Photo: Art Sidner
Fairmont: Emily Labes Music Therapy
Starting a music therapy business was Emily Labes’ answer to marrying her love for music and her yearning to help people. After growing up in a musical family, and taking piano lessons, choir, and band throughout high school, she had a tough decision to make after graduating from Fairmont High.
“I wanted to teach music as a profession and I also wanted to do something in the psychology field,” said 26-year-old Labes in a telephone interview. “After doing research, I learned about music therapy, which is exactly in the middle between the two. So I went to Wartburg College and majored in music education and music therapy, and had a psychology minor.”
After college, she sought being a music therapist at a children’s hospital. That led to an internship at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where she worked six months in burn, hematology, oncology, and cardiac units. She was won over to the joys and efficacy of music therapy after working with a two-year-old boy with a traumatic brain injury. She said, “When he knew it was time for music and I walked through his door, his face would light up and he just smiled. The rest of the day he wouldn’t show much emotion for anything.”
She defined music therapy as “using music to meet non-musical goals,” such as helping clients with physical, speech, and cognitive rehabilitation, pain management, relaxation, and leisure.
After returning to Fairmont, she spent six months talking about the benefits of music therapy to anyone that would listen. She eventually found a receptive ear with three agencies that serve adults with disabilities. A number of local parents of children with disabilities have hired her, too.
She said, “I especially love working with kids with autism because music is so powerful and can help in so many different ways, including their speech, cognitive goals, and behavioral issues. It’s not a cure and won’t work for every child with autism, but we won’t know until we try. It’s an alternative way of working with them.” Besides her music therapy business, the recently married Labes has about 30 private music students learning piano, saxophone, and flute.
Emily Labes Music Therapy