Friday, July 14, 2017

E is for Education

I often get asked about what education and training music therapists receive, so I thought this would be a good time in the A-Z Blogging Challenge to answer that question.

At minimum, music therapists must have a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from an academic program approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Each program is a little different, but all have the same components: Musical Foundations, Clinical Foundations, Music Therapy, and General Education.

Being a music major is hard, so you have to be very dedicated and organized to complete a music degree, much less a music therapy degree. Music foundations are important because a music therapist has to know and understand their tool (music) fully in order to offer music as therapy.

If you want to get a head start on completing a music therapy degree successfully, here are some things you can do to prepare:

  • Take piano lessons. I didn’t learn piano until college and it was very difficult. Find a teacher that will teach you piano repertoire, piano technique, and music theory. If there is a performance component to the lessons, then you’ll have an even bigger head start.
  • Listen to a LOT of classical music. Music therapy degrees in the United States often have a heavy emphasis on Western classical music. If you are exposed to it and familiar with the different styles and famous composers and their works, then you’ll be ahead of the game when you take music theory and history.
  • Sing. Music therapists sing a lot and need to be able to lead a session with just their voice sometimes. The more you sing, and the more comfortable you are with singing, the better. I recommend singing lots of American Folk Songs if you are studying in the United States.
  • Practice. Music therapists must have a concentration of study on a major instrument (mine was bassoon), like voice, piano, trombone, or cello. You will need to have good practice skills, and time management skills, in order to succeed as a music therapy major. Start developing them now so it’s not so hard when you’re transitioning to being a college student.
  • Learn to use a calendar. This is a skill that must be learned and practiced, not an inborn ability. Flylady.net can help you if you are calendar-challenged. You’ll have a lot of assignments in a lot of classes, not to mention performances, tests, and projects. So learn how to use a calendar and keep track of assignments and deadlines before you get to college.

Those are the main things I struggled with and see students struggle with in music therapy programs. If you can address those before enrolling in college, then you’ll be more likely to succeed in a music therapy degree program!

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