A Note to Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4) 02/28/2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — contemplativemusictherapist @ 6:31 PM

Dear Rep. Rokita,

Since you refuse to hold a town hall, I’m taking to the Internet to get your attention.

My name is Meganne Masko. I am a mom. A mom who believes in public education and the important roles public schools play in the lives of children all over the country. You might know my name from the many phone calls and messages I’ve sent you. You never respond to those calls and messages, so you may not know that I call you almost every day.

In 2000, my husband and I welcomed an amazing son into the world. It was a terrible pregnancy, there had been worries about a serious genetic defect known as Trisomy 13. We had numerous appointments with neonatologists and genetics experts, an amniocentesis, and multiple scans. He was genetically fine, but something was clearly not right when he was born.

His pediatrician noticed that his startle reflex appeared to be overactive, but tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary. He was sensitive to touch, sight and sound, and he had difficulty feeding. At 9 months of age, his doctor told me that my son, our son, was at risk for being developmentally delayed. A series of assessments and meetings with therapists and social workers followed, and he was enrolled in physical therapy and speech/language therapy. He needed to work with a feeding specialist because he couldn’t tolerate age appropriate food in his mouth. Consequently, he was underweight, failing to thrive. He would need a feeding tube if we couldn’t get him to tolerate food. My husband and I owned our own business and did not have insurance. Thankfully, our boy qualified for a Medicaid waiver program because of his failure to thrive. Medicaid and the Birth to Three program (also known as Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) paid for his therapies so we didn’t go completely bankrupt caring for him.

Over time, it became clearer and clearer that he was not developing typically. He would build these large, elaborate piles of toys, pillows, clothes, and anything else he could find in the living room. He did that every day. He could only wear one kind of clothes, tolerate one kind of bed sheet, and he had a terrible time sleeping. He would scream whenever there was a loud sound, sometimes clamping his hands over his ears to block out the noise. He would have meltdowns that could last for hours if you violated his daily routine in any way.

At the age of 3, we took our beautiful child for a comprehensive evaluation at the University of Iowa Centers for Disability and Development. At the end of a very long day of testing, we heard that our son was on the Autism Spectrum. He needed even more therapy and assistance. Because of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, our son was able to receive the services he needed through the public schools in our area. He worked with a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a special education teacher, and others.

The therapies provided to our son through Medicaid and Part C of the IDEA changed the course of his life and ours. He learned to sign and then talk. He learned to eat and then grew strong. His sensory issues were managed, which meant his brain could focus on learning how to read and write. He made friends and developed personal interests. He continued to access services through public schools until he was in 4th grade. That’s when we made the decision to discontinue his last remaining official support and withdraw his Individualized Education Plan (or IEP). He has not needed one since.

Our son is Autistic. Proudly so. He is also an honors student who wants to go to business school at IU and maybe even become a lawyer. He is an athlete, a musician, a friend. He has a job and contributes to the economy. He is happy, healthy, and productive because of amazing public schools, special education law, and Medicaid programs.

My request of you, Mr. Rokita, is that you oppose efforts like HR 899 which would terminate the Department of Education, and HR 610 which would take tax dollars from public schools and redistribute them in the form of vouchers (as well as eliminate nutrition standards for school lunches). We need our public schools. Our children need our public schools. Our democracy needs our public schools.

Three separate studies on voucher programs indicated that, contrary to what Betsy DeVos and Todd Rokita think, students who use vouchers to attend private schools actually attain lower levels of achievement on standardized tests than do children who attend public schools. The most recent study to show that students in voucher programs do worse on measures of achievement was published by conservative think tank the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and funded by the Walton Family Foundation, both of which support voucher programs. Even the people who support these programs know they don’t work.

Again, I say to you, Mr. Rokita, focus on supporting public schools and the children who attend them rather than dismantling this important public good. My son, and millions of children, benefit from quality public educations, and I frankly don’t want to see my tax dollars used to undermine the intellectual capacity of future generations of American voters.


