Last Monday, we announced our November Amber Grant Finalists. Today, we’re delighted to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the first qualifier for the 2019 year-end Amber Grant.
Congratulations to Jaime Wilhite and Tracie Sandheinrich, owners of Music Therapy St. Louis. MTSTL’s talented team offers board certified music therapy services and consultation to their community. You’ll learn about their incredible work — and their plans for the future — in our interview below.
WN: Share how Music Therapy St. Louis came about
JW: As a child, Jaime was always a dreamer: a kid with big eyes and big ideas. Too often she was reminded those dreams were too grandiose and unrealistic. But, what is our reality? It’s what we make it.
At the age of 30 years old, with a successful career in marketing, Jaime found herself at a life roadblock. She had done everything perfectly and followed the path of opportunity with the privileges she had. She did what she was supposed to do. At the end of the day, she found herself feeling empty, like what she did didn’t really matter. This feeling was a constant reminder after she lost her mother suddenly at the age of 24. She asked herself, “What did I want to do with my life? How can I make a difference?”
A year before, Jaime shadowed a board certified music therapist in a phase 4 school working with a child with autism. The child walked in, head down, and did not use words to communicate. By the end of the session, the child was making purposeful eye contact; he was engaged and energetically said, “Bye!” That moment changed Jaime’s life. She, literally, cashed it all in for two more degrees: one in music and a Masters in music therapy. She is officially an MMT, MT-BC.
Eight years later, Jaime had the honor to work in various populations: disabilities, memory care, psych, education, brain injury, and the hospital setting. She is also trained in NMT (neurologic music therapy), the study of the brain and music therapy interventions based on scientific outcomes and practice. Specifically, she is one of three board certified music therapists currently working for a non-profit 501c3 under Maryville University’s Kids Rock Cancer. In joining the team, Jaime met Tracie Sandheinrich MA, MT-BC, who helped spearhead Kids Rock Cancer nearly ten years. To say they “hit it off” would be an understatement.
At a very young age, Tracie found herself sitting on a stack of books and magazines just high enough to reach the piano keys. She grew up in a musical family, actively singing and playing music in her home church, and singing at the nursing home where her grandmother lived. It is without a doubt that Tracie knew and valued the power of music. After a chance meeting and introduction to the field of music therapy, Tracie never looked back. Tracie finished her coursework, followed by completing a clinical internship at St. Luke’s Hospital (Adult Rehab) and BJC Hospice. She graduated from Maryville University with a bachelor’s of science degree in music therapy in 2008.
After her internship, Tracie was hired on with BJC Hospice in Farmington, MO (2007-2009) where she brought music therapy to patients who were diagnosed with terminal illness. In many cases, patients were seen in the home or long-term care facilities. Tracie was able to provide tailored music therapy interventions and work closely with an interdisciplinary team, which has helped groom her formal approach to providing quality services. Tracie believed that even in an unfortunate situation like impending illness, music therapy at its finest, can not only bring physiological and psychological comfort to the patient, but to the family as well.
In November 2009, Tracie received the offer to help jumpstart a program called Kids Rock Cancer, a non-profit organization affiliated with Maryville University, whose mission is to help children and families facing the challenges of cancer and/or blood disorders through the process of therapeutic songwriting. As the senior music therapist, Tracie actively sees patients, supervises additional KRC team music therapists, supervises practicum and internship students, and enjoys community outreach and program development. Tracie continues to be inspired by these participants and families, and ultimately encourages each and every participant to write their own story. She believes, no matter what shape or form, everyone has a song to sing. In Tracie’s professional years of practice, she was also determined to better her counseling skills. Tracie completed her master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University in December 2018 and will continue to work towards finalizing her clinical licensure.
Jaime and Tracie both had private practices specializing in different populations before they met, but shared the same concern for quality care and woes of the contract-driven side of the music therapy world in our community. In many late night conversations, they asked themselves, “How can we take care of music therapists so they don’t burn out? How can we provide consistent and quality care? How can we be the most reliable resource to our community? How can we advocate and let people know music therapy is a “thing” and it is very much a clinical practice?” Well, no one else was doing it, so they did just that – a brand new company was born.
It felt as if the stars had aligned and they joined forces to create Music Therapy St. Louis, LLC, where the company now serves nearly every population: geriatric, memory care, individuals with disabilities, children fighting cancer, hospice, rehabilitation/TBI and much more. Music Therapy St. Louis is the first company in our area to hire an all women team of board certified music therapists as employees to co-treat and support clients as a team. When the team is not seeing clients, you can find them speaking, advocating and supporting community groups. They have big eyes and high hopes for 2019.
WN: What type of programs do you offer?
JW: Music Therapy St. Louis offers quality board certified music therapy services and consultation to patients, clients and families on both sides of the river of Missouri and Illinois.
They have a hand picked team of therapists specialized in working with children and adults with disabilities, hospice and palliative care, geriatric support, mental health/wellness and medical-related illnesses. Our philosophy is quality and a client-led approach, using music to aid in rehabilitation, enhancement and maintenance of cognitive, physical, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual functioning.
The team travels to facilities, homes, schools, agencies, hospitals, communities, care facilities and more, to bring quality services to the community. They have listened to our community and have heard the need for a space to host group music therapy programs and support services for children and adults of different abilities, especially to enhance our services and partnership with the Pujols Family Foundation. Private families, agencies like St. Louis Arc and communities have expressed an interest for group services at our future building. This goal is part of our big dream in 2019. For long term, we envision having a safe and carefree environment to host other creative therapists.
