Perspectives from a Music Therapy Student

[Post written by Sam’s Fans Music Therapy Scholarship Recipient Ellie Palmer]

Music Therapy at Ohio University

Established in 1951, Ohio University’s Music Therapy Department is one of the oldest music therapy degree programs in the country and one of the few programs in Ohio. It offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs that are approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). Students study general music curriculum plus music therapy classes, some psychology and biology courses, and piano, voice, and guitar classes. There are six semesters of clinical practicum and numerous local practicum sites, providing opportunities to work with a variety of different populations and in different settings. Following graduation, students pursue internships at sites all over the country. Once they complete their internship, they take the board certification exam to become certified music therapists.

Music Therapy Curriculum

My coursework is almost entirely music classes. In order to be good music therapists, we must first be strong and knowledgeable musicians. Our theory, dictation, history, and instrument classes help us refine our skills and be well-rounded listeners and performers. As student music therapists, our goal is to be as comfortable, confident, and versatile musicians as possible in order to effectively utilize the therapeutic components of the music, and to help facilitate stronger connections between the clients and the music.

Some of these music classes were specifically about music therapy, such as the Introduction to Music Therapy course I took in the fall. It was a great introduction to the foundational concepts and research methods of music therapy, as well as its history and evolution into the field it is today. We also covered the many populations with which music therapists can work. We learned about how sessions are customized to use the most beneficial music interventions for the clients. The following semester, I took Recreational Instruments and Materials, a class entirely focused on how and when to use instruments in therapeutic settings and with specific populations. We explored a wide range of musical instruments and spent several weeks focusing on guitar, ukulele, and drum set. These classes have provided super fun opportunities for performing and observing and served as a strong introduction to music therapy studies.

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A Sense of Community

One of the best parts of being in this wonderful program is its supportive environment. The faculty and students at Ohio University are so considerate and encouraging, and they helped me feel at home in Athens and in the School of Music. I am so thankful for all the compassion, support, and guidance the students and faculty members in this program have shown me.

I especially felt the presence of this community after I joined the Ohio University chapter of the American Music Therapy Association Students (AMTAS). AMTAS is a student-run organization that teaches about and advocates for music therapy, and any student is free to join. We participate in community service activities, send members to attend conferences, hold fundraisers, and discuss a lot of things. Additionally, AMTAS has served as a great way to meet other music therapy students. I had a great time making new friends and connecting with upperclassmen who were always kind and offering to help with classes, give advice, or just talk. These people have been so supportive and welcoming, and I’m so excited to continue learning and making music with them.

This Year and Beyond

For my sophomore year, I am immersing myself even more into my field. I will serve as the Fundraising Chair on the AMTAS Executive Board and take more MT-specific courses, including Class Guitar and Observation, Evaluation, and Research in Music Therapy. Additionally, I am beginning my first semester of practicum, which is what I’m most excited for this year! It is a great opportunity to get accustomed to being in a clinical setting and watch music therapy in action. I get to observe my upperclassmen peers as they put their musical abilities and into action and implement some of the tools and methods I’ve read and learned about. Also, I will help with the session planning process, as well as participate in small portions of sessions with my practicum partners.

I still have lots to learn and am years away from graduating, completing an internship, and taking the board certification exam. Still, I am working hard and doing my best to learn from all the experiences and people around me. I’ve loved my experiences so far, and I’m excited to continue to dive deeper into my music therapy studies – it’s hard not to invest yourself in something you love. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me this year and beyond at Ohio University!

L. Samuel Gracida

L. Samuel Gracida

Samuel is Sam's Fans Operating Director and our primary blogger!

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