Meganne Masko

Mom and registered voter


Vocation 06/05/2016

Filed under: Music,Music Therapy,Uncategorized — contemplativemusictherapist @ 8:30 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

“Vocation: A strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work.

This post is about vocation. I promise it is, but it’s going to take a little while to get there. Stick with me.


My husband is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is a second career pastor, having first earned a degree in education and music. He worked as a church musician for over a decade before feeling both an internal and external call to be an ordained member of the clergy. He earned his Master of Divinity degree after four years of intensive study, and he has faithfully served his congregations in North Dakota for the past five years while I worked as a tenure-track professor.


Being a music therapist is my vocation. Being a music therapy faculty member and clinical researcher is the current form of my particular vocation. In January, I was offered a faculty position at another institution. My husband agreed that the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I accepted the offer. My vocation isn’t changing, but the location of my vocation is.


As soon as I accepted my new academic position, my husband started sending information to the leadership teams of both our current home synod and the synod to which we will be moving (a synod is a geographical region in the ELCA). Hubs had already filed the appropriate paperwork to receive a new call, and we thought we would be okay while we trusted the process to work. It took what felt like forever to hear any kind of response back from any of the people in leadership positions. When we did hear, it wasn’t good news. There were no open calls within reasonable driving distance of my new position, which I understood (there aren’t as many Lutherans in our new locale). What I didn’t understand, and what I still don’t understand, is the message we received from more than one person in church leadership: My job shouldn’t put a geographical limitation on my husband’s vocation.


As hubs, and one of his seminary professors, likes to say, “notice my language.” Notice that the church leaders talked about my work as a job, and my husband’s work as a vocation. Vocation implies an internal desire that is validated by an external call to a specific kind of work, whereas jobs are things you do to make money. The implication being, of course, that vocations are more important than jobs.


My husband recognizes the worth of my vocation, just as I recognize the worth of his. What we do is different but equally important in the world.


Vocations of all kinds are supposedly valued by the church, and church leaders spend a lot of time talking about how all of God’s children serve God’s mission through their various vocations. In practice, the only vocation that appears to matter to church leadership is that of ordained clergy. The work the rest of us do, apparently, is simply less important to the life of the world.


What is also clear to me from this experience is that the church, for all of its talk of recognizing that times have changed, is still very much stuck in a 1960s idea of what clergy should be: Single, married to a stay-at-home spouse, or married to a spouse whose work can be done anywhere. If you fall outside of any of those parameters, including having a non-clergy spouse who is the primary income earner for the family, the church does not know what to do with you. The “process” breaks down completely.


Here is my message to church leadership: God’s world needs people who faithfully serve one another using their gifts, talents, and abilities. Leaders of God’s churches need to recognize the importance of all of those gifts, talents, and abilities. They need to genuinely value the vocations of all of God’s people all of the time. It can’t be lip service. It can’t be a slogan on a t-shirt. It can’t be when it’s convenient or when the church needs something specific. It needs to be every hour of every day in every area of the globe. If church leadership can’t or won’t do that, then they need to be honest about it. If they can’t or won’t do that, then they need to stop wondering why so many people are done with the church.



Why the Music Therapy program at UND matters… 04/09/2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — contemplativemusictherapist @ 9:36 AM

Early last week I sent a letter to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. Here is the text of that letter:

I write to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the State Board of Higher Education on behalf of the Music Therapy program at the University of North Dakota. As you are likely aware, UND administration recently slated the Music Therapy program for suspension due to budget shortfalls. The purpose of this letter is to describe how the UND Music Therapy degree, an allied healthcare training program, meets the needs of the state and addresses the state board’s identified priorities for higher education in North Dakota.

Board certified and licensed music therapists (MT-BC/L) fill a unique healthcare role in North Dakota. MT-BC/Ls with at least a Bachelors Degree are qualified to work with patients in cancer care, in-patient acute medical and psychiatric settings, long term psychiatric settings, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, intensive care, pediatrics, neuro-rehabilitation, special education, dementia care, and end-of-life care. According to the Third Biennial Report on Health Issues for the State of North Dakota, the state faces a shortage of all types of health care professionals, including mental health and allied health care providers. If the state faces a shortage of qualified healthcare providers, why suspend a degree program that trains students to work in such a wide variety of medical and other health care related settings?

