Music therapy is offered as a major in about 60 colleges and universities nationwide. Despite the small number of schools it’s offered in, compared to the more than 4,000 colleges in the U.S., this rare specialization has a lot of interesting factors to it.
The American Music Therapy Association defines it as, “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”
Music therapy can be as simple as someone coming home after a long, rough day and turning on some music. All of a sudden, a feeling of relaxation comes and all worries seem to fade away. That is music therapy – using therapeutic techniques through music.
“I’ve always really wanted to work with people with special needs, and I’ve also always really loved music,” Kelsey Alvarez, a senior music therapy major, said “And when I found out I could do both of those things, I decided to come to Temple for music therapy.”
Alvarez is the president of the Music Therapy Club on Main Campus, which has 37 active members. All but one are music therapy majors. The club is trying to gain more visibility this year.
“This semester we’re trying to focus on advocacy because we really want to get music therapy out to the community,” Alvarez said. “The club is really focused on doing things within the major. We do regional conferences and fundraising, and so it tends to be mostly for music therapy majors.”
Junior Gabriela Sotomayor, also a music therapy major, agrees.
“I really love the music therapy program here,” Sotomayor said. “I got to sit in on a couple of classes before I made my decision and that was a really defining factor…I witnessed things that the students were doing and that really made a huge impact on my decision.”
Majoring in music therapy leads to a lot of job opportunities, including working at centers for autism and Alzheimer’s disease and at senior citizens’ homes and medical hospitals.
Originally going to follow in her mother’s footsteps, Sotomayor wanted to study nursing in college, but she began doing some research and found out that she could combine the two things she was interested in doing with music therapy.
Sotomayor is currently doing her second fieldwork placement at a facility in Center City.
“I’m really getting into the field already and seeing what [music therapy] can do for people,” Sotomayor said. “I’m very much a hands-on learner, so going to field work once or twice a week really does help my learning ability and helps me see what it’s going to do for me and other people.”
Darlene Brooks has been the head of the music therapy department for six years. She got her degree in music therapy at Loyola University in New Orleans.
“The power of music is one of the most amazing experiences that I have witnessed among people,” Brooks said. “Music and therapists working together has the ability to bring about change in an individual, and in some cases, it’s lasting change. In other cases, it’s change that allows people to cope with some pretty tough situations.”
Brooks knew that she wanted to go into the music therapy field while she was a sophomore at Loyola.
A professor had come to Loyola to speak about the music therapy major and she figured that it was the perfect combination of what she wanted to do, since she was interested in both psychiatry and music.
Therapy through music is a type of remedy that is very precious. The music therapy major helps to establish that remedy, by encouraging students to venture into the world and help others. The music therapy department at Temple is somewhat small with only four professors, but those professors are experienced and have passion for what they do.
“Something that drew me right to Temple when I was looking for music therapy schools was that the professors here really helped advance this field and defined a lot of it,” Alvarez said. “For me, there’s no other place to be for music therapy.”
“We all believe in the power of music to affect change and we certainly instill that in our students,” Brooks said.
Rebecca Zoll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.