Victoria Fansler is a Neurologic Music Therapist at the Snohomish County Music Project. She studied Music Therapy at Arizona State University and completed her internship here. She works with at-risk youth programs, particularly children who have experienced trauma in Marysville, Quil Ceda, the Denney Juvenile Justice Center, and the South Everett Mukilteo Boys & Girls Club.
Discovering Music Therapy
Initially, I was interested in Music Therapy because I wanted to be a music teacher. I had influential music teachers in my life: my choir and band directors in junior high. Those people had tremendous influence on members of the band or the choir. I saw music as a way to reach children.
In high school, I got involved in my school’s special education program. I started spending time with people who were different from me. I became really connected, opened up, and heartbroken about so many layers of systemic oppression that kept them away from natural experiences growing up. I saw so many opportunities that I took for granted.
Through being involved in special education, we had a music therapist who worked with special education students throughout the district. After observing one of their sessions, I was done. I was so ready to become a music therapist. I was looking for schools to apply and found Arizona State University’s program. I completed my four years there and was able to start my internship anywhere.
Making the Connection
I was the first intern at the Music Project. I emailed Karla and saw she worked with populations of people that I wanted to work with and that I needed help finding out how to work with the people she was. She said, “you could come here. We’ll figure it out.” I’m very fortunate that the internship was that smooth and that I could become an employee at the Snohomish County Music Project. I was able to transition right back to working with the same populations I started my internship with.
Community-led, Intergenerational Change
The Casino Road program, in general, has been incredible to be a part of. It’s been so cool to see the program itself grow and how much awareness there is in the community about who we are and what we’re doing. It’s becoming a community phenomenon. It’s not just working with a few kids on something personal; it’s something the entire community is now involved in. We’re part of sustainable growth and intergenerational involvement. It’s an amazing progression.
It’s not “I’m going to fix you” or “I’m going to change this one thing” – it’s about everyone coming together, playing together, and experiencing personal growth – both individually and as a collective.
In terms of personal experiences, the Quil Ceda Elementary after-school program from spring 2015 stands out. We entered and the program was so dysregulated and the kids had such a struggle. Kids ran around and threw things. It was hard finding activities that were safe. In just those three to four months they consistently came in with a positive affect, ready to participate, willing to sit next to therapists, be creative, and appropriately extend activities. It was incredible to see that transformation. Now that I’m back at Quil Ceda Elementary during the day, I see those kids in the hall. They see me and say hi. They run up to hug me or high-five. It’s gone from this salient experience with a small group of kids and it’s percolating through the whole school community. Kids are seeing that they can have fun, connect with each other, and be safe.
Growth and Challenges in 2015
The challenge is how much we’re growing. We have so many kids right now. I see around 200 kids each week and, because that awareness has grown, we’ve received more requests to each program. The challenge is growth that’s sustainable: to reach out without losing that quality of treatment. We don’t want to be an assembly line or revolving door. We want to deliver meaningful experiences for each group of kids.