The nature of healthcare itself is rapidly changing in the United States. According to the same Biennial Report on Health Issues:

“Optimal care of patients depends on a team of healthcare providers. Although previous service delivery models typically had a physician as the center of the healthcare effort, it is clear that better and less expensive care is provided by a robust team of collaborating professionals, with team members providing input and expertise from their disciplines.”[1]

Music Therapists serve a vital role on health care teams. We are called upon to help patients achieve and maintain desired levels of physical and emotional comfort, interact with their environments and the people around them, and progress towards specific therapeutic goals when other treatment modalities prove ineffective. Music Therapy is highly valued by health care teams because of the profound ways music influences humans physically, psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Music Therapy enhances the care provided by physicians and nurses, often resulting in shorter hospitalizations, more efficient recoveries, and lower overall healthcare costs to patients and facilities.[2] [3]

Higher education institutions in North Dakota serve the health and well-being of the citizens by training health care practitioners. This is important because the turnover rate for health care providers trained outside of North Dakota is approximately double that of providers trained in state. In an effort to retain more qualified practitioners in the state, the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences is working to increase the number of health care students and residents trained in state by 25% in the coming years. Of the 14 music therapists currently licensed to practice in the state, 11 were trained at UND. Seven of those 11 MT-BC/Ls earned their degrees from UND within the past six years. If the goal is to increase in-state training and retention of healthcare providers, it seems counterintuitive to suspend a program that does just that.

The Music Therapy program meets several of the SBHE’s priority areas in the new five-year plan, namely:

  • Providing programs people want, where and when they need them
  • Equipping students for success
  • Maximizing the strengths of a unified system

Music Therapy is a degree program people want, where they want it. The UND Music Therapy program is the only accredited MT program between Minneapolis and Seattle. The next closest accredited programs are at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Augsburg College, and Colorado State University. The UND program attracts students from Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, and Canada in addition to North Dakota residents. The number of students declaring Music Therapy as a major has more than tripled in the past ten years. Retention and graduation rates have also increased, and the MT program has the highest retention and graduation rates in the UND Music Department. The current senior class is the largest one to date, with ten students prepared to complete their clinical internships and take the board certification exam over the next calendar year.

The UND Music Therapy program equips students for success. The program enjoys an extremely high first-time pass rate on the national Music Therapy Board Certification exam. Our first-time pass rate is 97.63%, as compared to 60-80% nationally, and UND’s overall CBMT exam pass rate is 100%, compared to the national average of 76%.[4] Based on this information, you can see why the UND MT program is held in high regard by clinicians, educators, and professionals across the United States.

Music Therapists are, by their nature, collaborators. The UND Music Therapy program maximizes the strength of a unified system and university by encouraging academic and clinical collaboration between departments, schools, and community stake holders across the state. 
The MT curriculum includes course work in music, music therapy, technology, psychology, statistics, anatomy, inter-professional healthcare, counseling, special education, and sociology, as well as general education classes. Students complete a minimum of 180 supervised pre-internship clinical hours as part of their on-campus training. Students earn these hours by working with clinical and health care agencies throughout the state, including in more rural communities. Students must also complete a six-month fulltime internship before graduating and taking the CBMT exam. Most of these internships occur outside of North Dakota, but UND MT faculty worked with Valley Memorial Homes to create internship opportunities in Grand Forks. Both of the students who recently interned at VMH were hired shortly after taking their CBMT exams. UND currently has one intern placed with Music Therapy in Motion in Grand Forks and Fargo, and she has been offered a position with MTIM after she passes her CBMT exam. In addition to the work of students, faculty at UND conduct research with, and provide clinical services to, citizens across the state, including in rural areas where service provision is most badly needed.

