Rita Mayhew, MMT, MT-BC
Music Therapy Curriculum Coordinator
Howard Community College
My music therapy career began quite a while ago. My professional career has been a mix of teaching, clinical work and administrative duties. I have a BA in Music and History and Government from Notre Dame College in Cleveland, OH. I also have a BMT and MMT from Loyola University in New Orleans, LA under the inimitable Charles Braswell. I have been an elementary vocal music teacher, the assistant to the director of the Preparatory Department of the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a grad student teaching class piano at Loyola University in New Orleans. I did my internship at Southeast Louisiana State Hospital in Mandeville and worked there as a music therapist. I was a special education teacher in New Orleans, LA and Strongsville and Columbus, OH. I was an elementary teacher in Language Arts and Social Studies in Hawai’i. I was the first Coordinator for The Music Institute (a community music school) of Howard Community College and am the Music Therapy Curriculum Coordinator for Music Therapy at Howard Community College. (Did I mention that my husband was in the military?) I am blessed with a loving and supportive husband and remarkable, kind and accomplished daughter, son and daughter-in law. How lucky can I get? For fun, I walk and travel, read, sew and play with our new dog. Lately, I’ve taken up the ukulele. We are also passionately engaged in gardening.
Regarding novice music therapists, I would hope that new music therapists have the opportunity to begin their careers working in an established program, under the supervision of board-certified music therapists and optimally, as part of an interdisciplinary team. Two or three years working in this kind of setting would give novice music therapists the chance to gain invaluable and necessary experience while getting paid and the freedom to decide on the next steps in their careers. Value yourself!
I have worked primarily with children and adults with ASD and ID and Alzheimer’s Disorder and have been directing a Senior Choir which is made possible through a partnership between the community college and a community senior center. Members of the Senior Choir become HCC students by joining the senior choir. The additional benefits they receive apart from those through the music therapy experience include application and tuition fees waived, use of the college’s facilities and a college ID card which affords them student rates (better than senior rates!). We perform at the college, at the senior center and at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the area at least six times per year.
I have been working in the music department of Howard Community College (HCC) in Maryland since 2002. My goal was to introduce music therapy to the central Maryland community both at the collegiate level and as a resource for music therapy services. There is not a four-year music therapy program in the state of Maryland, so I designed a music therapy curriculum which includes a two semester introduction to music therapy course, functional guitar classes, introductory techniques and two semesters of practical experience for students to observe, shadow and assist board-certified music therapists in the Baltimore and surrounding areas. The purpose is to give local students a strong introduction to the field of music therapy so that they have an opportunity to see what music therapy really is right here in their home state and then to transfer to a four-year, AMTA-approved program. To that end, HCC and Immaculata University in PA signed an Articulation Agreement (and with special thanks to the vision and support of Lillian Eyre and Tony Meadows).
I started offering music therapy services through HCC’s Music Institute when we opened it in 2004 and now there are two music therapists working through the Music Institute offering services to central Maryland residents.
I believe very strongly in community colleges as a great venue for music therapy, especially in areas that may be under served. There is a strong connection to the community, it is a great place to teach an Introduction to Music Therapy course, or set up a Community Drumming Circle. There are so many opportunities to partner with local businesses, residential facilities, schools, hospitals, homeschoolers, etc. HCC has graciously agreed to host several CMTE training/workshops and MAMT meetings and the Jam for Japan Benefit Concert.
Through my years at HCC, I have spoken with many groups, given workshops and training sessions. I have volunteered as a music therapist in facilities so that my students received hands-on experiences and have established strong affiliations for observation and practicum experiences with area music therapists at Springfield Hospital and Maryland School for the Blind and Seasons Hospice. I’ve mentored many high schools students and talked with many more about music therapy and the rewards and challenges of being a music therapist. I co-chaired a yearlong Faculty Learning Community on the benefits of using music in the classroom and was instrumental in adding an annual Drumming Circle to the college’s Diversity Program. Our program is the subject of an Honors’ program student’s final project. I feel the possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination.
Best of all has been watching my students attend AMTA-approved music therapy programs. I will continue to advocate for music therapy in community colleges. While I may be marching to the beat of a different drummer and while the beat may be small, it continues to beat nonetheless. Thanks for the opportunity to do this. I recommend it to everyone!