance and psychology before learning about music therapy. As a psychology major, I had the opportunity to train with a local psychologist to provide in-home assistance for families of kids on the autism spectrum. One of the families I worked for told me that their child participated in music therapy at their school, and suggested I pursue the field. In 2002 I transferred to WIU and never looked back!

What do you do for self-care?

Prioritize uninterrupted time with my own children and partner, go to therapy, pace myself at work, stop using social media, limit the news, read novels, cook, do yoga (sometimes) and be very intentional about the books, television, and movies I choose. I like to listen to current and marginalized voices when I can, but also value levity and humor. Also, I recently switched from a 5-day workweek to four 10-hour workdays and it’s made a big difference to have that extra day at home.

What’s once piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

Be patient; give things time to unfold. The moment I started to feel respected, understood, and grounded at work is the moment I moved away from “advocating” and allowed the work to speak for itself.

Bravo! Here are some further videos highlighting Elizabeth’s work:

https://www.luriechildrens.org/en/patients-visitors/meet-your-care-team/music-therapists/

https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/09/25/music-brings-therapy-to-7-year-old-heart-patient-at-chicago-hospital/

Know someone that should be recognized in our next Member Spotlight? Nominate them here.

Hannah Nilsen, MT-BC


Where do you work and who are your clients?

Spring 2020 Member Spotlight

I work at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Hospital, associated with Edward-Elmhurst Health. I serve the inpatient hospital in Naperville, primarily on the three adult units and adolescent unit. I work with people managing an array of diagnoses, including but not limited to depression disorders, anxiety disorders, active psychosis, and personality disorders. I am the only MT-BC, which certainly poses its challenges, being a relatively new professional (MT-BC less than 2 years). Luckily, I work on a team of Art Therapists, Recreation Therapists,  Dance/Movement Therapists, and an Occupational Therapist, that are incredibly supportive.  

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part is actively seeing individuals who demonstrate to be in the lowest of their low, suddenly come alive in music therapy. When these individuals smile, laugh, explore, and walk away saying “thank you, I needed that and didn’t know it” or seeing the individual who is so wrapped up in their psychotic or manic symptoms be able to sit calmly and focus in the moment, even if just momentarily. Prior to accepting this first job, I never imagined myself working in mental health. I completed my internship at Texas Children’s Hospital, and I still am in love with pediatric medical settings. But, having taken this job, I have learned so much and have a greater appreciation for the power of music in the simplest of ways. I’ve met amazing people and was given the opportunity to be a part of their crisis recovery – and I walk away thankful, every single day, for that opportunity. 

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

Like many MT-BC’s, I was someone growing up that put others first, sometimes to a fault, and that people trusted to confide in and seek help from.  I’ve always experienced personal validation and comfort from music, and always enjoyed performing. In high school, I literally google-searched “music and helping” and found AMTA’s website. I researched, spoke with multiple professors of music therapy, and never turned back. I went to the University of Evansville, completed internship in August 2018, and began my current job by October 2018. I consider myself one of the lucky ones whose career happened to fall into place almost seamlessly. 

What do you do for self-care?

Self-care… always an interesting question. During the recent months, this has been a challenging aspect of life. As I have continued to work full time through pandemic and ongoing crisis, self-care has been a struggle. Compassion fatigue is so real in the last two months. BUT, it is an area I’m always trying my best to work on. I love to read and care for my dogs, I’ve begun to explore water colors, and I just moved into my first house with my fiance, so simply having my (our) own space has been immensely helpful. I’m working my way back into at-home yoga sessions, courtesy of “Yoga With Adriene”. At the end of the day, having opportunity to spend time outside is my main pick-me-up. Camping, kayaking, hiking… I love it!

What’s once piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

Taking time, whatever that looks like for you, to use music for yourself. Maintaining your own connection with music helps keep the spark in our work alive – we need to believe and experience its power ourselves! Jam out during your commute – dance around your kitchen or room like a fool – sing with your family. Also, keep some music for yourself. If there are songs that hold meaning for you, don’t use it in therapy. This has helped me create boundaries between my personal life and professional life, as well as keep me grounded when I need help.

