When I read this book a few years ago, when it was first published, I was so excited about it that I knew I wanted to review it to help others become aware of it. Regretfully, I did not manage to complete the review then. As I have reread the book in order to review it now, I am just as excited and hopeful that my review will encourage others to read the book. Experiencing race as a music therapist: Personal narratives consists of narratives—stories—collected by Susan Hadley through interviews with 17 music therapists. She says, “It is a collection of diverse and complex narratives by some of the people in our profession who are grappling with these issues” (p. 14). The narratives are (from Hadley’s description) from a female of mixed Native American and European heritage, a Jewish Canadian male, two white South African females, a male of mixed Torres Strait Islander and European heritage, two white Australian females, a Maori male, a Caucasian English female now living in New Zealand, two African-American females, a Caucasian American female, a Korean female living in the US, a Japanese person living in the US, a Caucasian American male, an Iranian American female of Jewish and Muslim parentage, and a white Puerto Rican female living in the US. (p. 14) Susan Hadley interviewed the music therapists and then, over a period of a few years, transcribed the interviews. Thus, the interviewees are chapter coauthors with her, with those interviewed being first author of each chapter. The fact Hadley gave others first authorship speaks to her generosity and also allowed them to share both voice and power within authorship. A poem that Hadley’s son, Gabriel, wrote when he was 12 introduces the book. In the poem, titled “Autumn Leaves,” he compares race to different colors of leaves and speaks of seeing them as different shades. He says that he would like to “mess them up, to mix them differently” (p. xiii). In the first chapter, Hadley places her relationship to the topic of race in context. She discusses race within the larger picture of diversity and brings her awareness of privilege and oppression to the topic. I am always grateful for Hadley’s perspective on these issues, and her presentation of them in this book is no exception. In the next 17 chapters, the music therapists present their perspectives on race. Most interviewees tell when they were born and the nationality of their parents. Many follow this with some information about some of their influences as they grew up. Beyond that, the interviews are all different. Each person has a different background and speaks of different things. As stated above, some are part of a minority in their country, others are part of the majority. Many of their views on race were influenced by experiences of living in both their own and other countries; the views of others were shaped by living only in their native country. Because each person’s story is so different, it is impossible to summarize the chapters or give a meaningful overview. However, to give a sense of the content, I will speak about a few of the chapters. These are not “typical” or representative—this book does not have typical chapters—but I hope that it will give readers of this review a sense of the content of the book. In “A View from the Floor,” Getano Bann shares his story. He was born in Queensland, Australia, in 1964. His father was a Scotsman and his mother was a Torres Strait Islander. He says that he is the only indigenous Australian music therapist who identifies as indigenous. He says: “At the time that I was born, the White Australia policy was still being practiced. So, with me being a ‘half-caste’ (or biracial) child of an indigenous woman, my parents ran the risk of me being removed from them” (p. 62). Bann speaks of some of what occurred as he was growing up, of leaving home when he was 16, and that he was illiterate until he was 23 or 24. He decided to study music therapy when he was in his 30s. He reflects on how his background has affected his work as a music therapist, and the chapter includes many examples of these influences on his work. Frances Smith Goldberg speaks of her experiences as an African American born in 1935 in “Creating a Path in the Middle.” She became a music therapist before educational programs were widely available, so she learned and received her credentials through on-the-job training as a music therapist. She tells how people interacted with her as an African American in various music therapy positions in the late 1950s and 1960s. She speaks of a few issues that arose in her work due to her race, although few of these were with patients, and of more issues that arose in the community. She says, “Overall, I think that my race has been more of an issue in my life personally than professionally. I think that may be because I was determined to not let race be an excuse for not achieving my potential professionally” (p. 135). She also reflects on a crisis that she had about the music used in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) when she felt that she could not relate to Bach’s music because he was white. As an outcome of this crisis, she grew to feel that more music by women and people of color should be used in GIM. “Bringing My Asian Identity to Light Through Acculturation” tells of Seung-A Kim’s experiences as a Korean American. Kim was born in South Korea in 1963 and moved to the United States when she was 23. She speaks of differences that she found when she first moved to the United States and as she lived in Philadelphia and then New York City. She describes the challenges that she faced with language and with cultural differences. She describes times that her race has been an issue, both positive and negative, with both clients and staff and caretakers. I am struck throughout this chapter with how Seung-A Kim has embraced the experiences that have come about as a result of her race and how people respond to her. She has done research about multicultural differences and has done what she can to use her awareness to enhance her therapeutic relationships. This is a thoughtful and stimulating book. As I read it, I examined and reexamined my views of nearly everything that the chapter coauthors spoke of. And the topic—race—could not be more timely in the United States and in the world. I don’t know if it is more relevant now, in 2016, than it was when it was published in 2013—and I don’t know if it will still be as timely when this review is published—but I hope we may have moved forward some by that time. I also hope that, as music therapists continue their reflexivity on how this topic impacts practice, education, and research, the topic will become integrated into all of these areas so it will not be as relevant. This book is valuable for the reflexive thinking that is involved. The contributors’ reflections on their experiences of race, and Hadley’s writing and shaping of the book, support this. Music therapists can use it to heighten their own reflexivity, which may influence them both personally and professionally. The book contributes to music therapists’ reflective practice, and its vitality lies in its reflexivity and ability to stimulate conversations about this among music therapists. The book also has a place as a resource in courses that consider identity in music therapy, discuss multicultural considerations in music therapy, or use critical theory and critical discourse to examine music therapy. All of these should be considered in relation to music therapy, suggesting the wide applicability of the book. The only thing that I would have changed in this book would be to include more interviews so that more views could be presented. Hadley’s son, Gabriel, said in the poem that introduces the book that he wanted to do to leaves as he would do to race—“mess them up, to mix them differently.” Hadley and her 17 coauthors do a lot to help readers do just this. I encourage all music therapists to read and reflect on the book and their own relationships to race. © the American Music Therapy Association 2016. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com
Music Therapy Perspectives – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 22, 2016
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