As unbelievable as it might seem, 2020 has finally come to a close. For this blog article, I’ve interviewed Katie about what she’s learned during the chaotic, one-of-a-kind year – and what she hopes to accomplish in the next 12 months.
It’s safe to say there’s never been a year quite like 2020 – at least, not in the past century or so. Even if you had heard back in December 2019 that a novel coronavirus had been discovered in Wuhan, China, it would have been almost impossible to imagine the impact it’s gone on to have on everyday life. For countless people around the world – Katie among them – the past year has been defined by dramatic change.
“Every arena [of my life] is quantifiably different than the start of the year,” Katie said in a phone interview that took place just before the end of 2020.
In early March, mere days before WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Katie attended the Great Lakes Region of the American Music Therapy Association’s conference in Schaumburg, IL. She described the conference – where she worked on the registration committee, led a round-singing workshop, and performed during the closing event – as a “peak moment” in her career. However, looking back at the event has been strange for Katie.
“In retrospect, it was a scary moment once we knew more. We literally had just had 75 people in close quarters singing for an hour,” she said.
Even in this earlier stage of COVID’s spread, Katie noticed a divide between some professors trying to exercise best practices and others who were less concerned about social distancing.
“I remember it very vividly, the diversity that we had even within this niche profession,” she said.
This divide affected Katie more directly in the first few months of the pandemic proper. As she tells it, her housemate in Evanston, IL “called it quits” when it came to respecting stay-at-home orders.
“My partner in very clear terms communicated that he did not care about my well-being, during my first sick day of the pandemic,” she said.
Katie packed and left within 30 minutes. She headed to Colorado to quarantine with a friend, who offered to let her stay.
Katie arrived in Colorado in late March. At that time, she quarantined in an Airbnb for a while.
“We were trying to observe the CDC guidelines of two weeks,” she said.
The plan was for Katie to work remotely while living in Colorado. After staying with her friend for about a week, however, the situation changed once again – her manager at AMITA Healthcare said she would have to work on-site for virtual-care training.
“In that thousand-mile journey back to Chicago, I made contact with some longtime friends who I knew ran an Airbnb, she said.
Due to funding issues, an arts program Katie had developed for medical patients at AMITA over the past four years was shut down.
“I was the program, and it was easy to shut me down since I’m one person as opposed to many jobs lost,” she said.
Katie continued to work in AMITA’s behavioral health department after the program was shut down. Unfortunately, she had to quarantine multiple times over the summer due to symptoms of COVID-19.
In early November, Katie found herself furloughed, which she defined as “a mutually-permissive leave of absence.” Her manager said that, though they could not guarantee hours for Katie, where she lived was her business. With that in mind, Katie traveled back to the Bender homestead in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“I can reside here with a good quality of life for the time being,” she said.
While living in Michigan, Katie has been working to further her career.
“I am engaged in research and pilot performances to be prepared for the development of a clinical training internship,” she said.
She has also been busy in home repair and is especially hopeful at weatherizing an outbuilding, where she hopes to host artists in residency in the future. Katie commented that she has had time to reflect on her time as a touring performative artist.
“What breeds the best health [in a community] is people holistically caring for their artists, as defined by giving them a place to live and to do their very important work,” she said.
Though Katie had planned to do some work for her father while in the Upper Peninsula, she has been limited from doing these physical tasks due to a shoulder injury over the summer.
“I really have to watch it – I’m just not as strong as I identify,” she said.
2020 has been a chaotic year for her and many other people, but Katie has managed to take some lessons from this experience. In a video she shared on her Facebook page this December, she discusses the importance of being worthy, heartful, open, living, and excellent.
“In this dialogue, I have an acronym for the things I have learned – WHOLE,” Katie said."It has been such a transitional, transformative year, I look forward to supporting others on the journey."
As 2021 dawns, Katie said one of her main goals for the year is “the establishment of a thriving private practice and consulting firm.”
“That’s what BloomBender’s envisioned to be, and there’s a lot of rubrics for thriving, but I know a village has raised this child, so I’m ready to give back by creating that village to raise the future,” she said.
As part of this, Katie plans to continue sharing blog articles on Bloom’s website, as well as testimonies from people who have experienced the benefits of music therapy and shiatsu firsthand. She is also interested in introducing a “virtual gallery” where people can express themselves by sharing audio and video clips. Additionally, Katie would like to boost her social media presence on Instagram and Facebook.
Aside from work directly related to her music therapy practice, Katie has continued her efforts to make the Manzanita Tree Project – a musical theater/performance art project featured in a previous blog article on Bloom – a reality.
“Last night, I had a really productive conversation with an actor/writer/radical anarchist Jewish man – my friend, who is breathing life into the script in a way that I have not yet heard,” she said.
Another friend of Katie’s - a photographer, visual artist, and poet – has asked about the possibility of writing curriculum based on the project. Katie noted they have grant funding in place for this work, and she is working on “tasters” of the Manzanita Tree Project.
The new year also marks Katie’s 10-year anniversary as a music therapist and performing artist. She said she will continue working with Amita going forward – in fact, she has been asked to write a newsletter for her department. She hopes to feature the Manzanita Tree Project there.
“The integration of the Manzanita (Tree) Project as a positive story for this company is a very real possibility,” she said.
If you’d like to stay up to date on what Katie has planned throughout 2021 and beyond, keep an eye on Bloom’s website, like Bloom’s Facebook page, and follow @honoringpastpresentpotential on Instagram.