How One Musical Therapy Organization Adapted to Crisis to Continue Supporting Those in Need

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Music Beyond Measure provides therapy through musical discovery. Learn how it responded to COVID-19.

person sitting at computer with musical notes floating overhead

Tamara Williams knows firsthand about the healing power of music. As a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence, Williams says that creating and performing music—along with therapy—has helped her work through emotions and pain that she has been unable to process for years.

After her first semester in the jazz studies graduate program at Michigan State University about ten years ago, Williams had an awakening.

A headshot of Tamara Williams, founder of Music Beyond Measure

“Everything I hadn’t dealt with emotionally bubbled up and felt fresh, and I was forced to really deal with it for the first time,” she said. “I would just put it into these original songs…I felt like I learned so much more about myself for the first time, and I honestly believe it was a combination of counseling, the creativity, and the performance.”

Tamara Williams

Music Beyond Measure (Source)

So when Williams completed her music therapy program, she went looking for organizations that shared the therapeutic relationship of musical activity with survivors such as herself. When she found nothing, she decided to start her own, and that organization became Music Beyond Measure in New Jersey.

“That panic drove me to act”

Music Beyond Measure has been growing steadily since its inception in 2013 (“We’re still very small but we’ve done big things,” says Williams), but last winter, Williams and MBM were blindsided by COVID-19 like the rest of the world, and had to scramble to adjust.

And unlike a traditional business, Williams—who also has a six-year old daughter at home—wasn’t just worrying about paying her bills and keeping customers.

“I was thinking, ‘How are we going to be able to still support [our youth programs] if they’re going to be disconnected from everything?’” she said. “There was this panic of ‘How are we going to support the people that we’re currently supporting?…How am I going to make sure that everyone is OK?’ That panic drove me to act.”

Though she didn’t have formal project management training, seven years of directing MBM had prepared Williams well for the challenge in front of her and her team. Using a combination of tools and leadership skills, MBM has continued to serve the community during COVID-19 and is ready to continue expanding in the years ahead.

Let’s take a look at how Williams and her team adapted to overcome adversity.

1. Adopt new software when necessary

One of the first things that Williams needed to do to respond to COVID-19 was to invest in a new software platform that would allow her organization to continue engaging with music students remotely.

While some of the tools Music Beyond Measure was already using were sufficient to adapt to the new challenges presented by COVID-19 (as we’ll see below), they had nothing in place to allow for organized virtual music education classrooms and studios, and so Williams and her team took action.

They invested in a new online studio platform called Soundtrap.com that allowed them to organize classrooms, assign lessons, and create music together, all digitally.

Soundtrap “allows the kids on the other end to still be able to compose and express themselves,” Williams said. “That classroom function was really helpful because we had different groups and different assignments.”

Getting started with Soundtrap (Source)

What you can do: You shouldn’t adopt new software just to adopt new software, but if an insufficiency is limiting your organization from being effective—as it was for Music Beyond Measure when COVID-19 struck—you owe it to your organization and those you serve to address it.

A good way to gauge whether or not it’s time to act is to conduct a poll of your team leaders, asking them if they feel like they have the tools they need to reach their goals. Record this feedback, and then browse our software directory to find solutions.

2. Use your existing tools to get through times of crisis

Williams eventually wants to upgrade to a full-fledged project management system to maximize the effectiveness and reach of MBM’s programs. But she knows that the middle of a global pandemic is no time to overhaul her organization’s communications and scheduling systems.

That’s why she has continued to use a combination of Google Calendar, Gmail, and Zoom—integrated together—to handle scheduling, task management, and collaboration with her staff and leadership team.

Scheduling a Zoom meeting with Google Calendar (Source)

The trio of apps “integrated perfectly into what we were already doing,” Williams said. “We just figure out what needs to be done and when, and we divide up the work via Google Calendar and Gmail.”

What you can do: Even if your current software stack isn’t perfect, a working system is better than a non-working system, especially in the middle of a crisis. If your existing system could use minor improvements to work better, consider maximizing those tools. The tools you have might become the tools you actually want with a few tweaks, such as integrations, upgrades, and additional training. You can find this information by browsing your software’s available integrations, contacting your vendor, or searching online for training resources.

3. Make note of shortcomings to address after the crisis

While Williams’ combination of tools has helped MBM continue to provide much-needed musical therapy to their students, this crisis has been a stress test that has revealed some shortcomings, such as important emails getting lost in the rush. However, rather than try to overhaul their system during COVID-19, Williams and her team are developing an action plan to adopt new software when time allows.

“With email sometimes you might miss things,” she said. “I recognize how limited my current platform is. I’ve had to talk to my team to say, ‘We have to do something different because this can’t really support everything that we’re doing.’”

MBM is now looking at upgrading to Squarespace to host and manage their website and expand their online storage capacity. They are also looking at project management systems to fully align their scheduling, collaboration, and task management.

“I’m doing what I can now, however I look forward to having the space to breathe so I can figure out things that might make my job easier sooner than later,” she said.

What you can do: Insufficiencies in your software stack can be more than frustrating, especially when you’re trying to navigate a crisis. But you probably don’t have the luxury of time to demo new tools when you’re just doing the best you can to stay above water. However, you can still take positive action by keeping a running list of the issues you’re having with your current setup.

That way, when you do have a little space to breathe, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for and you can speed up the process of finding and implementing new software.

4. Delegate whenever possible to create more leaders

Williams has learned the importance of delegating responsibility to her teaching artists who have lost the opportunity to perform live, paid gigs during the pandemic.

“I realized that I was juggling too much, and I had to pass those project management tasks off to some of our teaching artists,” she said. “It was a different thing for them, but it created such a growth opportunity for them to see things on the back-end and take it forward even more.”

That is a lesson that Williams says she will remember long after COVID-19 has passed.

“Don’t focus on everything that has to be done. What are the top three things that need to get done, and who are the people who you have access to that can make it happen?” she said. “What resources do you already have? Take stock of those, and see how you can use those resources to manage everything without getting overwhelmed. Because this time right now is overwhelming for everybody.”

What you can do: Trust the people you hire to take on additional responsibility. “If you want something done right, do it yourself” is not a sustainable approach, especially if you want your organization to grow. It can be scary to hand the reins over to someone else, but every task that you empower someone else on your team to do frees up time for you to do more elsewhere.

Want more small business leadership tips? Check out our article on developing people-manager skills here.

Software can make you more agile

In the face of crisis, agile project management can help you adapt to new and abrupt changes. Software can help you manage new processes and facilitate new ways to communicate.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade or replace existing software or invest in a completely new tool, remember: You’ve got this, and we’ve got you.

Learn how your peers are overcoming adversity

Find out how others in the Capterra community are using technology to overcome challenges and learn from each other. We’re in this together.


Note: The software applications referenced in this article were cited by the interviewee in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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Andrew Conrad

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Senior Content Writer @ Capterra, sharing insights about retail. Published in PSFK, Modern Retail, and the Baltimore Sun. Austin transplant. I love spending time outside with my dog or floating on the Colorado River in my inflatable kayak.

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