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South Carolina School of the Arts

Georgie Kelley: Helping Others Through the Power of Music

Music is not only a passion for Georgie Kelley, but it has also become an avenue for her to help others improve the quality of their lives. As a musical therapist, Kelley works with a variety of individuals, from students in her local school district to clients in her private practice.  

How did you discover Anderson University? 

I discovered Anderson through my sister who graduated from AU in December of 2017. I was in high school when she started at AU. For the longest time, I really thought I was going to attend a public college and didn't have much of an interest in private colleges. I think I was wanting to attend a big university because I grew up in private schools. I honestly wanted to try something different, but when I visited my sister at AU, I couldn't help but enjoy and appreciate the culture. I signed up for a tour and the rest was history. 

 

How did you become interested in music? 

I was born into a very artsy family because my mom is a dance teacher and studio owner. My entire family loved to dance and sing. Since I was a little girl, me and my two older sisters would travel to perform at different events singing three-part harmony. I think I was always involved in the arts. Honestly, even when I was in the womb, I was in the dance studio. I don’t think I would know how to live without the arts, because it’s really just who I am.  

I didn’t discover my love for writing music until I was 13. When I was playing the first song that I had ever written, I didn’t know that my oldest sister, who was a senior in high school at the time, was listening. She came into the room squalling and said, “That was a beautiful song. Who is it by?”, and I said, “Me. I just wrote that.” She then proceeded to tell me that I had a real gift and that I should pursue a career in writing music. She was really hyping me up, I guess (laughs). She was being really supportive, but she's also a very honest person, so I took that to heart.  

Music was and still is my form of therapy. It has always been my sanctuary. I continued to write and record, so when I found out that there was a Commercial Music degree at Anderson, I was all in. I was pretty gung-ho about the Commercial Music degree because I did not know exactly what career path I was going to go on. I knew that if I completed the Commercial Music degree, it would both mentally and physically set me up to be prepared for anything, because that is what the music industry is—be prepared for anything.  

It was also nice to be surrounded by so many Christ followers. It was a privilege to be led by professors that believed what I believed. I want to reflect the love of Christ and I want His Spirit to shine through what I do, whether that be me singing at a jazz gig, church, or a festival where I’m only singing pop music. I don’t think I necessarily have to sing worship music for someone to know that I’m a believer. I think that’s why I enjoyed the commercial music degree so much. 

I graduated from Anderson in 2021. That next semester, I decided to further my education in music therapy. 

Do you have a favorite genre of music? 

I would say Indie Folk or Indie Pop. It’s funny… they would always say I was the happy smiley girl that wrote and sang sad songs, but I sang happy songs too. Music was often where I released my emotions and provided selfcare for myself. Sometimes that resulted in me writing a really sad song, but it was my way of healing—it was my medicine.  

What is the music therapy profession like? 

Basically music therapy is using music as a tool to help aid and better enlight the lives of individuals. I wouldn’t say that it’s speech therapy or occupational therapy or physical therapy, but we have the same goals in mind. We just get to those goals in a different way. Music works part of the brain that nothing else does—there's a lot of science behind it. We go by this little acronym—CAMES—Communication, Academics, Motor Skills, Emotional Health and Social Skills. Those are the goal areas that we work to reach them better.  

The majority of populations we work with are on the spectrum, but you don’t have to be. If somebody wants to go to a music therapy session for their emotional health, they can. I’m really passionate about it. I work at a private practice in Florence and we provide music therapy services for all of the self-contained special ed classes in Florence School District 1. Then we also go into the disabilities and special needs facilities for older adults. We go to a memory care center. And then we have one-on-one sessions at the practice. 

What are some ways your Anderson University education has helped you? 

Going back to what I said about being prepared for the unexpected... I know that’s just life, but that’s very much something that you must be prepared for as a music therapist. You really can never predict what a client is going to say, how a client is going to feel, or how a client is going to respond. A client could become overstimulated, so an MT must know how to transition to a new intervention that helps mentally and physically improve the client’s health. 

That’s a lot of what the Commercial Music department is about. It’s very different from Musical Theatre. In Musical Theatre you have a script and you have an exact place to stand. I’m not saying that there’s not unknowns with musical theatre, but it’s very organized. You’re going to wear this costume, start the show at this time, and are going to stand in this place. Most of the time, the Commercial Music scene is the polar opposite of that. It’s like, “okay we have this set list. We might follow the set list. We might have to jump around a little bit, depending on what the audience prefers to listen to.” 

If you are a type A person, you almost have to force yourself to compartmentalize during gigs like that. For me—I love that environment. I wouldn’t say I was prepared one hundred percent to go out into the Commercial Music field. There were many areas where I could improve, but something that I knew I was going to be prepared for was the ability to be quick on my feet during a transition or molding the session to fulfill the needs of my clients. 

Are there times when your heart feels full because you’re having a positive effect on someone? 

I had a one-on-one client who was very reserved. He struggled with verbal communication because he has a speech impediment. He would get a little embarrassed. His mom said that there’s nothing musical that he liked to be involved in and had stage fright. He also struggled with breathing. He would almost forget to breathe. He would hold his breath when he would get nervous. I saw his mom tearing up after his first session. In the room where we were having the session, there was a double-sided mirror. She could see us, but we couldn’t see her. She shared that she had never heard her son sing before until that day during the MT session with me. I’ve only been working with him for a couple of months now, but she sent me videos of him singing at show in front of his entire class. He’s gotten good reports from his speech therapist about his breathing technique progressing in a positive way. Those moments are really special. 

Describe music therapy in a few words. 

I would say that music therapy is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s using music as a tool to help better the overall health of an individual. The individual—him or herself—is not required to be a musician. That’s not the client’s job. That’s the music therapist’s job. Music therapy is basically the combination of a music degree and a psychology degree. Music therapy uses music as a tool to better the overall health of individuals. 

What advice would you give someone interested in music therapy? 

I would say “go for it.” In my opinion, it’s one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. If you love music as much as I do, it’s fun to go to work. You leave feeling like you made a difference. To some people it might be small, but to our clients it’s leaps and bounds. Honestly, it not only makes a difference in the client’s life, but it makes a difference in the MT’s heart. I didn’t go into music therapy for a big paycheck. I think the other is much more important to me. 

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not doing musical therapy? 

I’m a part time dance teacher. I still like to put on my commercial music hat to record, write and sing. It’s always something involved in the arts. 

And you’ve also written some children’s books? 

It’s funny because I’ve never really liked to read but I love to write. I had on my bucket list for years to write children’s books. When I was a senior at AU, my senior project was a lullaby album for mothers of newborns that I dedicated to my niece and sister. I only have two so far, but I have written and illustrated two children’s books that are inspired by lullabies from the album. The first one is Mr. Moon and the second one is Little Candle 

The next book that I will release is a book of poetry directed towards adults, but I still plan on releasing more children’s books. 

Georgie Kelley
Georgie Kelley
Graduated from Anderson University: 2021
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Music
Title: Music Therapist in Florence, South Carolina