• Lillie Burke

Music therapy major to open this fall

It is no secret that many students come to Belmont for music.

Some dream of becoming performers or music educators. But some dream of using music as medicine.

Beginning this fall, those students will have the opportunity to do just that.

Belmont is expanding the music department to include its newest major: music therapy.

The new program, which has been in the works for about five years, is the only program of its kind in Tennessee.

“Music therapists use music for a therapeutic goal,” said Madeline Bridges, the associate dean for academic studies in the School of Music. “It might be pain reduction for a child. They may go into a hospital room with a guitar and help a child who is going through a painful procedure. They might do it as a part of physical therapy, helping people flex their arms more times than they could do it yesterday.”

The faculty in the School of Music believe the new major is a great fit for Belmont.

“We have had calls for years with students wanting to do this, and we didn’t have it,” said Bridges. “For our location, our strengths, our student service orientation, and Belmont’s goal as a Christian university to help other people, we think it’s a natural fit.”

The program’s curriculum has taken two years to complete.

“Our curriculum will be unlike any other music therapy curriculum in that students will study both classical and commercial lessons in their main area,” said Bridges. “This degree is what will be called a blended degree. It will combine elements of classical music and commercial music, and we think that will make it very distinctive.”

Students who plan to pursue a bachelor of music in music therapy will have a heavy course load since it requires 136 credit hours.

You have to have a lot of hours in general education with some additional things like anatomy, physiology and psychology, said Bridges. Students will also take a large number of music classes on top of the core of 20 hours of music therapy.

After completing all coursework, music therapy majors must complete an internship before taking the board exam to become a board certified music therapist.

“The culminating component of the degree is a six month internship where they go somewhere for six months and literally work all day, every day as an aid or assistant to a full-time music therapist,” said Bridges.

The faculty had some outside help with the development of the program, including a consultant from the University of Kentucky and Jenny Plume, a music therapist at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“I have been helping with some of the development of the program, but mostly, I am serving on the hiring/interview committee for the prospective assistant professor of the new program,” said Plume.

Belmont is in the process of finding a new faculty member.

“For sure, we have two very fine applicants,” said Kris Elsberry, the director of graduate studies.

Both applicants have visited the campus.

For students who have a desire to work in healthcare and have a passion for music, music therapy may be something to consider.

So far, 18 incoming students have been accepted into the program after their audition with the School of Music, and 12 current Belmont students have changed their majors to music therapy, including sophomore Julie Lindberg.

“Music heals everyone,” said Lindberg. “Whether they listen to hard metal or Bach, it’s something everyone can relate to. I especially want to work with autistic and special education, soldiers with PTSD and kids to help them express themselves when words are hard to find.”

For students who have already completed an undergraduate degree, Belmont is also offering an equivalency program in music therapy.

“We also will offer, along with the major, what’s called post-baccalaureate equivalency,” said Bridges. “So that anybody who already has a music degree can come back here and just take the additional courses, do the internship and take the board exam.”

The program is still awaiting accreditation from the American Music Therapy Association and the National Association of Schools of Music.

“We are confident that we will gain accreditation,” said Elsberry.

With first hand experience in the field of music therapy, Plume has high hopes for the program.

“Nashville is a wonderful landscape for music therapy,” said Plume. “I think in the next few years as the program grows, we will see an increase in both people who will find this to be a great profession as well as settings that will want music therapists employed at their facilities.”

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