Soundbreaking: Pioneering Music Therapy Internships

Thanks to generous philanthropic support, the college has opportunities to create one-of-a-kind learning experiences for students. Music therapy major Esteban Roa Fuentes has benefited from such an opportunity through a nine-month internship in Bogotá, Colombia, thanks to the Zunz Family Music Therapy Global Outreach Fund.

Sisters Sharyn and Gail Zunz established the Zunz Family Music Therapy Global Outreach Fund with hopes of creating experiential learning opportunities for music therapy students abroad, recognizing the impact of such an experience on the student as well as the communities they work in. Because of the financial, logistical, and quality-control challenges involved, the college had not been able to implement an accredited music therapy internship in another country prior to receiving this meaningful support.

Roa will complete 1,040 hours of service under the supervision of Dr. Mark Ettenberger, founder and director of SONO—Centro de Musicoterapia in Bogotá. The internship is primarily structured in the neonatal intensive care unit in two different medical settings: Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá, and Clínica de la Mujer.

In July, senior vice president for institutional advancement Cindy Albert-Link and music therapy professor Karen Wacks traveled to Bogotá to observe how Roa’s internship was unfolding and to determine if this internship model could be replicated in other places around the world—a primary goal of the project.

During their visit, Albert-Link and Wacks identified several factors that will be necessary to replicate the music therapy internship model. These include local recognition of and respect for the Berklee brand; having a reputable, reliable, licensed music therapist to supervise interns; securing philanthropic funds to cover expenses, including supervisory hours, student housing, travel, and living expenses; ensuring that the staff and administrators at the internship site are strong advocates who value and embrace the benefits of music therapy; and supporting the student via regular check-ins with their music therapy faculty and ensuring he or she has plenty of opportunities for self-care.

Just four months in, this pilot internship program is a resounding success. Roa has benefited from the experience in ways that exceed expectations and the hosting clinics greatly value his efforts. Working alongside Dr. Ettenberger, he is exposed to solid qualitative and quantitative research opportunities that support his learning, which is rare for similar internships in the United States.

Ultimately, the goal of taking the music therapy internship abroad is for students to learn to work across disciplinary lines while developing cultural competence and humility. At the end of their experience, interns will ideally develop the skills required to pioneer music therapy in medical settings internationally.

Berklee thanks the Zunz Family and feels optimistic about continuing our partnerships in Bogotá. We hope to explore the feasibility of implementing similar accredited music therapy internships around the globe.

Anyone wishing to join the Zunz Family in supporting these efforts, can contact Cindy Albert-Link at 617-747-3096.