Music therapist Elizabeth Jepson is from the Chicagoland area. She grew up in Bartlett, which is where her parents still reside in her childhood home. She left Illinois to attend the University of Iowa, then returned 6 years later. Now living in Elgin, Elizabeth’s home is a full and chaotic one with 4 kids. She has been working as a music therapist for the past 15 years, both in hospice care and with kids. Elizabeth says she knew in high school that she wanted to be a music therapist after her love of choir prompted her to look into careers involving singing and music.
“Once you see the power of music, you can’t unsee that. It’s so powerful, what you can do with music. We all see it every day and don’t even think about it - even the way we teach our kids is often through sing-song lessons. If you look at that on a deeper level, the things you can accomplish through music still blows me away.”
Elizabeth explains music therapy is using music to work on and accomplish non-musical goals. Music, she says, holds emotion and memories and affects us physiologically, such as speed up or slow down our heart rate. It can tap into all parts of the brain, so if one area isn’t working as it should music can reach those other places. So, Elizabeth says, people who are nonverbal can sometimes sing. That’s the power of music.
“That’s what drew me in and what keeps me going,” she admits.
Becoming a music therapist currently requires completion of a 5-year certification program with a 6 month internship. A music therapist must be proficient in voice, piano and guitar. Elizabeth adds percussion to that list, but her voice is her main instrument. She believes the best balance lies in variety, both in delivery and settings for her therapy.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else. The beauty of music is that it can look so different - sometimes I’m working one-on-one, sometimes I’m performing, sometimes it’s a group setting. It’s so dynamic,” she says.
How does Elizabeth feel about teletherapy as a music therapy option? She admits being in person has its advantages, with human contact being an important factor. But Elizabeth acknowledges that the number one advantage of teletherapy is access. Being able to provide services where services might not be available is what fuels her in this journey. And her favorite part of her job is that human connection, which can transcend the screen.
“I love having such a unique tool at my disposal to connect with people. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. There are so many ways I can connect through music. Having that in my tool kit feels empowering.”
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
On a team, learning how different people advocate and or don’t advocate and figuring out a way to work together. When I see someone not advocating for their clients, patients or students, I had to learn how to deal with that. It was challenging finding my voice, and learning I can speak up for them because I work with them as well.
What is one of your greatest personal or professional accomplishments?
I had a lot of personal trauma early on in my career. Being able to always work and share my music regardless of the capacity is something I value. In other professions I might have had to step away or make a change, but it’s been consistent and to me that’s a big achievement.
Can you tell us what you’ve learned from your students and clients?
They teach me I need to use the tools I give them for myself. I’ve learned I need to be practicing some of the things I’m encouraging them to do, especially when it comes to the social-emotional stuff. I need to use music as a tool for myself.
One of our core values is living inspired. How do you live inspired?
I truly live inspired by spending time with my family. Also through taking time for myself, intentional “me time”, even if it’s only 5 minutes. That might be yoga or sitting with my coffee, but it’s self-care.