News Archives: Kelsi McInnes Found Her Calling
Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
Before Kelsi McInnes became a music therapist she first had to discover the profession existed.
It all started when Manning native was working in part-time respite care as a university student. Her client was a little girl with spinal muscular atrophy.
McInnes found it incredibly fulfilling to help improve the well-being of another human being. She was also noticing how important the presence of music had become in her life.
“I thought, ‘if only there was a way to combine these two, that would be amazing,’” she says.
So she enrolled at GPRC for a diploma of acoustic music with a major in voice performance. She planned to transfer to a combined music and education bachelor’s degree - a way to use music to impact people’s lives positively.
It was in a GPRC hallway where she heard the casual remark that changed her life.
She was chatting with another student, who mentioned music therapy. “My brain went ‘ding!’” says McInnes, “I thought, ‘wait, what is that?’”
After some furious Googling, she had her answer. Obviously today it’s something she knows inside and out.
“Music therapy looks different for each client,” says McInnes, “but generally it is the therapeutic use of music and musical elements to stimulate neurological change and promote health and wellness.”
“It’s really endless: physical, cognitive, mental, spiritual, emotional: those are our domains that we are constantly thinking about when making goals with clients.”
Set on a new path, McInnes completed her GPRC diploma and transferred to a bachelor of music therapy at Capilano University.
Today she is Grande Prairie’s only accredited music therapist. She travels to different facilities each day for sessions with individuals and groups with her well-packed music bag in tow.
It looks different every time, depending on the goals she’s working towards with her clients. It could be singing, playing musical instruments, making up song lyrics, banging drums - whatever she feels will best reach her client that day.
Sharon Biggs, a GPRC Education alumnus, first encountered McInnes in 2015 when Biggs’ mother-in-law Norma was in advanced stages of dementia. The family decided to try music therapy.
“Kelsi sang favourite old songs and though Norma couldn’t put a sentence together, she would sing,” says Biggs. “The old Norma would seem to come back and she would be happy and smiling. It was amazing to see.”
McInnes has kept in touch with several of her GPRC mentors. Geoff Whittall, music instructor, has been a great support, she says. “I learned so much from him. His classes were always so insightful. You can tell he really loves what he does.”
“I thought it was a fabulous choice,” says Whittall, of McInnes’ decision to pursue music therapy.
Whittall says the volume of research produced in recent years - showing music’s powerful impact on human brains - confirms what people have known anecdotally for ages.
He brought McInnes back to GPRC for its Visitors in the Arts series in 2015. “Having her here as a music therapist was an eye-opening session for a lot of people,” he says.
“Bringing her back as an alumnus was even better because she is clearly functioning well as a professional. She is running her own business and continuing to develop what she’s doing artistically. It’s good for our students to see that success.”
For McInnes, ‘success’ means seeing her clients reach their goals. “I get to see the best parts of them every day,” she says. “I get to witness people coming alive in music.”