Today and on the 25th of every month of 2012 I have invited 12 of the most influential people in my life to share a blog post with you!  Each has influenced me both professionally and personally. My hope is that the knowledge, kindness, creativity, and compassion they have shared with me will reflect through their post in a way that YOU will be encouraged, entertained, challenged and strengthened to continue to strive for excellence as a professional and as a person.  

Hi! My name is Kamile Geist and I wear many hats. I’m a mom, wife, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, ex-wife :-), friend, stage mom, puppet ministry director….and oh yes…. a teacher, music therapist, researcher, colleague, a university music therapy program director, musician, doctoral student AND a writer in training. 🙂

When asked to write about my passion and share on this great website, I had a difficult time!  I’m really passionate about so many topics, depending on what hat is on my head. I take these roles very seriously and with a feeling of great responsibility.

As of late, I have been thinking about the responsibilities of mentorship.   In many of my roles, the opportunity to be a mentor and/or accept mentorship responsibilities arises frequently. I work diligently to be a good mentor to my sons, to my students, fellow music therapists, and to new faculty colleagues. I even have a picture on my office door of one of my mentors, Dr. Nancy Hadsell, Director of Music Therapy at Texas Woman’s University, standing with me on graduation day, the day she and Dr. Nicki Cohen, another valued professor, sent me into the world to be a music therapy professional.  Other professional mentors come to mind often, those who have played a significant role for me in my professional development as a teacher, therapist, and professor.  These people keep popping into my life when I least expect it.  I’m grateful for what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn from these angels who give so much of their time and energy to empower me to be successful.

Two years ago, we lost one of these shining stars, Mary Jo Ard, music therapist, to breast cancer.  She was my internship supervisor at Waco Independent School District, in Waco, TX. She was an incredible music therapist, an ideal mentor, and my friend.  I first met her when I was an undergraduate music education student at Baylor University about 20 years ago.  I observed her working with a classroom of children with significant disabilities.  Crying that seemed unending ceased when Mary Jo began to sing. With her Omnichord in hand, she moved around the room, making sure to sing with each student, eliciting responses of smiling, intentional reaching out to play the instrument, and vocalizations, rarely witnessed by their caregivers and teachers. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a music therapist. I still remember the songs she sang. I remember her going to one student and just tapping a simple rhythm on her back and arms and hands. I was amazed!  Mary Jo’s voice was beautiful and she never gave up on anyone, singing and giving music until each child exhibited some improved response. Several years later, I returned not just as an observer but as a music therapy intern. Even now, as a professor of music therapy, I really think that I am still learning from her example as a music therapist and as a mentor.

As a mentor, she never scolded, but offered what worked well and encouraged me and guided me to find out for myself what was needed to improve my skills. I learned so much by her example. She empowered me to learn as she empowered all around her to find out what inside them was good and worth exploring.  She was kind to everyone but was not beyond defending the rights of others, especially of those who could not defend themselves.  I found a kindred spirit in Mary Jo and I am very sad that I did not get to say goodbye and thank her properly.  I hope that I make her proud with the work that I do and I hope that I can be even half of the type of mentor she was to me to those around me.

I’m not sure how this might inform the audience of the Groovy Garfoose.  Maybe your audience can take time to think about your mentors and how their examples have made you who you are. Feel free to share on the blog a story of mentorship from your life.  I don’t think we talk about our mentors enough.  If you don’t share here, be sure to contact the people that have added meaning to your life and let them know.

Kamile Geist, MA, MT-BC is the Program Coordinator of Music Therapy at Ohio University.  You can read more about Kamile’s research work here.  Be sure to give her a follow on Twitter @keep_a_beat.  Ohio University is also offering an awesome CMTE course presented by Blythe LaGasse on May 11.  You won’t want to miss it!