Tell us a little about who you are and how you got to where you are right now.
I am Dr. Petra Kern. I am a music therapist, researcher, educator, and researcher, and I am the president of the World Federation of Music Therapy. I am also very hands-on with the AMTA student organization. I also lead the Early Childhood Network, and I have the Early Childhood News Letter, which will be an online magazine next year. I have a music therapy consulting business in Santa Barbara, California. I travel a lot. This last year, I was in Brazil, China, Canada, and San Diego. How did I get there? I think it’s the passion for the profession that always drives me to do what is needed. But I also had a lot of mentors who gave me the challenges I needed to grow as a professional and as a person, and I think there were many, many people in the field who said, “Petra, why do you do this?” Or “Petra, why don’t you do that?” And at first, I thought I didn’t have the capabilities to do them, but then you find that they probably know you better than you know yourself. So that’s how I got there. A lot of people just thought that I could do things, and I enjoyed the challenge.
What is the World Federation of Music Therapy, and what does the organization do?
The World Federation of Music Therapy is an international organization, and we bring together music therapy associations and individuals who are interested in developing and promoting music therapy globally. So it’s beyond the United States, and we promote the exchange of information relating to clinical practice, research, and education. We discuss accreditation and ethics, and we encourage international collaboration between the different music therapy associations and individuals. We support the recognition of music therapy as a profession in various countries, and we develop and implement projects to monitor current trends and common challenges we face as music therapists in the field. We also organize the World Congress on Music Therapy, which I will talk about more in a bit. As the president, I run the council, which includes 18 people from around the world. The vision of the WFMT is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and populations through music interventions worldwide. On a daily basis, I communicate and answer a lot of questions. Since I was elected in August of 2008, I have answered 2,663 emails! That means there is a lot of global interest in music therapy, and people’s questions are really diverse. Sometimes its music therapy students wanting to do an exchange program, sometimes professionals say they want to start a national organization, and sometimes people have questions about credentials. I have even had parents looking for music therapy services. My favorite part is to do new projects and to collaborate with people around the world. It’s not uncommon that on a day like today, I will get an email from India, Australia, Italy, and Korea.
How do members of the WFMT meet?
We meet face to face every three years at the World Conference on Music Therapy, and we also try to meet annually at major conferences. This year, we met in San Diego at the AMTA national conference, and next year we will be in Spain for the European Congress of Music Therapy, and then in Asia for the World Congress. When we cannot meet face to face, we use Skype and email.
Who are the members of the WFMT, and how does one become a member?
We mainly have organizational members. For example, AMTA is a member of the WFMT, as well are other national organizations around the globe. So we are kind of an umbrella organization, under which other national organizations fall. We currently have 22 countries represented: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Republic of Macedonia, Singapore, Spain, Uruguay, United Kingdom, and United States. So as you can guess, many languages are represented, which can be challenging at times.
The World Conference of Music Therapy is coming up in Seoul, Korea. What is significant about this conference?
Well first of all, it is significant because it is the first time the WFMT has decided to hold the conference in an Asian country. We have many colleagues from Asian countries, and we want to respect and honor them by holding the conference in Seoul. The topic, then, is Music Therapy in Eastern and Western Philosophy. We know about our western philosophies, and the Asian cultures have a long tradition of music and so forth, so we want to learn their methods of doing music therapy. We also want to understand their music, traditions, and values. While there have been small conferences that westerners have participated in, this is the first big event that will give us a look into Asian culture.
Will something like this be affordable for someone in the United States to attend? Where can I find more information?
Absolutely! We did our best to keep registration fees low, so professional registration is only $200 and student registration is $100. With flights, it shouldn’t cost much more than the national conference. I have to give kudos to Dr. Choi, the organizer of the World Congress, who worked very hard to reduce costs by getting sponsors. You can find more information on the WFMT website, which is www.wfmt.info. There is also a preliminary World Congress website, which is www.musictherapy2011.org.