Jamal has a Bachelors in Musical Arts from the University of the West Indies and an MA Music Therapy from Anglia Ruskin University. He now works as a music therapist at a hospital in Trinidad.
I enrolled at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad to read for a certificate course with a focus on the steel pan. I then went on to complete a degree in musical arts, which mainly focused on the steel pan. However, I was also exposed to ethno musicology, jazz theory, music education, Western music, East Indian music, choral arranging, composition, and foundation courses in English and science. I was also a principal musician in several ensembles. I am now a qualified music therapist, having taken the MA Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University .
Upon successfully completing my training, I returned to Trinidad as I had been granted a scholarship by the government. A condition of the scholarship was that I would return home to begin work immediately. However, it took at least four weeks before I was able to do a presentation of my work to officials at the Ministry of Public Administration. They were impressed and placed me at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital where I work now as a music therapist.
My Masters degree was critically important in obtaining my current role as I am the first qualified music therapist based at the hospital. My training helped me with the writing of progress notes and clinical reports, and gave me confidence in the work that I do. I also developed the skills to become a receptive music therapist.
My working hours are 9am to 2pm each day of the week. On Mondays, I travel to Chaguanas in central Trinidad to one of the outpatient clinics where I work with mainly young adults with mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorders. I pack the car with my personal instruments - a djembe, an acoustic guitar, small percussion instruments and a tenor steel pan, as there is no funding for instruments available at the clinic. I see five individual clients on this Monday and an average of seven clients during the rest of the week.
My role was difficult at the beginning as most clients thought they were going to be taught how to play a musical instrument. Moreover, demonstrating the benefits of music therapy intervention by making accurate progress notes and discussing case studies within team meetings also had some challenges as I had to initiate this. In addition, the psycho-analytic approach I have been trained in is not common in Trinidad. Educating other medical staff about the importance of music therapy in the clinical setting has also become critically important in my work. In the future, I see myself doing research in the subject area of the steel pan and the role this musical instrument can play in music therapy practices.
My greatest reward is being able to help others to communicate both musically and verbally and make sense of their problems. There are many challenges, for example the hospital does not provide an office to write up my notes, read about new developments and obtain supervision in a private office. I also have to share rooms with other psychologists. However, a positive development is that steel pan musicians can now aspire to become qualified music therapists working in a clinical setting.
Discipline, diligence, dedication and inspiration are what propelled me through my two years of Masters training. I get comfort from knowing that I am now a professional in an elite field of musicians.
This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.