Tanja Tiziana Burdi
At Baycrest, I provide clinical music therapy services, supervise clinical internships and conduct research. I'm also a sessional instructor at the University of Windsor and Wilfrid Laurier University and supervise graduate students.
A friend and I volunteered at a nursing home, and I knew right away that I loved working with this population. When it was time to select my clinical internship, I decided to pursue long-term care. I actually did my internship at Baycrest.
I saw the impact of music on clients with dementia, how it reached them when nothing else could, and I found that rewarding.
I have a bachelor of music therapy from the University of Windsor, and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Toronto in music and education with a music therapy focus.
As part of being admitted to a music therapy degree program, you have to have a minimum of Grade 10 on your principal instrument. (I was a voice major.) You must play piano and guitar by the time you complete your degree.
My undergrad studies gave me the tools to begin work as a clinician, while my graduate degrees provided the skills and background to pursue research endeavours and integrate evidence-based practice into my everyday clinical work.
Learning about the theories of music therapy gave me a foundation from which to solidify my own evolving philosophy. Those different theories gave me a basis to build my own professional identity, which I continue to develop.
One of my research studies looked at end-of-life care and how we can use music to help people complete relationships when they're dying. I learned the value of songwriting and creating legacy gifts in the form of CDs that clients share with their family members as part of the grieving process.
I'm not just a verbal therapist. Music is my tool, so I must stay connected to music. I continually develop my craft to be the best music therapist I can be. I continue to perform, and that keeps me connected, charged and challenged.
When I come to a group of clients with dementia and everyone is sitting isolated, I start singing the hello song and they become actively engaged, singing along - they're participating with me. That's so memorable and so important.
Music therapists are not entertainers. We have clinical aims and objectives. It's a frequently prescribed complementary therapy, so it's frustrating to have reiterate that it's more than entertainment.
One thing about arts-based therapy - there's always a struggle for funding. It's one of the first things to be cut, so advocacy is really important.
As soon as people experience music therapy, they become believers.