Majoring in music therapy to help others find peace

Riley KuaWhen I was growing up, I always felt like an outsider. There were very few people who had the same interests that I did. The boys my age talked different, looked different, and liked different things, including girls. Having grown up in a conservative household with a high regard for conservative values led to much confusion for me when I discovered I was gay. I felt like the only gay Christian boy in the whole world. Naturally, much confusion ensued when the only info I got about homosexuality was that my existence was wrong and that I should be fixed. However, my sexuality felt like an integral part of my identity, and I did not feel morally wrong. I had no resources to consult or people to talk to, but all things seemed to point to the conclusion that you were either gay or you were Christian – never both. During this time in my younger teen years, I had grown very bitter and angry because of this conflict, but I could not express this with words. This is where music became very important in my life.

My musical journey started out like many other people. Starting with piano lessons at age five, I was signed up by my parents to participate in recitals and competitions that I had little interest in. As a child, I was technically good at playing piano, but there was only superficial feeling. When I reached the age where I had my identity conflict, however, this began to change. I no longer had to think about the rules of music and rhythm; my own personal feelings manifested themselves into my piano pieces. I put the meaning into the music instead of the music presenting its own meaning. I did not need words to express my problems, and it was as if I discovered a new kind of freedom to be used whenever I needed it. I only wish that I had been exposed to the power of music earlier.

When I first learned about the field of music therapy, I was ecstatic. The psychological power of music is amazing, and I knew it from experience. Here was an entire field full of dedicated, competent people who use music as a medium to help others come to peace with or improve aspects of themselves, and I could one day join their ranks because I knew I had an affinity for music. Now, pursuing my BA in music therapy, I have a chance to maximize this, but also reach out to people who need music like I did. I am humbled at the thought that someday I will have the skills—that I am acquiring through school—that can be used to help those who need healing.

We are proud to announce Riley Kua is one of the current DiversityJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for his essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.



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  • I love how his essay flows so smoothly just like how he plays the piano. I hope he gets the scholarship because I know for a fact that he’d make the most out of it, it would go back to serving humanity and healing people.

  • God made you perfectly and you are such a gift to the world. You will be an amazing music therapist. You have determination and understanding because of your journey that some will never understand. I am sorry you went through such a difficult time, but it has made you who you are which is a compassion, empathetic, brilliant musician. This essay touched me like no other.

  • Riley is one of the most caring, empathetic, charming, talented individuals I have come across in my many years of teaching. I know that he will be excellent in the field of music therapy. He has my highest recommendation.

  • This is an amazing story. I think a lot of people don’t recognize the intersection of sexuality and careers and it can be a troubling time when you’re trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life. Not only are his goals moving, I feel that Riley will be able to inspire many other young queer voices as well.

  • This essay is beautiful. I am so grateful that you found a way to express your feelings through a difficult time and that you wish to share your love of music and its’ healing power with others. May the world continue to learn that God loves us. Period. Unconditionally. There are many, many gay Christians in the world-maybe even Christ 🙂

  • I am blown away by your experiences and extremely glad that you finally found a voice through music. Keep your head up because you are going to be amazing in the future.

  • You are a wonderful musician and I’m sure will become an equally wonderful music therapist. We are all so glad that you are in our MT community. You deserve this scholarship!

  • Incredible essay written by an incredible guy. Riley, you are an inspiration to all of us and I know you’ll be able to help so many people in your life.

  • Riley is a very hard-working, courageous person with the skills and empathy to greatly help others. I cannot wait to see the positive impact he has on the world through music therapy.

  • I have known Riley since he was in kindergarten as he is a friend of my son, Zach. Riley is a gentle and caring soul with so much musical talent. He would be a wonderful Music Therapist , he would offer so much to all those that sought out this modality of therapy. I fully support Riley’s degree and career choice. Please honor him with this scholarship opportunity.

  • It is a beautiful thing when someone can do something they love and others benefit from it. Riley Kua’s journey of self-discovery and love of music are going to be of great value to many people. He’s my top choice for the scholarship!

  • Music can be very powerful. I had a similar experience as a teen where music became so important and therapeutic for me. Combining a passion for music with compassion for others can do amazing things for the world. Beautiful essay

  • Riley Kua is such a unique individual with wonderful musical talent and an incredible passion for helping others. He has been a great classmate this year in school and his desire for learning and helping those around him is infectious! What a great, inspirational story told by a great and inspirational classmate of mine. Riley will do amazing things with music in the future!

  • It is so important for people to recognize the freedom that comes from giving ostracized people, particularly kids, creative outlets. Music and art where always saving graces for me, and many others, as a young queer person trying to navigate the world. To often individuals pursuing creative careers are devalued when their contribution is so valuable to so many. The same way music was an escape and outlet for Riley, I had art. The ability to live out stories and immerse myself in their visuals as a young queer person saved my life. Like Riley I hope to be able to create work that can inspire and help others by giving them shelter from the oppressive environments so many ostracized and oppressed minorities face as children, and even as adults.

  • I truly enjoyed this. When I first entered college I had a dream of going into music therapy as well. My passion for music and helping others colliding in one amazing career. I soon found out though I was not completely prepared for the field. After taking a human services course at my college I quickly found out the general field of human services, encompassing music therapy, was not my thing. I am proud to say I will be going into non-profit management though. I wish you all the best of luck in your music therapy journey.

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