The UND Music Therapy program enhances UND’s national research reputation. UND MT faculty are recognized as leaders in their field. They serve on state, regional, and national boards. They publish in nationally recognized journals and texts, serve on ad hoc scientific review panels for the National Institutes of Health, and present at international, national and regional conferences. Students, too, are recognized for their research accomplishments. UND Music Therapy students won the prestigious E. Thayer Gaston research award from the American Music Therapy Association in both 2013 and 2014, and six more UND students are competing for the award this year.

I recognize that UND must live within its financial means, and I understand that difficult decisions must be made. However, I do not believe that healthcare in North Dakota should be made to suffer because of budget shortfalls. The mission of the State Board of Higher Education is to “enhance the quality of life for all those served by the NDUS as well as the economic and social vitality of North Dakota”. The Music Therapy program at UND does just that in a tangible and fiscally responsible way. I ask that you and your fellow committee members reverse the suspension of the Music Therapy program at UND for the health and well-being of the citizens of this great state.


[1] Third Biennial Report on Health Issues for the State of North Dakota 2015 (Report), p. 58.

[2] Romo, R. & Gifford, L. (2007). A Cost-benefit analysis of music therapy in a home hospice. Nursing Economics, 25(6), 353-358.

[3] Standley, J.& Walworth, D.D. (2005). Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Total Program, in J. Standley (Ed.), Medical Music Therapy, 33-40. AMTA.

[4] The national first-time pass rate percentage fluctuates from year to year based on the performance of candidates in a given year.



What in the world is happening in North Dakota? 03/20/2016

It has been a heck of a two-week period up in North Dakota for those of us in the Music Therapy world.

On Friday, March 4, I was notified by my department chair that the Dean of the UND College of Arts & Sciences intends to suspend the music therapy program at the University of North Dakota effective with the 2016-2017 academic year. This news was, and is, distressing to me, my colleagues, students, other professionals, and clients in the community.

University of North Dakota officials have offered varying reasons for suspension of the program:

  • UND is unable to attract and retain quality faculty. False.
    • Faculty in the Music Therapy program at UND have an average length of employment of 7.3 years. This is compared to the national average length of employment with one employer of 4.9 years for women with a doctoral degree working in education (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014).
  • Students will be without a faculty member come fall 2016. Semi-true.
    • The only reason students would be without a faculty member is if the Dean and Provost continue to refuse to offer the position to one of the qualified candidates who applied for the Program Director position.
  • The program must have two tenure track faculty member to be viable. False.
    • The UND Music Therapy program ran for its first eight years with only one faculty member. A second tenure track faculty member was added in 2008.
    • The program operated for six years with two tenure track faculty members until one of those lines was frozen by university administration.
    • The UND Music Therapy program has successfully run with one tenure track and one non-tenure track clinical faculty member for two years.
    • The lack of a second tenure track line in Music Therapy is due solely to decisions made by university administrators.
  • There is no graduate program at UND. True.
    • A plan for a graduate program in Music Therapy was submitted to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2014; however, UND faculty were asked to delay the implementation of the proposed degree.
  • The program is not financially sustainable. False.
    • The current enrollment of MT students is at 48 students, and the suspension of the degree program would result in a large annual tuition loss of approximately $300,000-$600,000.
    • The program has no independent budget line. The cost to run the program is approximately $200,000 per year for faculty salaries, benefits, and overhead expenses. The program brings in more money than it spends; therefore, it is a financial benefit to the university, not a liability.
  • Music Therapy is not a departmental priority. False.
    • The UND music department worked with two consultants in 2014 to identify the department’s strategic priorities. Both of these consultants identified Music Therapy as the department’s top priority. As a result of those visits, and the departmental prioritization process, Music Therapy was identified as the department’s top priority in a report to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Music faculty at UND never offered suspending Music Therapy as a budget reduction option.
  • It would cost $7M to endow the entire program. False.
    • The UND Alumni Foundation sets the guidelines for endowments at the university. According to their website, the cost of endowing a College/School/Department/Unit is $5M. The cost of endowing a chair (program director in this case) is $2.5M.

