In this 9‐minute conversation, Kathleen Coleman shares nine specific strategies for jump starting your own economy. These ideas were developed from her journey as a music therapist for the past 28 years.

Click on the gray arrow below to listen to the audio discussion, or subscribe via RSS feed.

Stimulating Your Own Economy
by Kathleen A. Coleman, MMT, MT‐BC

I was a young woman in my early twenties when I completed my master’s degree in music therapy and began seeking work in the public schools. That was my first encounter with the economy and the, at times, “not‐so‐encouraging” attitudes of
other people. I was determined that I would work in the public schools, and along the way I forged a set of ideas and attitudes that have helped me throughout my career. These ideas and attitudes can help today as we all face an uncertain economy.
1. Maintain a determined and positive attitude.
The first step on this journey is to have a strong, positive attitude. Believe you CAN succeed in finding professional, paid work as a music therapist. Limit your contact with people who only offer negative feedback about job potential. Seek out those people who can offer a listening ear and who can help you think “out of the box”.
2. In addition to your training as a music therapist, make a list of everything you could possibly do that even reasonably relates to music therapy. Anyone who has completed a degree in music therapy also has related skills that can be put to use in stimulating your own economy. What was your major instrument? You can consider offering private lessons on that instrument. Many public schools bring in private lesson teachers for their band, choral, or orchestral students. Check with your local school districts. Music therapists also have good basic skills on the guitar, which is a popular instrument for people wanting to develop a musical skill. Consider offering individual or class guitar lessons. A big need for families with children with special needs is finding a class activity that both a special needs child and a typical child can participate in. Think about offering a creative arts class open to all children; either after school, on Saturdays or in the summer. I had very good success with this, particularly when I joined forces with another music therapist so that we could co‐teach the classes. Your background as a music therapist can open the doors to other related options (not specifically music therapy). An adult education program for individuals with developmental disabilities recently opened in my area. They mentioned they needed an instructor for a social skills class and I offered to give it a try. It has been good for the students, and good for me. It has not only provided a source of income, but stimulated my creativity as I find new ways to address social skill issues with my students. Many of these ideas have turned out to be useful in working with my individual music therapy clients. What agencies are in your area? What services do they offer that someone with your background could address?
3. Ask for ideas and leads from everyone you know. Then, ask each of those people “who else do YOU know that I could talk to?” One of the most valuable pieces of advice I received early in my career was to always end a conversation by asking “Who else do you know that I could talk to?” Surprisingly,
many people have useful information and contacts that they don’t automatically think about sharing. But if you ask them, often you will receive a valuable lead. So…make certain to ask!
4. Using the Internet, locate all the possible agencies in your area that might be interested in the services of a music therapist. In the “old days”, we used the yellow pages to find agencies in the area that we were interested in
contacting. Thankfully today there is the Internet! Make full use of the Internet in locating and learning about agencies in your area that have the potential of utilizing
the services of a music therapist. With the help of the Internet, you can usually learn about the agency, its mission, its staff, its services, etc. This way, when you
contact the agency, you have a good starting point.
5. Set up a website that shows the services you offer. Today there are lots of tools that make setting up a website pretty easy. This way, people can find you when they search for information about music therapy. Make your site interesting and informative in order to draw people back to it.
6. Get your foot in the door by offering different potential service options to agencies. Agencies, especially in today’s economy, may not be able
to offer large contracts or employee positions. Come up with different option packages. Perhaps you might offer to do one in‐service at no charge if they will duplicate your handouts for you. This gives you an opportunity to present what you can offer as a music therapist and may strengthen the agency’s interest in how music therapy can help their clients. Offer “small‐size” contracts— perhaps once a month services with the option to build from there if the agency is happy with the service. Remember the old saying “slow and steady wins the race”.
7. Diversify the types of work you do. If all your “eggs” are not in one basket, you’ll have less chance of losing a substantial amount of income at one time. One big advantage of diversified contract work in today’s economy is that all your “monetary eggs” are not in one basket. If you lose one or two clients that is not the same as losing an entire job. It is easier to replace a couple of clients than find a whole new job. If you are working full time now, diversify by seeing some private clients outside your regular work hours so that you have a small foundation to build on—should the need arise. Having varied work settings has the added benefit of further stimulating your creative thinking!
8. Learn about different sources of payment for music therapy. It is important to know how music therapy can be funded. Not everything has to come directly out of the family or individual’s pocket. In Texas, we have programs with our area Mental Health/Mental Retardation agencies that will cover music therapy under certain circumstances. Check with agencies in your state to learn more about funding for services. Workshops for families on the topic of available services and funding are well worth attending. Make sure that you are on the mailing list for different support groups in your area, as their newsletters and websites will often have information on funding issues that can be very useful.
9. Remember that quality work is your absolute best advertisement. When people are happy with a service that they or a family member receive‐‐‐they tell other people! And that generates more work. The first summer I sought out
private clients, I was able to get only four clients. I was discouraged, as this number fell short of what I really needed. My colleague Cathy Knoll told me not to worry,
that the key was to do an outstanding job with those clients and that the next summer I would have substantially more clients. So I saw those four clients and
found some alternate work to fill in the monetary gaps. I did the very best job I could with those four clients and the following summer I had twelve  clients and had to start a waiting list! Your work is truly your best advertisement.

Again, I am Kathleen Coleman. You can contact me via e‐mail at
I am a self‐employed, board certified music therapist. I contract services for assessment to several school districts, teach a social skills class for adults with developmental disabilities and provide music therapy services for individuals in my home-based music therapy clinic. My company, PRELUDE Music Therapy, which I co‐own with Dr. Betsey King, produces practical resource books for music
therapists. You can visit our website at: Please feel free to comment on any aspect of this podcast, Stimulating Your Own Economy. Just enter your ideas or questions in the comments box at the bottom of the symposium text, or send an e‐mail to

© Copyright 2009 by the American Music Therapy Association, Inc.. All Rights Reserved. Content herein is for personal use only. No part may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without express written permission from the American Music Therapy Association.Neither the American Music Therapy Association nor its Board of Directors is responsible for the conclusions reached or the opinions expressed in any of the AMTA.Pro symposiums.