Welcome to the month of October! The theme for this month is GET ORGANIZED! Our professional spotlight is someone who wears many hats in the Music Therapy Professional world and has shared with us some helpful tips and resources for managing Business, Time, and of course Music Therapy Sessions. Without further Ado:
Rachel Rambach, MM, MT-BC, NICU MT certified, is a successful Business Owner, Blogger, Educator, Singer/Songwriter, Tech-savvy, Music Therapist Extraordinaire in Springfield IL. She hosts 2 Podcasts: The Music Therapy Round Table and Guitars and Granola Bars, performs solo and combo gigs in the community, and markets her 200+ original songs and Early Childhood music therapy resources to members of her website Listen and Learn Plus. Alongside all of this, Rachel is a wife and mother of 2 beautiful kids. I think the question we are all asking right about now is: How does she do it?
Thanks to a last minute opening in her schedule, I had the opportunity of talking with her on the phone about tools and strategies for organization. But first, a little background information: Rachel completed her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance at Rollins College, then obtained her Master’s/Equivalency in Music Therapy at Illinois University. After becoming a Board Certified Music Therapist in 2007, Rachel worked full time in a school for 4 years. At the same time, she started seeing clients on the side, which grew into a full time Private Practice. “I was working so many hours, literally 12 hour days monday through friday. And on top of that I was teaching an Early Childhood class on the weekends. I was crazy. But it was a good time to work like crazy.” In 2011, she resigned her position at the school to pursue business ownership, initially visiting clients in their homes. Over the past few years this situation has developed to a private studio in her home, then rental space at a local music store, and as of August, having their own building! Music Therapy Connections LLC is now Co-Owned by a Music Therapist who contracted for Rachel in the early years of her Private Practice. This was a smart business move as it has allowed Rachel more freedom to do what she enjoys most, without feeling overloaded by her caseload. “With me having 2 babies it has gotten a little crazy to do everything involved in the business. Having a co-owner has taken a lot off my plate that I can share with her, and now I can concentrate more on building the business rather than working for the business.”
Organization is absolutely essential to keeping sane with a busy life. Fortunately for us, there are SO MANY amazing and user-friendly systems out there to aid in this task. The trouble is choosing which one will fit your life best. “I’m like an organization freak about everything in my life and now with technology it has made it so much easier to organize things in different ways. My problem is that I just want to use everything and try out all the different apps there are.” That being said, Rachel has definitely established a simple and comprehensive system for herself.
Owning a Private Practice has been a dream of mine, so I was curious to see how Rachel manages to keep her business running smoothly. I expected elaborate systems that I would not understand, or a mouth full of business jargon that intimidates me. So I was surprised by the simplicity and accessibility in Rachel’s list of organizational tools.
Slack – FREE
This is her favorite app to use for organized communication within her business. “We used to be emailing 100 times a day and I would be searching through them unable to find a specific file/schedule.” Now, they are able to keep all their communication in one place, along with these features:
- File Sharing, which includes Google docs, Dropbox, etc.
- ability to create different channels within it to focus on specific groups/conversations.
- Pops up on your phone as a notification, which keeps your email inbox from filling up
- Ability to search for files within conversations
This is a pretty standard tool, which Rachel has recently started using for business purposes:
- Time Sheets. All the Music Therapy Connections schedules are within Google Docs so at the end of the day they take note of who showed up or canceled for billing purposes.
- Edit documents back and forth, create spreadsheets
Coincidentally, the same day we had this conversation, Rachel unveiled her new system of sharing resources using DropBox with her Listen and Learn Plus members. After moving all her own files to Dropbox for ease of access, she realized this would be a great resource to include with her website. When all your files are in one place, you eliminate the need to search through binders, or folders on your hard drive for session materials; saving a lot of valuable time. This opens up a whole new world in the case of a last minute session-planning or a mid-session inspiration, having the ability to pull up any leadsheet/visual on any device by simply opening your DropBox and doing a quick search.
Learn more about Rachel’s experience with this resource in her own words, HERE
Some logistical information:
– Dropbox is free for 2 GB of space, $9.99/month+tax for 1 TB (1,000 GB), and $15/month for unlimited space.
Not a bad deal if you are using it exclusively.
iGigBook – $14.99
This is an APP for organizing music. It allows you to create setlists and binders for different gigs (or sessions) and is compatible with a bluetooth pedal for turning pages. And here’s the real kicker: it connects with Dropbox! We have to make sure all our resources are compatible.
The most important thing for organization is to pick a system that works for you and stick with it. It can be confusing and messy if you are trying to use too many resources.