Anna Estabrook, MM, MT-BC

A photo of Anna EstabrookI am grateful for the opportunity to introduce myself to you. My name is Anna Estabrook and I have been a music therapist since 2013. I started my small private practice named Rinnah Music Therapy a few years ago in the Peoria area. I have seen a variety of private individual clients that have ranged in age from young children to adults.

Where do you work and who are your clients?
I currently work part time as a Developmental Therapist in the Early Intervention program in the Peoria area with birth to three year olds who have developmental delays or disabilities. I am hoping to extend my business to include music therapy assisted childbirth when it seems right for my family. In the meantime, I’ve used some comfort measures to assist in relaxation during my own births. When I’m not working as a music therapist, I have the privilege of caring for my three young children who are three years old and younger. They are such a joy! It can be difficult to find the right balance between work and home sometimes, but for me the amount of time I currently spend as a music therapist rejuvenates and makes me more grateful for the time with my kids.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy the interaction I have with families. A big part of what I do includes parent education, and it’s very rewarding to see families engaging in play together and children reaching their goals as families work toward those goals together.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?
I grew up going to a fine arts magnet school, where I learned to play violin and trumpet. I also took piano lessons later on. My life seemed to revolve around violin and trumpet especially all the way through high school, and both were fairly equal until my senior year of high school. When I began college at Bradley University, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was advised to do something I knew and liked, rather than being undecided in my major. A year and a half into my music major, I burned out on trumpet playing. Things weren’t working and I was one semester from finishing a Bachelor of Arts. That wasn’t all though. Someone told me about music therapy, and I happened to finally find a music therapist to observe while on a trip, in Portland, Oregon of all places. There were interactions with older adults with dementia that felt fake and contrived, and I got turned off of music therapy. Oh no!

From that negative experience, I swung like a pendulum to young children, thinking that’s who I must be passionate to work with. As I was finishing my degree, student teaching in a wonderful preschool classroom, I began to rethink music therapy. Maybe there was something I missed. I enjoyed making music with these kids and wanted to help them gain new skills that way. I found myself lighting up enthusiastically whenever it came time to lead the class in music or movement. The thought of having one classroom full of children for an entire year and for longer than one year felt stifling and restrictive. I was more interested in working with individuals or small groups. Before I could decide what to do I felt I should observe music therapy again. I found a music therapist locally this time, working in Early Intervention, and instantly resonated with the ways she was using music and instrument play as a sensory learning experience to help this little girl label her surroundings and body parts. She had cortical visual impairment and needed several different types of stimuli for her brain to learn what her eyes were seeing. I saw before my very eyes transformation and learning taking place as a result of music therapy, and was inspired to learn more and become a music therapist myself.

I moved forward with finishing my music degree, and looked into what additional courses would move me forward faster when I started my master’s degree at Illinois State shortly after.


What do you do for self-care?
Ha! I enjoy taking naps, reading, writing, going on walks, and worshiping on piano or guitar with my kids. Self-care for me in this season of life has been alone time to think and journal, exercise, and spend precious time with friends that is becoming harder to carve out.


What’s once piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?
The best thing you can do for yourself is observe, observe, observe music therapists in the field! Write down your observations of verbal and nonverbal communication you notice the music therapist doing. What does s/he do well? What could improve? Become a expert observer and you will gradually improve your own presence as a music therapist.

Rachel Tutko, MT-BC

Where do you work and who are your clients? A photo of Rachel Tutko

I work for Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care, but currently in the role as an Associate Team Director. I provide additional support in a leadership role to the team director, clinical director, and the staff of the IDG.  I worked in the field for Seasons for about 3 and a half years as a music therapist before transitioning into a new role. I loved my clients, working as a hospice music therapist, and especially my team. When this position became available to me, I took it as an opportunity to grow as a leader and to support a team of friends and professionals that I love. I utilize my clinical skills as a music therapist daily even in my current role. I often assist staff with challenging situations and help them to triage and troubleshoot. I am often supporting families with questions, concerns, and providing solutions over the phone and during patient/family meetings. With my experience as a field music therapist with Seasons, I serve as a mentor to the field staff so that they feel more supported in their work. 


