Term Paper: Music Therapy

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Music Therapy

It has long been said that "music soothes the soul." Since humans first walked on the earth, they have used music as a way of gaining inner peace, solitude and pleasure. With voice alone or musical instruments, with friends and family and small groups and large, music has been an important part of human societies throughout the world. Music connects with the inner self. It provokes emotional response, or it reduces it. Hearing a certain melody can bring back a personal feeling or memory. It can even cause a physical reaction, such as a shiver or warmth. It is not surprising, then, that modern-day therapists use music as part of their treatment for social or emotional problems for the youngest child to older adults. Personally, I have found that same use of therapy in my own music and practice.

Although music therapy has only recently been designated as a profession, it goes back to the earliest of times. At the beginning of the 19th century, William B. Davis reported on the activities of the Guild of St. Cecilia, established in 1891 by the musician Canon Harford, which played calming music to a large number of patients in London hospitals (1988, p. 10). Unfortunately, the Guild was closed due to criticism from the musical and medical press, lack of funds and Harford's illness. Davis also noted that a number of similar organizations were founded in the United States during the early 20th century. However, they also did not last long.

During World War II, there was an increasing interest in using music as a therapy for soldiers who were returning home in mental or physical pain. Hospitals and physicians increasingly began to use music and asked musicians for research that would indicate the therapeutic value. Musicians, however, did not have the academic background for such research (Fleshman & . Fryrear, 1981), so universities began to offer curricula in this field. Michigan State University offered the first coursework in 1944, and in the U.K., Juliette Alvin, a concert cellist, teacher and music therapist, helped establish the Music Therapy and Remedial Music, or British Society for Music Therapy, in 1958 and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1968.

In 1950 the U.S., the National Association of Music Therapy (NAMT) was founded; the American Association of Music Therapy (AAMT) was established in 1971. In England in 1976, the Association of Professional Music Therapists (APMT) was founded. Today, music therapy is a growing and field of study in colleges and universities. The career is defined by AMTA, as the use of music in the accomplishment of therapeutic aims: the restoration, maintenance and improvement of mental and physical health. Highly trained and nationally certified music therapists build on the inherent qualities of music, using music and music activities in a focused and concentrated manner for healing and change, influencing physical, emotional, cognitive and social responses.

According to the AMTA (website), music therapists help individuals of all ages who need special services because of behavioral, social, learning or physical disabilities. Populations served by music therapists include adult psychiatric patients, chemically dependent, Alzheimer's patients, autistic children, developmentally delayed, orthopedic disabled, blind and the deaf. In addition, there is a growing emphasis on preventative medicine, and many music therapists work at wellness practice that includes the specialized use of music to improve the quality of life, maximize well-being and potential and increase self-awareness. Music therapists often work as part of an interdisciplinary treatment team to meet common goals for the patient or client. They may interface with art and dance therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, speech therapists and other health care personnel.

The World Federation of Music Therapy was established at the World Congress of Music Therapy in Buenos Aires in 1976, when American, European and South American music therapists resolved to develop standards in the international arena of music therapy. One of the earlier members of this Federation and a well-known music therapist is Barbara Hesser, now with the New York University Music Therapy Program. In an interview regarding the growth of this field, she stated: "Music therapy has developed dramatically over the last 25 years. We are now working successfully in the areas of special education, psychotherapy and medicine... The public is much more aware of music therapy as an important treatment modality and many people are beginning to seek music therapy as an alternative treatment for their mental, physical and emotional problems..." And "I would not want people to think that we only work for the 'miracles,' the extraordinary occasions where someone is dramatically changed (though this does happen!), for music brings something to everyone. For me it is astounding to see a handicapped child express him/herself in a way that was never possible before, to work with an adult who found music a way to explore difficult feelings and/or relationships, and an older person who can sing a song from life that was special when remembering little else due to the devastating effects of Alzheimer's Disease" (website)

Increasing numbers of scientific studies are being conducted now, as well, that show the positive effects of music. Tony Wigram, for example, Professor and Head of PhD Studies at the University of Aalborg, Denmark, and Head III Music Therapist at Harper House Children's Service, Radlett, England, has done a considerable amount of research on this topic. One study, for example, conducted in 2002 showed that music therapy is a particularly important intervention for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder to help them engage their ability for flexibility, creativity, tolerance of change.

I have had the opportunity in my life to experience the considerable impact of music on individuals, as well. The comments by Hesser and findings of researchers such as Wigram resonate with me, since I have had many similar experiences in my work and personal life. My experience with music originates from early childhood and has grown into a very personal and special part of my life and daily existence. Over time, I have developed a great appreciation for music as a means of emotional and intellectual expression, a way of relating universally to one's outer world, and an internal power of unparalleled strength.

Calling to an individual's soul, music can successfully embrace a person and lead to different emotional states. It can be an inspiration to one's imagination and greatly enhance creativity and innovation. Music serves a variety of different purposes to help people in their emotional world. In addition to being therapeutic, it can be comforting and nurturing, soothing, relaxing, exciting, stimulating, entertaining, inspiring, therapeutic, motivational, exhilarating, sensual and passionate.

Since the beginning of mankind, music has acted as a major driving force in a human's existence and ability to achieve harmony within him/herself and the surrounding, sometimes harsh and brutal, environment. Indeed, I believe that it often serves as an essential element for human survival. It has given people the personal inner strength to move ahead when faced with the challenge of extreme adversity.

Since (YEAR?), I have taught both the theory of music and musical instruments, primarily the piano. During these wonderful 15 years, I have gone through a rich and vibrant journey, where I never stopped being impacted by the quality of music nor learning from all that it offers. In this process of personal growth, I acquired and refined the skills of observation, listening, strong memorization, and the sensitivity to distinguish internal emotions as well as the successful expression of emotion that occurs when listening to and interpreting a musical piece.

My experience with music over my lifetime has made me who I am today -- significantly different from many others I have met over the years. Over the years, I have always been different in how I communicate, express myself, and view the world around me. There have been many moments where I have felt quite strong about something, where others may feel very differently or not at all. For example, sometimes something that other people seemed to interpret with indifference or without any kind of impact, for me had considerable value and importance. Even those things that other people loved or even worshipped, has had an even greater and deeper value to me in terms of the measure, degree, and variety of emotional response and understanding.

When I became known to students and other music professors as a professional music teacher and as a colleague among peers and part of a faculty of a larger institution, everything changed in my orientation to other people and my life in general. Clearly, I entered another dimension unlike being a private music teacher. Here, I was on quite a different basis regarding communication and relationships. As always, I had to work toward meeting the primary goals of my profession, that is, teaching the students. In addition, I also had the integral position as a peer of other faculty in my music department and that as part of a larger institution, the university.

Like everyone… [END OF PREVIEW]

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