North Dakota was the first state in the nation to establish consumer protections for some its most vulnerable citizens by requiring licensure for music therapists practicing in the state. Senate Bill 2271, which created the board of integrative health care and established licensure for music therapists in North Dakota, enjoyed widespread and bi-partisan support for in both the Senate and the House. The final bills passed with 80 yeas in the House, and with unanimous support in the Senate. What is interesting about this particular legislation, is that the state had only four board certified music therapists living and working here when the legislation passed.

Music Therapy licensure and the Board of Integrative Health Care were officially added to the North Dakota Century Code in 2013. Part of the success of the subsequent laws (NDCC 43-57-03, 43-59-03) has been the thriving and vibrant Music Therapy program at UND.

In the past three years since official enactment of the licensure law, we’ve seen tremendous development in the field of Music Therapy in North Dakota. We’ve grown from four to fifteen professionals in the state, and from two to five organizations employing music therapists. These organizations include the University of North Dakota, Music Therapy in Motion, a large private practice employing multiple music therapists across the state, Valley Memorial Homes here in Grand Forks, and Altru Health Systems.

Of the fifteen music therapists in North Dakota, only three of us (me included) were trained outside of the state. In essence, the UND Music Therapy program acts as a feeder to licensure in the state.

One of my major concerns is that without the Music Therapy program at UND, the only program between Minneapolis and Seattle, there will not be enough Music Therapists to meet patient and client needs, maintain the quality of professionals in the state, and achieve licensure goals for the Board of Integrative Health Care. Ultimately, we could lose our licensure in ND if the UND program is suspended, and, if that happens, it is the most vulnerable citizens of North Dakota who will suffer.

We’ve had some incredible people come to our aid during this extremely difficult time. There are too many to name, but I want to give a special “thank you” to Kat Fulton, Leslie Henry, Andrew Knight, Rachel See, Jenna Tullis, Melea Hoeffner, and the faculty of the UND Department of Music. These amazing people have taken on our cause as their own, and they’ve found us truly remarkable supporters in the process.

On Friday (Fridays are eventful in ND), March 18, Mr. Ben Folds and Dr. Daniel Levitin wrote an open letter to President Schafer of the University of North Dakota. In that letter, both Mr. Folds and Dr. Levitin offered to come to UND (at their own expense) to raise funds to financially support the program. I will be honest, I was speechless for almost an hour. Then I cried. A lot. We’ll see what the university administration ultimately decides to do.

So…for all of you wondering what the heck is happening in North Dakota, now you know.

If you would like to voice your support for the UND Music Therapy program, you may send an email to any or all of the following people:

Chancellor, Dr. Mark Hagerott:

President, Hon. Ed Schafer:

Provost, Dr. Tom DiLorenzo:

Dean, Dr. Debbie Storrs:


The Importance of Training 03/02/2015

Filed under: Music,Music Therapy — contemplativemusictherapist @ 1:42 PM

Celebrating Music Therapists (ABC News)

I have had the unbelievable good fortune of attending very exciting meetings at the National Institutes of Health two weeks in a row. Both of those meetings taught me something about healthcare professionals: Training matters.

As you can tell from this blog’s name, I am a music therapist. More specifically, I am a board certified music therapist. The board certification part is important, because it tells you that I was trained to meet a minimum standard of professional competence. (In some states, like mine, you must also be licensed to practice music therapy.) Board certified music therapists (MT-BCs) receive training in music performance, music theory, music history, music therapy theory, psychology, anatomy, neuroscience and counseling, and we complete 1200 hours of supervised clinical work before we can take the board certification exam. My credential also binds me to a professional scope of practice and code of ethics.

To be clear, music therapists do not own the ability to use music with people. We recognize that there are roles for many people to play (pardon the pun) when it comes to making the world a better place through music. The volunteers who play at the local nursing home bring residents joy, as do the musicians who play in the auditoriums or entryways of hospitals. Listening to recorded music can be helpful for people, too. These folks (and technology) are priceless, but they do not replace music therapy and music therapists.

