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A portrait of Pacific student Cristina O'Brien.

Cristina O'Brien ’22 is a transfer student and Air Force veteran hoping to pursue her passion of using music therapy to help heal others.

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Pacific News

Pacific student veteran pursuing dream of healing others through music

Dec 10, 2019

Becoming a world-class music therapist is a challenging goal, but Cristina O'Brien ’22 is not swayed. As a trumpet player, she is in a field where only 3% of trumpet players in major orchestras are women. And as a veteran of the United States Air Force, she has proven that females can excel even where men are the vast majority. O'Brien believes that “being male or female should not hinder anyone’s dream.”

O'Brien’s dream is to major in music therapy and bring relief and healing to others through music. Hailing from Benicia, a small town on the north shore of the San Francisco Bay, she initially enrolled in the University of Michigan, where she had received a full-ride scholarship in trumpet performance, but realized “music performance was not the best career for me. I had always known that aside from my deep love of music, I had a strong passion and talent for helping others. I began to dream of becoming a professional in the medical field and with this in mind, I enlisted in the United States Air Force as a medic/dietician.”

Because music and trumpet-playing have remained her passions, O’Brien volunteered for opportunities to perform during her military service. She discovered her calling in a Veteran Affairs hospital while watching a music therapist lead a drum circle with Air Force veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She recalls how she saw “catharsis on some of their faces,” and that experience made her realize her purpose.

O’Brien decided to pursue both her passion and purpose at Pacific because she felt respected and welcome from the start.

“Beginning at my first visit, I appreciated both the welcoming, serene environment of the campus and the quality of people I met here. I felt at home here more than at other institutions I had experienced before.”

She also felt that the transfer process to Pacific worked to her advantage.

“Most colleges require 60 units to transfer, but Pacific does not have this requirement, which made it easier for me. Also, although I came to visit Pacific unannounced, I was immediately introduced to a person at Admission who answered my questions and later helped me with the enrollment process.”

O’Brien has always been encouraged by her parents “to aim to be the world’s best at whatever I chose to become.” She feels Pacific’s faculty and students are like her second family, preparing her with compassion and generosity for her future career as a music therapist and encouraging her to forever strive in sharing her passion for music with others.

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