A Week in the Life of a Traveling Music Therapist
by Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC
Have you ever heard people say:
“I’m a traveling music therapist!”
“I do home health work!”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that as a student. But in truth, I had no idea what it meant or what that kind of job entailed. Even when I did practicum work with a traveling music therapist, it was only a small slice of the contract worker pie.
So to help provide a better understanding of the work we do, I decided to write this nifty little blog post about a week in the life of one Heart and Harmony employee.
It’s important to know that all of our schedules are different; we all start at different times, have breaks at different times, and go home at different times. Some of us do group sessions, some of us only do individuals, and some do both.
Some of our clients are through Texas waiver programs including the CLASS and YES waivers, and some pay Heart and Harmony privately out-of-pocket, although Nikki is a great resource for finding ways to get grants and/or reimbursements!
Sometimes we see clients once a week for half an hour. Sometimes we see them once a week for two hours. Sometimes it’s an hour once a week. Or it can be totally different! It just depends on what kind of services will be most beneficial to our clients.
There are times when we get to assess clients and make recommendations based off our assessment, but sometimes we are given the number of hours by someone else and make the most of it 🙂
Anyway, all that to say my schedule and client load will not be the same as any other traveling music therapist, but this gives you an idea what a typical week might look like if you were interested in this kind of work!
How weird is it for me to say I love Mondays? Because I do. I leave my house by 12:20 to see my client at 1 PM in north Fort Worth. I usually get there a little early and wait in my car, but since traffic on 35W is so unpredictable, I like having that buffer.
Here’s how my schedule looks for the rest of the day:
1:00 — session in Fort Worth
2:00 — session in Keller
3:00 — coffee break! I usually go to Starbucks for a bit to relax and refuel. I’ll work on paperwork, fill in my timesheet, and/or read a book.
4:10 — session in Keller
5:00 — break! I normally use this time to get gas, take a restroom break, and/or buy a couple of groceries or what I like to call “important music therapist essentials” e.g. hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, hand lotion, and chapstick. I use these things multiple times on a daily basis, so I make sure to have them in my car at all times.
6:00 — session in Saginaw
Tuesdays have never been my favorite. Luckily my dislike of Tuesdays is lessened by how much I love my clients. But that doesn’t mean waking up at 6 AM is any easier. Each Tuesday morning, I have to leave the house by no later than 6:35 so I can be at my session on time.
This is especially challenging because, as I mentioned, 35W is unpredictable, and because trains run in the mornings in Saginaw. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat waiting on a train for 10+ minutes. I am eternally grateful I have amazing clients and parents who totally understand the struggle, as well as plenty of time to do a full session even if the trains make me late.
My AM session starts at 7:15, then I head back home and take a nap that would put Rip Van Winkle to shame.
The rest of my day goes like this:
4:10 — session in Keller
5:30 — session in Keller
Wednesdays are busy busy busy. My day starts much later, but then it’s go go go after that. I hadn’t intended to make my Wednesdays so jam-packed, but one of my clients needed to change times/days and I wanted to do everything I could to stay with them.
Wednesdays look like this:
3:00 — session in Gainesville
5:00 — session in Keller
6:00 — session in Saginaw
Ah Thursday. It has always been my favorite day of the week. It is also the day I travel the farthest to meet with a client; I usually have to leave around 3:20 to be on time for my 4:30 session. Traffic is a nightmare, y’all, but I always have great audiobooks to listen to so my drives are more fun (more on that later).
My session at 4:30 in south Fort Worth is my only session on Thursdays right now. I used to have another at 6:00, but they had some schedule changes so we moved days. Because of this, Thursdays serve as my “makeup day” if my clients or I need to reschedule for whatever reason because I have a lot of availability.
Friday is the day you take it easy, right? WRONG! Fridays are my busiest days; I start early and go late. But it’s actually kinda fun because when I get home at the end of the day/week, I feel super accomplished and like I deserve a treat (usually a brownie or a boba tea).
Fridays go like this:
7:15 — session in Saginaw
9:00 — break! Sometimes I use this time to deliver paperwork, sometimes I go home and take a nap, and sometimes I go home and do adult things like laundry or dishes. Then I start back up again:
1:00 — session in Colleyville
2:00 — lunch/coffee and bathroom break
4:00 — session in North Richland Hills
5:00 — break! I usually get gas again (if I haven’t already) and take another bathroom break (I drink a lot of fluids, y’all). This is also a time I use if I need to do any more makeup sessions.
6:00 — session in Saginaw
Finally, It’s the Weekend!
Saturdays I go to south Fort Worth and drop off my paperwork to my (amazing) boss. But besides that, I am free as a bird! Though I almost always finish up my timesheet, organize my binder for the upcoming week, and practice some of my songs/learn new ones.
Now that you know what a week in a contractor’s life looks like, here’s some free advice for anyone who is thinking about becoming a traveling music therapist:
- Make a binder. I have one that is divided up by agency then is organized in the order in which I see the clients. I’ve got everything I need right at my fingertips: timesheets, progress notes, checklists, quarterly reports. That way I’m never scrambling around or rifling through a bunch of papers trying to find what I need. I know exactly what I have.
- Subscribe to a podcast or an app like Audible. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes to have something great to listen to on the road. Time passes much faster and traffic doesn’t seem nearly as wretched when you’ve got something good playing. Music is fun, too, but I like to take a break from music since it’s basically all I do 7 days a week.
- Know your zone. What I mean by that is take a look at the area(s) around you and decide how far you are willing to go. It’s really easy at first to think, “Oh, well it wouldn’t be so bad to drive 60 miles to one session twice a week then 25 to the next one! I can easily make that 45 minute drive for one 30 minute session!” because you want to start seeing clients and get paid. But trust me, if you venture out too far at first, you will be exhausted and burn out so quickly. Plus, in case I haven’t mentioned it, traffic in DFW is very unpredictable. An hour drive might not seem too bad, but if you throw in some traffic it easily could turn into a 90 minute drive. Gross. It’s much easier to start small and get bigger over time because that gives you a chance to figure out what works best for you. Maybe you are up for driving 90 minutes one way multiple times a week; more power to you! Or maybe you’re more like me and would rather stick close to home primarily and only venture out once or twice a week. Do whatever is best for you and whatever will help you be the best to your clients.
- Track your mileage and keep your receipts for anything related to your job. Quickbooks Self-Employed is a godsend. Doing these things will help you with your taxes so much if you’re a contractor. We have just switched to employees here at Heart and Harmony, which could be a whole blog post on its own! Please make sure you you understand the difference between a contractor and an employee, and ensure that you are receiving appropriate compensation.
- Invest in a laminator. I know it may seem silly, but it’s never a bad idea. I have one sweet kiddo who will not use manipulatives if they are not laminated, no matter how nice they look. It also makes your stuff last longer! Paper and ink are expensive, so any time I can do something that will save me from having to print, I will do it. And I just love laminating and cutting out laminated things 🙂
That’s all for now! If you have any questions, feel free to email me.