A Day In The Life of a Music Therapist

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Name: Jessica DeKelva
Music Therapist
Healing Hearts Music Therapy
Location: Tallahassee, FL


Before even arriving at Florida State University, Jessica knew she wanted to be a Music Therapist. After auditioning and gaining entrance to the College of Music, she was able to start her journey in the Music Therapy program.

During her Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior year at Florida State University, Jessica was given many opportunities both in and out of class to observe Music Therapists in different settings. As a senior, she was able to pick a practicum each semester and she decided on the Pediatric Unit during the Fall semester and the NICU during the Spring semester, both practicums taking place at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

Once she completed her coursework, Jessica began a 6-month clinical internship at a children’s hospital in Fort Myers, FL as part of the process in becoming a Music Therapist. After completing her internship, Jessica was eligible to sit for the board certification exam in order to become a credentialed Music Therapist, which extensively covered topics like Music Therapy philosophy, general musician skills, and more, during a 3-hour period.

Jessica quickly began graduate school three weeks after finishing her internship and focused mostly on child development and counseling skills.

Job Description

Music therapists work with children, adults or the elderly, assessing a patient’s mental or physical disorders and disabilities before developing a therapeutic treatment plan. Music therapy can be administered in groups or on an individual basis to address emotional and physical needs.

For individual clients, Jessica will typically meet them at their home or school. We focus on specific goals that are agreed upon by their parent or guardian that are then continuously reassessed every few months in order to determine the effectiveness of the treatment plan.

As for the clients in group settings, Jessica mainly focuses on preschools, ESE classes, memory care or assisted living facilities -just to name a few- to assist them in age-appropriate goals, like development goals for children or motor skills goals to increase movement in older adults, or other important goals tailored to specific populations.

For younger children’s sessions, Jessica focuses on counting, letter and word recognition, and body awareness, among other goals that are developmentally appropriate. For older groups, some of the main goals include cognitive stimulation through open and closed-ended questions stemming from client-preferred music or movement activities with instruments or scarves in order to increase physical functions.

ADITL: Monday

Wake up at 7:00 AM

Jessica usually wakes up between 7 and 7:30, depending on how many times she hits the snooze button. She takes some time to cuddle her adorable dog, Gismo, before feeding him and taking him out for the morning. Already showered from the night before in case the snooze button wins, she gets ready for the day before sitting down and checking her emails to respond to clients, facilities, and business managers. For breakfast she’ll typically make something quick and she always fills up her water bottle before leaving for the day.

Leave for work at 8:30 AM


A quick drive to the first school.

Arrive to work at 9:00 AM

Work Environment:

Jessica works out of her car about 80% of the time. While there is an office, because Jessica is a contractor for a Music Therapy private practice, she usually drives to her sessions and therefore has all of her materials and instruments in her car at all times.

9:15 AM

Jessica’s first stop is one of the many preschools on her schedule for the week. She and her intern conduct five separate group Music Therapy sessions, each tailored to a specific class and its developmental needs.

They see the youngest groups for 20 minutes and the preschool and VPK groups for 30 minutes. During these sessions, they use engaging music activities to work on developmental domains that are age-appropriate and facilitate the school’s curriculum. Each session begins with a hello song and ends with a goodbye song, to facilitate social communication skills, and all other activities during the sessions could potentially work towards domains like academic, behavior, cognitive, motor, etc. At the end of the session Jessica gets plenty of hugs and kisses from her sweet kiddos.

11:30 AM

During this time, Jessica stops by the office to catch up with her interns and other Music Therapists if they’re in the office at the same time. Each Music Therapist has a different schedule, so if some of them can end up in the office at the same time, it makes for a great break as they catch up. The business manager typically calls he to schedule new clients and assessments or to discuss business matters. Due to the fact that she only has a short amount of time before her next client, Jessica saves big projects for another time.

12:00 PM

Today, Jessica is meeting with a 4-year-old at another preschool. She walks into the preschool right after lunch time when his classmates are getting ready for naptime. She typically conducts the session in an empty classroom and they go through activities that include counting, letter identification, developmental speech goals, and sustained attention. This week, her client successfully said the color “yellow” after weeks of practice and transition from “lellow”. She gives him a sticker at the end of the session as an incentive to working hard and staying engaged.

12:40 PM

Sometimes Jessica is so busy that she has to eat a working lunch. If she didn’t have time to pack a lunch that morning, she’ll usually stop at Taco Republik or Midtown Pies because they’re in the same building as her office. A typical lunch for Jessica includes documenting her sessions, preparing for presentations, updating parents on their children’s progress, or even creating Music Therapy proposals for new facilities

1:30 PM

Jessica’s next session is at an independent living facility for older adults in a group setting. She sets up the room while her intern walks around the lunch area to recruit the older adults for their choir rehearsal. The activities director makes an announcement for the intercom about the choir rehearsal and the residents begin to trickle into the room. Jessica’s intern leads vocal warm ups and stretching exercises before they begin working on their repertoire for an upcoming concert.

3:00 PM

Her next client is a woman with COPD and memory deficits. Jessica meets the woman at the woman’s home and greets both the woman and her cat. To strengthen the woman’s lungs and enhance her breathing, Jessica has been teaching her to play the harmonica. They practice for about 10 minutes or so, or for as long as the client can continue until getting tired. After that, they sing along to a few of the woman’s favorite songs and Jessica gives her the option to either sing along or shake a shaker so that she’s physically active during the session. Her client loves Elvis Presley, so if she participates with Jessica for the full 30 minutes, Jessica will seit and watch a song of an Elvis recording with her client.

4:00 PM

Today, Jessica has a new client assessment. Before they begin with a new individual client, Music Therapists are required to complete an assessment of the potential client. If the client is a child, the Music Therapist will meet with the child and a parent or guardian to better understand the child’s needs and interests along with their behaviors at home or school. Jessica tries to end the assessment by meeting with the child and conducting a quick session that’ll last for 15-20 minutes of different types of activities to gauge the client’s abilities and pinpoint the goals he/she ought to be meeting for his/her age.

5:30 PM

An incredible important part of Jessica’s job is attending Parent Night events in order to promote her work as a contractor for Healing Hearts Music Therapy at the schools she goes to during the week. A few times a year, Jessica participates in Parent Night events and Teacher in-service presentations where she meets with parents and teachers to better explain to them what services she provides for their children. She also hands out her business cards and explains the services Healing Hearts Music Therapy can provide for both individual clients and clients in group settings, and she highlights the contact information if parents or teachers have any further questions.

7:00 PM

Jessica finally gets home and settles in for the night with Gismo. If she was able to finish a good portion of her work for the day, she likes to sneak in a trip to the gym. After dinner, she’ll sit on the couch and catch up on any residual work that she wasn’t able to get to earlier in the day.

Asleep by 10:00 PM

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