We talked a lot about Rachel’s love of accessing her materials with multiple devices, so I had to ask the very personal question…
MAC or Windows??
“I got my first MAC in 2007 and never looked back! Using Garage Band and iMovie as much as I do, it’s a no brainer for me. I used to be very AntiMAC, but my husband convinced me to give it a try.”
The ability to transfer seamlessly between devices makes Apple Products an essential resource for Rachel.
Sorry Windows lovers. Once you go MAC, you don’t go back. It’s just that wonderful.
I’m not sure how Rachel actually has the time to do everything within her business as well as her podcasts, blogging, and other side projects. But as far as keeping track of everything, she uses her Apple Calendar and categorizes appointments with the corresponding email address: Business, Listen and Learn blog, and personal. This enables ease of sharing with appropriate people and access from all her devices. Each category shows up in a different color, and notifications are on full throttle.
“I have always been a fan of the paper planners, but I really like getting notifications.” She compared her notification experience to this scene in the office, which just made me love her more!
There is so much variety between how different Music Therapists approach treatment planning (something I really love about our profession). I was so impressed by the structure within Rachel’s business, I inquired if the same meticulous organization can be found within her sessions. “All my clients are younger and a lot of them are either on the Autism Spectrum or have some sort of special need. So I do follow the same basic outline, but the songs I use for each session will be wildly different”
- Hello Song
- Calendar Song – time orientation
- Singable Story – reading, understanding concepts in a story, following narrative, even something simple as object identification, color identification, following direction
- Social Activity – Having a conversation with the Music Therapist, or facilitated dialogue amongst peers
- Instrument Activity – independent way to give each client to create their own music, be the leader
- Goodbye Song
This brings me to our Top 10 Repertoire list for this month
3. “”My Clothes & My Shoes” (original)
4. “Shapes are Everywhere” (original)
5. “Clean Up Time” (original)
6. “First and Last” (original)
7. “Red Means Stop” (Mr. Heath)
8. “Buzz Buzz” (Laurie Berkner)
9. “Shaky Fruit” (original)
10. “Working Together” (original)
Rachel was kind enough to give me permission to Cover some of her original songs to share with you! So get ready to learn some brand new material for some of our Song of the Week posts.
To close this topic, we talked about the how Music Therapists often find that they need to improvise a session. As much as we would all like to have time to sit and plan out exactly what will happen with every client, sometimes a full caseload only allows time for a rough outline. I asked Rachel how she manages this particular challenge.
“I have been doing this for so long that I have a bag of tricks, my go-to things. I don’t think of them as filler, but good songs/interventions that are very adaptable for a variety of ages and abilities. That’s the style I go for in the songs/interventions that I write. I can adapt any song I write for any client.”
Having a huge collection of songs/interventions she has written comes in handy now that her life is so busy. Another strategy Rachel implements is writing songs specifically for a client, then pulling out previous compositions that relate well.
“This is much less stressful than sitting down and writing every session. When I was a new professional, I felt like I was starting from scratch every time.”
This is the huge selling point for her website membership. Not everyone has the time to write their own materials. Rachel has spent years collecting and designing 200+ songs for clinical use, and she wants to share the product of her work with other professionals to make their clinical planning easier. If you have resources available to you, use them and be more efficient with your time. Coming up with repertoire and keeping ourselves excited about it is exhausting. We need to keep it fresh for our clients and ourselves to keep from burnout. This is a subject that Rachel speaks very passionately about, which has largely driven the development of her website.
“I love working with clients, but my passion is in the creation of resources and songs. That is where I am headed professionally more so than filling my client plate. All my clients have inspired my need to write materials, and I love to share that with other Music Therapists. It has worked out great.”
If you are interested in more from Rachel Rambach, head over to her BLOG and request to JOIN her Facebook group. She has started doing some fun things on facebook such as Music Mondays, where she shares a song she likes, and Q & A Thursdays. If you are working with Early Childhood Populations or are interested in related materials, consider purchasing a membership for Listen and Learn Plus. I have been enjoying my membership and the wealth of materials available to me through Dropbox for the past few months.
I hope this interview has inspired you to GET ORGANIZED, or just reevaluate the organization system you have already created for yourself. I think I can speak for my co-author, Becky, in saying that both of us are still in the developing stage of organization systems, being newer professionals. So we would love to hear what other people are doing! Throughout the month we will be sharing our favorite resources, please share yours as well!! Also later in the month, I will be sharing more of my interview with Rachel about Motherhood and her experience parenting as a Music Therapist. So stay tuned!