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Perspectives of a Music Therapy Intern: Danielle Miyazaki Edition

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Hello! My name is Danielle Miyazaki, and I am the Fall 2021 Music Therapy Intern at Able ARTS Work's EPI (Encouraging Personal Independence) Center. I started my internship in mid-July, and I am now in my final week! As I look back over my internship journey, it seems surreal that everything I experienced took place in six short months, because the maturation process feels so massive. Upon entering this position, I was both thrilled for all of the opportunities and nervously eager to live up to them. From the very beginning, something that gave me a great deal of comfort was how clear it was that this would be an environment where supervisors were receptive to questions and valued initiative. I have always known that my best learning condition is one where I feel empowered to communicate openly, clarify expectations, and process my ideas. Furthermore, this cultural aspect of Able ARTS Work was evident in every setting, from classes to staff meetings, to special collaborative events; and I can honestly say that being part of this community played a salient role in my personal and professional development. 

Danielle Miyazaki, Music Therapy Intern, on right holding a guitar in Zoom session with client playing a shaker on left.
Danielle Miyazaki, Music Therapy Intern, on right in Zoom session with client on left.

Throughout my internship, I led two group music Therapy classes five days per week called Social Music Therapy and EPI the Musical. Before matriculating into full-time leadership, I poured through client files each night, looking up diagnosis, debriefing with supervisors, brainstorming interventions that may be suitable for each set of clients, and expanding my song repertoire based on observed client preferences. In the beginning, I was intimidated by the frequency of sessions and the amount of planning that needed to happen on a weekly basis. As an Equivalency Student, I indulged in leisurely brainstorming time, and took pride in seamlessness and detail-oriented preparation I put into every session I led. My new role disciplined me to become much more decisive, efficient and strategic in my process. Additionally, attendance fluctuated greatly in all of my classes, so I realized that needed to be more comfortable improvising to adapt to the frequent changes. One of my proudest developments teaching classes was the confidence I gained in spontaneity, and leading from a place of being regardless of what I am doing. As my supervisors emphasized, I have found that focusing on building a rapport and getting know all of the clients as people was a critical step in allowing myself the freedom to lean further into my instincts and not be plagued by perfectionism or the desire to impress. Essentially, this piece of maturity allowed me to lead confidently, without needing to know exactly where I was logistically at all times; because I was grounded in interpersonal connection.

Zoom "Social Music Therapy" group" with Able ARTS Work resident artists playing found percussion instruments, Daniel Miyazaki, Music Therapy Intern is the top center tile.
Zoom "Social Music Therapy" group" with Able ARTS Work resident artists, Daniel Miyazaki, Music Therapy Intern is the top center tile.

My Social Music Therapy class structure was very eclectic, and through facilitating and planning I got to exercise a wide variety of leadership skills; leading activities such as musical games, song-writing, virtual field trips, musical story-telling, guided meditations and poetry, movement to music, virtual jam sessions, and therapeutic singing. It was such a joy to see each client gain confidence in their skills as individuals while bonding as a group. A highlight of this class for me was our weekly Found Sound Community experience. This was an activity through which clients were encouraged to procure “Found Sounds” or objects within their homes that make noise, and bring them to class to share for show and tell and virtual jam sessions. Each week, specific themes were discussed in class and emailed home (for example: objects from the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom etc.). It was such a pleasure to be able to be able maximize the sense of community in the virtual setting by providing a window into each individual’s setting. Additionally, I was truly touched by the commitment and support of all of the clients’ families and caregiver networks. This became such a highlight of our class time, that the students decided to write a parody about their experience (loosely based on the song Don’t Worry be Happy). The students collaboratively wrote the lyrics to this song, recorded percussive solos using the objects that they brought to class, recorded and edited a music video in DaVinci Resolve.