What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my work is still the patients and families. Even though I’m not at the bedside, I still feel very connected to the field. I do enjoy providing guidance and solutions to patients and families calling in seeking support. I also enjoy being a mentor to the field staff because it ultimately means that they can better support our patients and families. A lot of what I do helps contribute to the efficiency of the organization which ultimately means things run more smoothly for the patients and families we serve. 


What inspired you to become a music therapist?

Music therapy is everything I believe music is and does for people. It reminds us of what it means to be human in healthcare. I always knew I wanted to serve people, but also work with music on a professional level. I was fortunate to have found out that the mother of a childhood friend of mine is a music therapist and took her up on the opportunity to observe her. I spent the whole day with her during her sessions and the rest is history!

What do you do for self-care?

Always take the opportunity to learn music for yourself. If there is a song that resonates with me for any particular reason, I take the opportunity to just learn it for myself. I’ve grown to learn and love A LOT of music working with my clients, but in my current role, I’m not learning music for someone else quite as often. Music has always been a therapeutic outlet for me and serves as a reminder of my “WHY”. 

What’s once piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself room to grow. Take feedback seriously. You’ll never be able to do everything, know every song, or know all the answers, but don’t let that take away from the beauty and excitement of your journey. Also, you are never “JUST” a music therapist. You are a leader in healthcare and your clients/patients need you.

Regan Thompson, MT-BC

A photo of Regan ThompsonWhere do you work and who are your clients? I work at Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care in Illinois where I’ve been for the last two years. I work with our hospice patients in the western suburbs of Chicago. My patients range anywhere from 21- 103 depending on who is receiving hospice services. 

What inspired you to become a music therapist? Honestly, I’ve grown up around the medical field with my mom as a nurse. I grew up playing piano and taking voice lessons. When I heard about music therapy it really felt like what I was called to do. I knew I wanted to work as a music therapist in the medical and/or psych field. 

How have you experienced music to be therapeutic yourself? I think I use music almost every day as therapy for myself. Whether it’s between patients to recenter myself or to get out of a space that I’m in, or to get me motivated to workout or run, I am using music daily in my own life. 

Who is your role model? I think I’d have to say one of my older friends who has lived more life than me. She inspires me to be a good mom, to be a better wife and to better myself while also giving myself grace. 

What are your hobbies? I love working out and running. It’s my stress reliever. I love running races whenever I can but really prefer running in the winter months. 

What is your favorite self-care activity? Probably the same as above. Running and working out.

Rebecca J. Froman Freiman, MA, MT-BC

Where do you work and who are your clients?

My private practice, Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc., serves adults of all ages in group and individual sessions wherever home is for the
client in Chicago and neighboring suburbs. We see clients in skilled nursing and assisted living care communities, adult day programs, and
work with clients in their private residences with their carepartners. We specialize in working with adults with various types of dementia,
though we see adults for other mental health and neurological health challenges as well. One of our other specialties is serving older adult
clients of Jewish background. Educating community partners and providing trainings are also a large component of our practice; our most
recent workshop was at Alzheimer’s Association’s National Headquarters. Currently, our team is growing and expanding!

What is your favorite part of your job?

