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Shawna Ergenbright

April 27, 2015


MUS 430
Final Presentation
VMRC Practicum and Case Studies

Virginia Mennonite Retirement Center is​ ​a beautiful place to call home. The facility is

full of bright colors and beautiful décor. It is almost like a little town with its own indoor main

street that houses storefronts and street lamps. VMRC tries its best to bring nature inside by

using lots of greenery and floral inspire decorations. They also do their best to let in natural light

by having numerous large windows throughout the facility. It boasts a staff of bright and

pleasant employees who become almost family to its residents. The facility itself is broken down

into several different populations from independent living to nursing care. The population I was

assigned to was a population of seniors who live under the poverty line. Some characteristics of

this specific demographic include seclusion and unwillingness to participate in community

activities. A couple of goals the service providers had set for this set population was to

encourage and motivate participation, provide equal opportunities in activities that were being

provided to other populations, and to help residents continue to grow as individuals by

encouraging them to explore new things.

I served two different “clients”; one was an individual named Allie. She was a lonely

lady who really had no other family except her dog, Teddy. She had lost both her husband and

her son before being placed in VMRC. She is a loving individual, but she kept to herself. When

I asked her about how she felt about music, she came to life and told me of her time in college as

a skilled opera singer. She then went on to tell me she gave that up to teach elementary school.
Allie also mentioned she loved to come to the Forbes Center to see all the different productions,

so I asked her how she would feel about having some one-on-one sessions with me that involved

music. She jumped at the opportunity and said she would love to sing again. I asked her what

kind of music she would like to sing and gathered sheet music that fit that criteria. I then

learned the progressions on my guitar and did my best to accompany her while she sang. The

three goals I made for her were to build a relationship with me, learn to communicate, and to

socialize on her own. The one-on-one sessions did wonders towards these goals. The music

allowed us to bond and become very open with each other. She was able to communicate to me

what was holding her back from socializing and making new friends. Much of it had to do with

the deaths of her husband and son, but the music allowed her an outlet to express that depression.

Working with Allie taught me so many things and helped me grow not only personally but also

professionally. I learned how to build a meaningful relationship with a complete stranger in a

short amount of time while also learning how to professional structure and plan a meeting with a

client. Allie’s case made it easy to come up with attainable and appropriate goals. Most of all,

though, I learned how to work in a professional environment independently which will help me

in later endeavors.

My second “client” was actually a group of seniors who all gathered for coffee in the

same place at the same time every day—I refer to them as the Coffee Hour Group. This group

was comprised of about eight residents who ranged in age and physical abilities. One member of

this group, Cindy, has a learning disability but is still very high-functioning. She used the group

as an entity to hide behind, but the group, more or less, never acknowledged her thoughts or

opinions. Cindy would become the individual I focused the most on within the group. When I
asked the group what kind of music they enjoyed, they answered with gospel and folk song

music, and many expressed a passion in singing. I immediately asked Lolly if VMRC had any

hymnals I could possibly borrow, but instead, we found these spiral bound hymn books with

chord progressions written in. I picked out about five popular hymns and decided that I would

let the group request a couple others. We then had ourselves a little hymn-sing. I directed most

of my attention to Cindy which allowed the group to see her as a valued individual who had a lot

to give. The goals I set for this group were to build bonds with each other that went beyond a

cup of coffee, to acknowledge Cindy as an equal, and to use music as a way to express

themselves. This group went far beyond the goals I had set; not only did they meet all of them,

but allowed Cindy to outwardly express herself and become an active member of their group.

This Coffee Hour Group inspired me and helped me grow tremendously. I learned how to work

and entertain a group while still focusing on an individual, and I created an experience that the

whole group benefitted from—not just the individual I was focusing on. It also pushed me to

teach using a medium that I am not particularly comfortable using—my voice. All of these

experiences will benefit me so much in my field of work.

I think I helped VMRC accomplish their goal of encouraging their residents to explore

new things by bringing in personal experiences in music, and the residents learned that they can

use music to express themselves. This new form of expression is much healthier than shutting

themselves up in their room or hiding behind a group of people. I was able to make music

personable and accessible which, in turn, will make for happier and, hopefully, more involved

residents.
Possible ways that VMRC could better enrich this experience is to change the

populations each year or even semester. For example, this semester I would have been working

with seniors who live under the poverty line, but next year, maybe the students could work with

the residents who are closer to death. Lolly could also get a feel for the residents who might

want to be involved before the practicum actually starts. It might make the experience a little

less taunting to the practicum students; it would provide a better jumping off point.

A couple ways that Dr. Ackerman and Briana could better enrich this experience is if

only two students are assigned to this practicum, ask them to work with separate residents of

residents groups instead of tag-teaming. The one-on-one experience was really amazing, and I

think both students should get that experience. Other than that, I just think the practicums should

start earlier. The earlier they start, the earlier the kinks will be revealed like finding patients and

scheduling background checks.

In conclusion, I would just like to thank both Dr. Ackerman and Briana for such

wonderful opportunities to learn not only through the practicums but also through the guest

lectures. I learned a lot of useful information I can use as a teacher that I would not have gotten

in the other education classes. Thank you so much.