So, why is the credential such a big deal? Why shouldn’t a volunteer who plays music really well work with potentially vulnerable clients? Why can’t we load up an iPod and call it okay? The credential is a big deal because it tells you that the person working with your loved one understands the many ways music can be manipulated and used as a force for positive change. We understand that some people have compromised sensory processing systems that make it hard for them to tolerate sound at “normal” volume levels. We know how to look for subtle cues and signals that the music may be doing harm rather than good. We also know how to change the music to make it better for the person in the session. The credential tells you that MT-BCs know how to use music to work through trauma without triggering a post-traumatic stress response. The credential tells you that MT-BCs are going to think about things like infection control procedures and universal precautions before we bring anything near a person with a compromised immune system. It tells you that we will stay within our scope of practice when working with our clients. We know what we are, and are not, qualified to do when working with clients.

For me, the biggest reason the credential matters is because I want the best trained person possible working with my family and friends when they need help. I want physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists, speech-language pathologists, and others who are highly trained assisting my loved ones. Would you want someone with a chemistry degree, but no pharmacy training, dispensing your medication? Would he/she know if there was an error in the prescription? My guess is that you would want a pharmacist filling your prescription and checking for potential drug interactions or errors. Likewise, I wouldn’t be comfortable having someone who has a graduate degree in biology, but no medical training, taking care of me if I needed surgery; I would want a surgeon. Music therapists are the highly qualified professionals of the music in healthcare world.

It is my hope that we recognize the value and importance of proper education and credentialing of all arts-based therapists in the United States. As I said before, training matters.

For more information about arts-based therapy professions and their training requirements, please click on the links below:

Music Therapy (United States)

Art Therapy 

Dance/Movement Therapy

Drama Therapy


Being awesome… 06/10/2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — contemplativemusictherapist @ 12:17 PM

Kid President’s pep talk is one my all time favorite videos. He gives great advice, makes me giggle at Robert Frost, and (let’s be honest) is cute as a button. Here it is if you haven’t yet seen it:

The best of part of the video is when Kid President reminds us that we can all be awesome. In the spirit of KP, here are 14 ways you can be awesome today (and everyday):

1) Volunteer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. You can run, hike, bike, or compete in a triathlon for a great cause:

2) Build a Little Free Library.

3) Register to be a bone marrow donor: or

4) Help support a novel GED tutoring program: (Or, you can sign up to be a GED tutor in your own community.)

5) Give children of active duty soldiers something tangible to hold while their parents are deployed:

6) Skip one treat a week (coffee, donut, hamburger, etc.) and donate that money to the charity of your choice.

7) Play a game and earn free rice for a community in need.

8) Listen to what one veteran would like to hear from you if you meet.

9) Many women who flee from abusive situations to shelters often do so with only the clothes on their backs. You can give them clean pajamas and feeling of a little more security by donating to Helen’s Pajama Party.

10) Children need pajamas to feel safe, too. You can donate to the Pajama Program and help a child.

11) Adopt a shelter animal. They really do make fantastic family members.

12) Donate a teddy bear to a child in the hospital.

13) Help end stigma related to mental illness by lending your voice to the cause. and

14) None of these ideas struck your fancy? Find something better suited for your tastes and gifts:

Go forth and BE AWESOME!


I Don’t Consider Myself a Misogynist 05/29/2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — contemplativemusictherapist @ 8:58 AM

Well written and thoughtful.

Poorly Edited

I used to identify myself as a maleist. That is, I believed that the rights of men were being whittled away by American women. I believed that we were raising a generation of men to be pussies. We were stamping out natural male instincts in an attempt to keep them subdued. We were telling American men that they should be ashamed of their sex and instincts.

I’m sure Fight Club had something to do with this.

I don’t identify as a maleist anymore. I find myself thinking these thoughts from time to time. I realize that they are misguided. But, they’re still lingering.

I don’t consider myself a misogynist… but….

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