In my EPI the Musical class, the students worked together to compose, record, edit, and arrange nine original songs about their shared experiences as well as record solos, and arrange instrumentation in Logic Pro. Additionally, the clients filmed footage, and edited it together in DaVinci Resolve to create music videos for each song. Every lyric, genre style, or image was selected by the students through independent contribution or binary choice. Cumulatively, this musical highlights the assets and skills that each client brought to our community, while showcasing their cohesion as a team. Furthermore, one of the highlights of my internship experience was planning and hosting a showcase for their finished product, EPI the Musical: A Red-Carpet Screening. For this event, clients, families, AAW staff and service coordinators were invited to witness the grand reveal. Clients arrived in their formal attire, and although we could not be together in person they were celebrated like celebrities. At each stage of the process, it is was rewarding to see how invested the clients were in seeing and hearing the footage of themselves contributing to a meaningful creation. I am proud to say that EPI the Musical will be an eternal tangible reinforcement of self-efficacy, community representation, and growth for everyone involved.

Aside from leading classes, I would say that the biggest highlight of my Internship was my Case Study, entitled The Effectiveness of Virtual Neurologic Music Therapy for Increasing Verbal Communication with an Adult Male with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and Mild Intellectual Developmental Disability.

For reference, Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is defined as “the therapeutic application of music to cognitive, sensory and motor dysfunction to neurologic disease of the human nervous system. It is a research-based system of standardized clinical techniques for sensorimotor, speech and language, and cognitive training” (Davis et. al, 2008).

Through this endeavor, I researched and implemented several NMT techniques including Developmental Speech and Language Training through Music (DSLM), adapted Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT), Rhythmic Speech Cueing (RSC), Oral Motor Respiratory Exercises (OMREX), and Therapeutic Singing (TS). I led 50 minute 1:1 sessions daily for 8 weeks with one or more caregivers present to assist.

By the end of my case study, the client achieved tremendous progress in all measured objectives, verbalizing three-word target phrases for the first time that transferred into all contexts of his life. However, more importantly I had the opportunity to witness him discover his own potential. At every stage of the process self-advocacy was a major priority, and paired with his language development was a profound increase in self-esteem. Through our interventions, this client recorded seven affirmative phrases about himself, featured in a music video titled, The Story of Emilio.

In working alongside him, I learned a tremendous amount about myself as an emerging professional. One of my fondest memories will always be at the end of my study when this young man spontaneously verbalized the six-word phrase, “I am so happy with you.” Not only was this the longest phrase he has been heard verbalizing to date, but it was completely un-prompted. I knew in that moment that our therapeutic alliance had formed, and he had decided to let me in. Working with him taught me, that while techniques and data are fundamental parts of Music Therapy, the importance of human connection cannot be quantified.

Ultimately, I could not be more grateful for the blessings that I have had as an intern these past six months. I am truly a better human being for what I have experienced at Able Arts Work and I cannot wait to embark on the next stage of this adventure.

Danielle Miyazaki, Music Therapy Intern (top left), Christina Ebersole, Music Therapy Clinical Training Director, MT-BC (Top right) , Morgan Dye, EPI Program Manager, MT-BC (bottom), Zoom screenshot
Danielle Miyazaki, Music Therapy Intern (top left), Christina Ebersole, Music Therapy Clinical Training Director, MT-BC (top right) , Morgan Dye, EPI Program Manager, MT-BC (bottom), Zoom Screenshot


Learn more about Virtual Music Therapy Internships, get advice on how to be successful in your internship. Curious about other forms of therapy? Read this Q&A with an Art Therapist.


Danielle Miyazaki was the 2021 - 2022 Remo-Zildjian Music Therapy Intern at Able ARTS Work (AAW), and is now a Music Therapist at AAW's San Diego day program location. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Vocal Performance (emphasis in Opera) from Chapman University in 2017 and then spent two years performing the LA area, working in Special Ed and volunteering at Miller Children's and Womens' hospital before completing her Music Therapy Equivalency at Cal State University Northridge. As a sibling of an adult with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the AAW mission statement and philosophy are incredibly close to her heart and she looks forward to continuing her Music Therapy journey as part of this community.


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Apr 06, 2022

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