The field of music therapy has been growing significantly as a result of its positive impact on babies in neonatal intensive care as well as people with Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, depression, substance abuse, pain, autism spectrum disorders, dementia, and other life challenges.
Universities began establishing academic programs in music therapy (MT) in the 1940s, the first national association formed in 1950, and certification in MT began in 1983. As of 2011, there were 72 colleges and universities accredited by the American Music Therapy Association, offering a music therapy degree on the undergraduate and/or graduate level.
How can you tell if music therapy is a good fit?
In our recent article, Becoming a Music Therapist, Dr. William Davis, director of the undergraduate program in music therapy at Colorado State University, states “A prospective music therapy major must be an excellent musician and willing to learn a variety of instruments such as guitar, piano, autoharp, hand percussion as well as be comfortable with singing.” Also required is a level of comfort in interacting with people with disabilities, chronic pain, and/or debilitating mental health problems. Dr. Cathy McKinney, Music Therapy Program Director at Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music adds that music therapists must commit to lifelong professional development since the profession is continuing to grow and evolve.
To get a hands-on sense of whether a music therapy degree is your calling, the American Music Therapy Association suggests contacting them (301.589.3300) and asking for a list of music therapists in your area who would be open to job shadowing. Brian Wilson, director of music therapy at Western Michigan University, also suggests volunteering with Special Olympics, hospitals or nursing homes, where you can gain experience working with the populations likely to benefit from music therapy.
Music Therapy Programs
Sponsoring Schools on MajoringInMusic.com
- Arizona State University School of Music
- Berklee College of Music
- Colorado State University Department of Music, Theatre and Dance
- East Carolina University School of Music
- Florida State University College of Music
- Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University
- SMU Meadows School of the Arts
- Temple University Boyer College of Music & Dance
- Valparaiso University
- West Chester University Wells School of Music