Jessica Clarke – BA (Hons) Music graduate

Current Employer: MA Music Therapy Student

Current Job Title: Trainee Music Therapist

Current Location: Exeter

“The University of Plymouth helped me to realise, reach, and go beyond my potential, whilst encouraging and supporting me to climb the next academic step and go for my dream career!”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since graduating I have enrolled on a three year masters degree in Music Therapy at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. When I hopefully graduate in October 2019, I will be a qualified music therapist – my dream career! Alongside this, I continue to work at various charities that provide arts and music to adults with learning disabilities.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

The BA (Hons) Music course at the University of Plymouth is multi-disciplinary and included a music psychology module that involved lectures about music therapy, with experienced music therapists who visited us as guest lecturers. I had been contemplating applying for postgraduate music therapy courses for a while, but it was in these lectures that I found myself thinking, “this is it, this what I want to do!” The module confirmed my aspiration to become a music therapist, and I started applying for a masters not long after; now, a few years later, I’m a trainee music therapist!

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Music therapists often work with clients of all ages who have experienced great deals of trauma in their lives. We therefore have and continue to discuss rather upsetting cases in our lectures, which can get pretty intense. It’s hard at times maintaining that professional boundary and not becoming too emotionally involved in cases! One of the most important things that we are constantly reminded to do as trainee music therapists is to look after ourselves. A lecturer at Plymouth taught me the value of taking time out when things get a little overwhelming, and that is a lesson that I have carried with me on my new course.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I started my first clinical placement of the course just after the first reading week of the academic year, and I am absolutely loving it! I’m at a pivotal part of the course where I have just about enough theory to support myself in clinical practice; now the majority of my learning comes from a more practical environment. A lot of the time the therapeutic effect in music therapy comes from “being in the moment,” so each day of clinical placement is totally different to the last, and that sense of spontaneity is really exciting and keeps you on your toes!

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I would have loved to have gotten more involved with the extra-curricular activities that happened on campus. The music department alone have so many great ensembles and opportunities to get stuck in to, but because I commuted from Exeter to Plymouth by train each day my time on campus was often dictated by the train schedule.

If you were just about to graduate again, what would you do differently?

I would try to remain confident in my capabilities. I started my masters degree the week before I graduated from Plymouth and I was a little daunted by the fact that most of my new course-mates were considerably older than me and that many had already established professional careers behind them. I felt so inexperienced in comparison. But my initial concerns vanished very quickly once I got to know everyone, and I realised I was as worthy as anyone else on the course.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the same line of work?

Get as much relevant work experience as you can: it really is invaluable! It not only shows a commitment and passion to the field of music therapy, but it also allows you to build up a set of skills that are indispensable as music therapists. It can also lead to fantastic opportunities: I was later employed by one of the charities I volunteered at!

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The University of Plymouth helped me to realise, reach, and go beyond my potential, whilst encouraging and supporting me to climb the next academic step and go for my dream career! It offered a course that was refreshing and relevant for the modern musician: it focuses on developing a multitude of aspects as a musician, introduces you to new, exciting avenues in music such as ethnomusicology, music psychology, and music technology, and aims and succeeds in developing its students as well-rounded musicians. The staff are passionate about what they teach and support you above and beyond your academic journey with University of Plymouth.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I learned that I had a hidden passion for Indian classical music. I started learning the sitar with an associate lecturer as a fresher three years ago and now consider it to be my secondary instrument, using it more than any other instrument as a trainee music therapist! I’m not sure that many courses can boast a sitar teacher!

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

I took advantage of the University of Plymouth Professional Opportunities Scheme (PUPOS), which was uniquely available to the music department. I was given the opportunity to visit places where music therapy takes place and ask practising music therapists my many, many questions about the profession!

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

I was given the Dean’s Award for Music in 2015 and was awarded a five day trip to Prague alongside students who had won the award across the Arts and Humanities Faculty. I had a fantastic time and I made new friends outside of the music department that I might not have necessarily got to meet under normal circumstances. It also resulted in some cross-course collaborations; I’ve written music for dance recitals and short films for media students, which were new learning experiences for me. It’s great that Plymouth recognises and celebrates the achievement.

Do you stay in touch with other the University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I still visit Plymouth to see my friends who have continued onto postgraduate study with the university, and I also keep in touch with some of the lecturers who have had an active involvement with my masters application. It’s nice to still have the support and interest from Plymouth, even now I’ve graduated. I’ve even been invited to come back and lecture at Plymouth once I’ve graduated from my masters.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?

Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed my three years with University of Plymouth, who helped me to achieve far more than I ever imagined I was capable of. I felt completely supported during every moment of my time there and they offer such a unique, modern, and diverse course, it really does stand out against others.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying BA (Hons) Music please visit our BA (Hons) Music course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Humanities and Performing Art, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are currently doing, please visit the humanities and languages interest area.