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Hometown: Northridge, CA

Major: Music Therapy, Conservatory of Music

Expected graduation: May 2015

Activities: American Music Therapy Assn, Western Region Student Board President; Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity; summer 2014 music therapy field service project in Jamaica

Plans: graduate school, then working with children in either a hospital or school setting

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Music Therapy
Faye Spanos Concert Hall
Jessica Siena
Director of Conservatory Admissions
Conservatory of Music
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211

Fred Ra ’15 finds his career path and a home away from home

Fred Ra '15, Music Therapy
The Conservatory's supportive culture and close relationships with faculty mentors have helped him find his chosen career path and take on a national leadership role.

As he was preparing to enter Pacific's Conservatory of Music four years ago, Seung "Fred" Ra had a million questions. The Southern California native had no friends or connections in Northern California. He was worried about his parents and what this new world away from home would bring.

During the interview process required for acceptance into the Conservatory as a music therapy and cello major, Ra connected with music therapy professor Feilin Hsiao. Like Ra, Hsiao was also from Southern California. She introduced him to upper class music therapy students and became his advisor, helping him find his comfort zone and academic path at Pacific.

And for his 19th birthday—his first away from home—she even brought him a cake. She knew that particular birthday, without his family around, was a big deal for Ra.

He remembers her presenting him the cake—covered in white frosting with a happy birthday wish in pink letters surrounded by fireworks—in class during his second semester.

"It was the best thing ever," he recalls with a grin.

Throughout his college experience, Hsiao has supported Ra not just in academics but also in his personal growth. They would spend hours talking about his classes, his future studies and music therapy career path, and his overall well-being.

Once the two were debriefing following a therapy session Ra had at a nursing home with patients with early onset dementia and Alzheimers. It was just before Valentine's Day and during the session, they sang the Elvis Presley song "Can't Help Falling in Love" to promote discussion and remembrance. One of the patients had recently lost his wife, and began crying. As Ra was talking with Hsiao afterward, he couldn't help but think about his own parents. He, too, broke down and cried.

Hsiao reassured him, telling him it's OK to have emotions about his patients.

Ra has a dual-support system with Hsiao and his cello professor, Nina Flyer, who will check on him and reach out if they hear he's stressed. That level of concern and mentorship is typical of the close-knit and supportive community in the Conservatory.

"Pacific professors know you by more than your name-they know you by your life story." - Fred Ra '15

A recent visit to Southern California gave Hsiao the opportunity to visit Ra's hometown in Northridge and meet his father. She wanted to meet him, as she likes to do with the parents of all of her student musicians, and Ra's parents hadn't been able to visit campus very often due to their work schedules. So she came to him.

That personal attention from his professors has paid off. This spring Ra will decide among several internship opportunities to fulfill the clinical portion of his degree. He will also assume a leadership role with the student board of the Western Region of the American Music Therapy Association when he becomes its president in March.

He then intends to go straight to graduate school, with a solid career direction and with the background and experience he's sure will get him there. Ultimately he wants to work with children in a hospital or school setting, a goal Hsiao has helped him to identify and sharpen.

"The whole interaction and relationship with Dr. Hsiao has led me to be the therapist I'm turning out to be," he said.