MTSL works with all ages of all abilities in a variety of settings: private in-home, private small groups, agency hosted groups, employee after-work programming, education and more. They also work in inter-community relationships to coordinate and lead events like Creative Music Making, involving the St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis Arc and Maryville University’s Music Therapy students. Furthermore, they have developed and continue to grow services in the vocational setting in facilities such as Lafayette Industries in Missouri and SAVE in Illinois (St. Clair Associated Vocational Enterprises).
Music Therapy St. Louis works with children of all ages on goals using music therapy in private 1:1 and group settings. Facilities range from integrated early childhood centers like Childgarden Early Childhood Center to the privacy of your living room.
Their philosophy is client-led, meaning every child is unique and requires a custom session plan/goals and objective based on their learning and music preference.
It’s not a one-size fit all. Now that numerous research studies show there is no music “center” of the brain — people’s brains become active in multiple areas with music allowing them to achieve skills where, perhaps, one path of getting there appears to be a challenge. Essentially, music may get the client there faster. The company also openly welcomes collaboration with other specialties: OT, PT, SLP, ABA and more.
Private sessions are 100% customized to clientele. Therapists bring everything to any site or home, and schedule a time that is convenient for client and family. When they go to homes, they start with an assessment. After the initial session, the MT-BC works with the client to define goals and will recommend a music therapy plan. Therapists have worked off of IEPs and have also customized a tailored client achievement plan based on the family/MT-BC’s goals.
Geriatric/Memory Care Program
Music Therapy St. Louis works within private 1:1 sessions, group settings, as well as specializing in memory care settings in Illinois and Missouri. Group settings range from communities to abilities with non-profit agencies.
Music therapy enhances quality of life and helps prevent or slow mental and physical deterioration. Music is a stimulus that can be adapted to the client’s needs and reach patients in ways other modalities cannot.
Palliative Care/Hospice Program
When working in hospice and palliative care, we focus on specialized support to meet the needs and comfort of clients and family in the home and/or long-term care communities.
Music Therapy St. Louis works with leading hospitals and medical support centers to bring Maryville University’s Kids Rock Cancer program to children and families.
Kids Rock Cancer is a non-profit organization directly affiliated with Maryville University’s Music Therapy Program. More specifically, board certified music therapists, specialize in assisting in therapeutic songwriting sessions with children, teens, and young adults that are facing the challenges of cancer and/or blood disorders. The program also serves participants who are directly affected by a cancer diagnosis, meaning that they have a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, or a friend dealing with cancer.
Kids Rock Cancer officially started back in November 2009 at the St. Louis Pediatric Cancer Centers (inpatient and outpatient), but has since grown rapidly to various community partnerships such as the Cancer Support Community, the Ronald McDonald House, the Washington University Proton Center, SLU Cancer Center, and numerous support camps in MO and IL for children and teens that are coping with some of the obstacles that come with a cancer and/or blood disorder diagnosis. With the affiliation to the Maryville University music therapy program, it’s allowed the company to have music therapy interns and continue to be a clinical site for upcoming music therapists in the program.
Both Tracie and Jaime are trained in NMT (Neurologic Music Therapy) and use these specific skills when working with individuals with TBI or other neuro conditions. They welcome prescriptions from neurologists and any other clinical staff. The company also conducted a pilot study providing music therapy in Washington University’s Botox Clinic for children. In addition to Botox, Music Therapy St. Louis, coordinates, collaborates, and leads BeatNF (Washington University’s Neurofibromatosis Center) children groups at Jazz St. Louis.
WN: How do you plan to use the grant funds?
JW: So much happened so quickly in 2018 with the merge and Music Therapy St. Louis is rapidly growing! The more Jaime and Tracie stay focused on the quality of care; it seems to uncover the true demand and need for this service in the area and surrounding communities. Music Therapy St. Louis is hoping to have a brick and mortar home base where the company can host music therapy and community groups. More and more facilities as well as families have inquired a need for this type of space. With a fast pace of growth, it is instrumental to get this piece of the business in place to meet the needs of our community and continue to grow our quality services.
Furthermore, we are working towards building a scholarship program for families and organizations that may not be able to afford services but could significantly benefit from them.
With Kids Rock Cancer, Pujols Family Foundation, St. Louis Arc, Lafayette Industries, St. Francis of Assisi, a plethora of long-term care and hospice organizations (and more), Jaime and Tracie find themselves grateful every day and continue to strive to offer consistent and quality care on both sides of the river in MO and IL. All of this would not have happened without their big eyes, big dreams, and big ambition for a new paradigm shift in local music therapy programs, which ultimately allowed Jaime and Tracie to cross paths.
WN: What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
JW: So much has happened in 10 years. Dreamers are dreamers. Doers are doers. It wasn’t an easy road but both Jaime and Tracie say, “It’s worth the reward.” During trying times, it’s important to seek out support systems. Surprisingly, not everyone in your life will be understanding of your life choices, but it’s important to make the best choice for you. We had to work hard to digest and accept those feelings and be okay with the idea that people are sometimes disapproving of our decisions and to follow the path, even if it means taking a huge leap. Create your own path.” A favorite quote written by Mark Twain that continues to inspire them, “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” You never know where your dreams may take you.”