Music Therapy Student Grows as a Student and a Leader
Cathy Sucgang ’21 felt frazzled. She and her parents had driven more than two hours from their home in Maryland up to Pennsylvania for Immaculata’s fall open house, and they were late. The campus tour guides had already left with their groups, and Cathy and her parents were lost.
Thankfully, they stumbled upon a group of nuns. Sister Miriam George Kelly, IHM, a financial aid assistant, offered to take the Sucgangs to the dining hall for breakfast and gave them a mini tour, which included a stop at a shrine to the Infant Jesus of Prague. Sister George explained that in 1914, the college needed an adequate water source, so the IHM Sisters prayed a novena to the Infant of Prague. Surveyors soon found two artesian wells, and today, passersby ring the shrine’s bell and pray their own intentions.
Sister George jingled the bell and glanced at Cathy. “See what I did there?” she asked. “I rang it so you’d become a student here.”
“At the time, I laughed,” Cathy remembered. But a few months later, she officially committed to attend Immaculata. That encounter with Sister George not only brought a smile to her face; it gave her a “sensation of peace, telling me this is where I belong.”
Though Cathy felt at home at IU, her freshman year was difficult, she recalls, because she used to be shy. When an upperclassman invited her to a campus ministry retreat, Cathy was hesitant. “But I’m not going to know anyone there,” she said. “Yeah, that’s kind of the point!” he replied. “It became the best thing that happened to me, because I was able to expand my friend group,” Cathy reflects.
Cathy also learned to branch out in other ways. “Before college, I was strictly a music kid. I thought it was the only thing I was good at, so I’d stick with that,” she says. But she decided to apply to be a new student orientation leader, and she realized she had strong leadership qualities, too.
“It gave me confidence and reassurance that I could branch out and do other things,” she comments, adding that she then became a resident assistant, a student admissions ambassador and a retreat co-leader. “I learned I’m much more capable than I think I am,” she says. “I can do so much more than what I initially thought.”
As a music therapy major, Cathy also became more aware of her capabilities through her practicum, working at a childcare center with young children, some of whom had behavioral disorders. “I came into that practicum nervous about how I’d be with the kids,” Cathy says. But it did not take long for her to connect with them. “As I started coming in every week, the children would immediately run up and hug me,” she remembers.
She took the time to build rapport with the kids and to find out what kind of music they liked. “Therapy can’t happen without solid trust between the therapist and the client, and although they were just little kids, it seemed that they trusted me enough to care for them,” Cathy remarks.
“There was one little boy there who mostly babbled when he spoke, but when it came time for music, he sang every word so clearly,” Cathy says. She remembers another child who was typically shy but got excited to sing and play instruments with the other kids. “I could really see that music brought out the best in them,” Cathy notes. She has always loved singing and performing music, but she finds music therapy especially fulfilling because of its relational focus.
In her Music for Exceptional Learners class, Cathy learned about the importance of person-first language, a way of putting the person before their diagnosis: “this person with dyslexia,” instead of “this dyslexic person,” for example. “This program has taught me how to see a client beyond their diagnosis,” Cathy observes. “They’re human beings, first and foremost. It’s easy for them to be defined by such a small part of who they are. Get to know the client beyond what’s on the paper.”
After graduation, Cathy plans to continue her studies at IU to earn her Master of Music Therapy and Counseling and work in the field of mental health. “Music therapy is a great way to pursue my passion for music while also helping people and meeting their needs,” she says.