Alverno Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect: From Intern to Employee

When Erica Flores ’05 founded Healing Harmonies LLC in 2011, she was driven to use music to help people live a healthier life.

As her business grew, Flores became a passionate advocate for the music therapy profession. As she made her first hires, she wanted to help her colleagues reach their full potential. Understanding the importance of mentorship in her own career, Flores was ready to do more.

The perfect opportunity arose last summer when Flores received a phone call from Leslie Henry ’93, director of Alverno’s music therapy program, who said that an Alverno student’s internship had fallen through. Could Healing Harmonies take the student on?

“The answer was ‘yes, absolutely,’” Flores says.

An internship is required to become a board-certified music therapist, and Flores was proud to provide the hands-on experience that Mara (Alvarez) Collard ’19 needed to take the next step in her career. Collard began her internship in July. Her internship turned into a full-time job in February, and she officially earned her Alverno degree this May.

The Healing Harmonies music therapy team

The Healing Harmonies music therapy team, including founder Erica Flores ’05 (center) and Mara (Alvarez) Collard ’19 (far right).

“Mara has encountered a reality test of what it’s like to work in this business,” Flores says. “She’s seen the challenges that we deal with in working with so many populations and how many obstacles we have to work past. She’s really pushing past those obstacles and is determined to learn and grow.”

Collard says a willingness to keep learning is essential to being an effective music therapist.

“We work with individuals from early childhood through end-of-life care, and everything in between. It challenges you to be flexible and have an open mind and be constantly learning,” she says. “There’s no way we could have a perfect knowledge of every diagnosis we come across or the perfect strategy when tense situations present themselves. That’s part of being a music therapist, being able to learn and acquire those skills and put them into practice, while also managing to grant yourself grace.”

Collard’s embrace of continuous learning and her persistence are what Flores looks for in new hires. It’s also a byproduct of an Alverno education.

“I always tell my team to get uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable you are, the more you are growing,” Flores says. “That’s how I talk myself through difficult situations. You’re going to come out on the other end of this situation stronger and more knowledgeable.”

At the end of the day, what drives music therapists like Collard is the impact that they have on their clients and on their communities.

“There are always special music therapy moments that make music therapists realize why they chose to do it and how big of an impact they can have,” she says. “The best thing about those moments is they’re unplanned, they’re sporadic and they’re very tender. Those moments are what really bring music therapy to life.”


This article appears in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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