This is an easy question—getting to be with people and music all day! Beyond that, one of my favorite aspects of my job is working with an
excellent professional network. Interfacing with other team members and creative arts therapists makes me a better music therapist. I also am
so grateful to be part of such a wonderful community of music therapists in the Chicago area. Several years ago during a difficult job transition,
many IL music therapy colleagues came to my aide and gave me so much assistance. I continue to feel this support as music therapists in IL
have such strong camaraderie and commitment to each other and the field. It is amazing how we as music therapists often come together to
help each other’s work, collaborate, and cheer each other on. I think the field as a whole, our clients, and communities benefit because we
bolster each other’s work and demonstrate a collegiality rare in other fields.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

By the time I was in high school, my route toward being an oboe performance major in college was solidified. I was quite fortunate to get to
attend Interlochen Arts Camp, which simultaneously nourished my love of music and discouraged me from following the life of a musical
performer. My senior year, I took two psychology-related classes and was enamored. My parents had heard of music therapy, so when I got
to choose a special senior project shadowing a professional at their job, my school matched me with a willing music therapist. I went on to
college as a performance major as planned, but picked up a concentration in psychology and sought experiences and classes that would help
me pursue music therapy as a graduate student.

What do you do for self-care?

Like many music therapists, I am plagued with not being the greatest at work/life balance. It seems to be a bad trend in our field. I do not
always have a lot of time of self-care, but there are two things that no matter what is going on in my life, I make time for and it helps me feel a
little more balanced- getting a manicure and stopping for coffee. No matter how frantic or chaotic things are, at least my nails look great
around my cup of coffee until they reflect the wear of excessive guitar playing! Also, I had an intern once who had a wonderful ritual prior to
starting a session that I have adopted. Before entering the session space if I can, I stand in the doorway, think about the feeling of the ground
beneath my feet, turn my head to each side, take a deep breath in and out, return my head to center, then enter. It takes just a moment, but
can be so centering, refreshing, and a reminder to be present.

What’s one piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

I remember feeling a significant amount of pressure to declare which clinical population I would work with for my entire career as a beginning
student and intern. Early childhood was where I thought I would find my specialization. Then, I had a practicum on a geriatric psychiatric care
unit and was shaken by how much I loved it and the realization that I needed to switch course. I took comfort from my graduate school advisor
talking with me about the many different populations she’d worked with along her way. This helped me find the courage to take a large turn on
my path toward my first job working with older adults. So, to students and new therapists, I say take the pressure off of yourselves to try to
figure out which clinical population is the one for your career. Just explore the work that motivates, engages, and excites you.

FOR MORE INFO ABOUT REBECCA’S PRACTICE, VISIT:https://greaterchicagomusictherapy.com

Natasha Foley, MT-BC

Where do you work and who are your patients?A photo of Natasha Foley
I work at Heartland Hospice in Rockford, servicing North Central Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. We have a census of 200+ and I’m currently our only music therapist at this office.

What inspired you to become a Music Therapist?
I’ve always loved to sing, and realized that music therapy could be a way for me to use music to help people! The only knowledge I had of music therapy in high school before doing more research was knowing the protagonist in ‘Sing Me Home’ was a music therapist. I wasn’t inspired to be a hospice music therapist until I had the experience of bringing instruments to visit my Grandma with Alzheimer’s and my family saw her respond so positively! Seeing how music can help the family too, and volunteering in hospice in college both showed me that hospice was the population I wanted to work with.

Have you experienced music to be therapeutic yourself?
Sometimes I think I forget to listen to music because I spend the whole workday using music, but when I remember to listen to music it always is so therapeutic. I made a playlist of “good headspace songs” that I listen to in the car when I’m heading to or leaving a stressful visit that includes songs I know always put me in a positive headspace.

What are your hobbies?
My hobbies include crafting and making jewelry. Since I’m pretty freshly out of my internship, I’m living in the first apartment I’ve had to furnish. So I’ve been doing several DIY decorations that make my apartment a happy and colorful place to come home to!

What is your favorite self-care activity?
My favorite self-care activity is just being outside. I enjoy going for hikes in Rock Cut State Park, which is a large park very close to me. I also enjoy sitting on my balcony and watching the sunset. There’s something about taking even a few minutes to pause and breathe and be outside that is so calming and grounding. It’s so important working in hospice to take that time to detox, be present, and remember why I love what I do!