Chicago Marathon Challenge: Michelle Kennemer

How long have you been a music therapist?

I have been a music therapist since the summer/fall of 1998 (back in the days when there was a good 6 months between graduation and the first chance to take the exam)

What made you choose music therapy?

I loved playing my clarinet in high school, but knew that I wasn’t interested in being a band director or music teacher. I was also very interested in psychology and anatomy….and thought about physical therapy, but knew that I didn’t want to “give up” music. I first saw the words “music therapy” on a brochure from Sam Houston State University and I KNEW that I had found the perfect place for me. I haven’t looked back since.

How long have you been a runner?

I recently celebrated my 4th Runnerversary! My first race was a 5K on July 4, 2008

What made you decide to start running?

I started running because I wanted to “do something that was hard.” I felt myself just kind of cruising through my life finding everything to be very manageable–I loved my job but had it under control, still play my clarinet but not in the same way I did while in school, and my family life/friends were great and drama free. Running has provided that challenge that I thought was missing. Running has also brought me so much more in the ways of valuable experiences and relationships. I had no idea that there was such a wonderful community of runners out there and I have met so many interesting people from such varied backgrounds. One of my favorite things about running is the running community–these people have become some of my best friends over the years.

What made you decide to run the Chicago Marathon?

Because Andrew said I should? I was in the final weeks of training for my first marathon, Dallas White Rock, when I attended the 2011 AMTA Conference in Atlanta. It was then that I noticed that the Chicago Marathon would likely be the weekend before conference. At that point I knew that I wanted to run one marathon a year and I wanted to hit all of the “major” ones….so it made perfect sense to make 2012 my Chicago Marathon year.

What made you decide to turn it into a fundraising activity for AMTA?

I have always been interested in racing as a fundraiser, but I haven’t tried it until now. What a perfect opportunity to combine the two things that I love the most–running and music therapy!

What do you do when you are not in training (i.e. what are you doing for a living)?

I am a music therapist for Lewisville Independent School District — a large suburban district that is just north Dallas, Texas. I work with students ranging in age from preschool-high school and I supervise interns in our AMTA Roster Internship. I also handle all of the music for the secondary extended school year program.

Does music play a role in your training? Explain why or why not.

Am I the only music therapist in the world that doesn’t train with music? When I first started running I never left the house without my iPod and I think that music helped me a great deal. It was a great marker of time….run until the end of this song and you can stop….two songs and this mile will be finished. Eventually my need for music faded, it is really hot in the summers here in Texas and there was a point where I didn’t want to be “wearing” any extra items on my body–including my iPod. That is when I found that I prefer running without music….it is a great time for my brain to “take a break” and just enjoy the environmental sounds around me. I also do a great deal of training with my husband, so it is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with him. I do still use music for the occasional race—usually in the winter and/or when I know that I will be running alone for a long period of time.

If you use music in your runs, what do you listen to?

I enjoy music with a quick beat and a strong message. My husband once asked why my playlists were filled with “angry chick songs”….I think he was worried that I carrying some secret anger! Just happens that some of those songs have the best beat and are fun to sing along with. I find that my running playlists vary greatly from classic rock, to bubblegum pop, to alternative, to hip hop. Kanye West has carried me across the finish line too many times to count.

What recommendations would you have for music therapists who wish to start running?

Start slowly and build gradually—I have found that music therapy and running really do compliment each other well. We music therapists are good at writing measurable and attainable goals and objectives and taking data. Remember that running is a process, not a product…enjoy the process of training and meeting small milestones each week. Find your local running club–every city and suburb has one these days….Facebook and Twitter are great ways to find and network with these groups. Attend a few social runs and make some friends, positive peer pressure will take you a long way!

Do you have pre-race rituals or traditions that you think will allow you to run faster and stronger?

I don’t really have any traditions or rituals. I always have my husband affix my timing chip to my shoe for me, but I think that is more about me being lazy than it being about good luck. I love the process of training and count on solid training to make me stronger on race day….with every training run I am making a deposit in the “Bank of Chicago”.

What is your secret plan for out running and out fundraising the opposition (this is a good place for smack talk)?

Secret plan? I’m not good at keeping secrets….it is hot in Texas and I am bringing the HEAT to Chicago! I know that the SWR will follow my lead and bring that same intensity and fire to this fundraising effort.

How many days of conference do you plan on wearing your medal?

I’m wearing that medal all the way back to The Lone Star State.

How can music therapists help support you in your quest?

In March 1836, Col. Travis knew that his situation inside the old Spanish mission called the Alamo had become dire. Then, with a flourish, Travis drew his sword and slowly marked a line in the dirt. “I now want every man who is determined to stay here with me to come across this line.” History shows that every single man at the Alamo crossed that line….
Music therapists….I am drawing a line in the dirt….who is going to cross that line and stand with the SWR/Team Kennemer in support of AMTA and music therapy? It is a small price to pay to stand united for a greater cause. It is no secret that music therapist carry great power….now is the time to harness that power and share it with the world. Use your skills on social media to rally the troops. Tell your family and friends about our great cause….don’t like to run? No worries! I will handle all of the running for you…I will provide the sweat that comes with training in the hot Texas sun….all you have to do is click on the link from the air conditioned comfort of your home and give to AMTA. Cross that line in the dirt and join me in the battle cry “Remember the SWR!”


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