Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Student Advocacy Project: A 3 Part Series (Part 3)



to offer or expose to view, to display, to present, to make manifest; explain.

Can you describe a time you have been an advocate for music therapy?

“I have had several occasions when I am discussing music therapy with special education teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physical therapists. It was important for me to explain that my future profession addresses similar goals as the other therapies.”  -Erica Porter, Senior at Nazareth College

“I actually went to a party this weekend and was talking to an acquantance about my 2nd clinic placement. Of course, he did not know what Music therapy was! I explained it and gave examples from my clinic placement last semester. He was very interested and impressed that I am helping people in such a great way.”  -Barbara Lippman, Junior at Nazareth College

“I’ve been an advocate for music therapy when I have described and explained what I have done in the clinical setting. It is especially effective when I share how a client has improved or positively reacted to music during a session. I also have presented to fellow music students how music therapists can assist music educators in a school setting.”  -Rebecca Finnigan, Senior at Nazareth College

“Worked for GST Boces summer of 2008-09 as 1-1 aide in 6:1:1 summer school high school autism classroom. I did “therapeutic music” sessions in the hallway once a week. Music therapy is not widely known in the southern tier by all of the students and teachers- but they loved it and wanted to have it full time. The teachers petitioned the board and new GST BOCES is looking to find a music therapist!”  Stephanie Kawzenuk, MAR-AMTAS President, Senior at Nazareth College

“I have been an advocate for M.T. when I have visited my old friend Joe when he was in the hospital. Joe is 88 and has parkinsons. I am a homehealth aide on the weekends for Joe and  during Christmas Joe got sick and needed to go to the hospital. Joe used to play the guitar, and it helps him eliminate stress. I visited Joe in the hospital a number of times with my guitar. I was an advocate for music therapy in the hospital room, the elevator, and hallways when many different people asked why I had my guitar.”  -Taylor DeLeo, Junior at Nazareth College

“I met my chiropractor for the first time and he asked me what I was going to school for. When I said music therapy, he was like “What’s that?!” I was surprised he never heard of it since he is in the medical field. I told him what music therapy was, and the different types of interventions that can be done with the different types of population’s music therapists work with. He said that he loves to play blues piano and find a it very relaxing to him. I feel good that I was able to spread the word of music therapy to medical professionals.”  -Gina Schuster, Senior at Nazareth College

“Demonstrating the value of our field to the interdisciplinary team at kids camp (an on campus interdisciplinary camp). These students from these other disciplines got to see first hand what we do and how well it compliments what they do.”  -Sarah Kliman, President of Nazareth Chapter, Senior at Nazareth College

“During the MAR 2008 conference, Nazareth college participated in the “student service project” in a hospital in Cherry Hill, NJ. We implemented physical communicative and social activities for the group. While we were leading the group, an administrator of the hospital stopped to talk to our supervising music therapist about what we were doing. Through the observation of our group and conversation with the MT-BC the administrator was looking to hire a part time music therapist. A couple years later, Carol Ann Blank, MAR Government Relations Chair, revisited the incident. Blank found out that the hospital indeed did hire a music therapist. Nazareth college helped advocate for music therapy and created a job!”  –Elaine Vuong, MAR-AMTAS Government Relations, Senior at Nazareth College




Filed under Music Therapy, Student Life

The Student Advocacy Project: A 3-Part Series (Part 2)



the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on, or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions etc. of others.

What is the most important thing you think people should know about our profession?

“Music therapy is research-based and has been proven beneficial for nearly all populations.  Before even that, people should understand the definition of music therapy and what a session might entail.” -Megan Sumner, Senior at Nazareth College

“Music therapy is not equal to music lessons. Music therapists are not music teachers. Although we might teach a client how to play an instrument, the goal is not performance driven.  Rather, the goal is to approach the cognitive, social, emotional, spiritual and communicative needs of the client… we address non-musical goals.”  -Erica Porter, Senior at Nazareth College

“We can work with so many different populations- not just children and the elderly. People should know that music and music therapy can benefit almost anyone.”  -Barbara Lippman, Junior at Nazareth College

“That it works. As abstract as it might sound, and as difficult to describe sometimes, music therapy works and improves the lives and functionality for many people.”  –Brian Halliley, Senior at Nazareth College

“The most important thing people should now about music therapy is that is can be received by anyone. You don’t have to be a trained musician to participate in a music therapy session. People of all different diagnoses and backgrounds receive music therapy, which I believe makes our field a universal service.”  -Kristen Muldoon, Junior, Chapter Representative, Nazareth College

“…It’s using music as a tool to address non-musical goals.” -Anonymous

“People should know how effective treatment in music therapy can be, especially compared with other services.  I recently read a study where clients with comparable disabilities  received physical therapy or music therapy.  Remarkably, music therapy saw quicker results.” -Anonymous

“How we cater and individualize to the client to make them as independent and as physically and mentally strong as possible.”  -Caitlin Preston-Fulton, VP Nazareth Chapter, Nazareth College

To read part 1 of the series check out:
Check in for Part 3 tomorrow!


Filed under Music Therapy, Student Life

The Student Advocacy Project: A 3-Part Series (Part 1)

It’s advocacy month for AMTA! This week I sought after the thoughts and idea’s of my fellow students. Hearing from professionals in the music therapy field is critical, however, hearing the standpoint of the “future” of music therapy offers a unique perspective.  In this three part series, I will post on different questions (and the answers!) I posed to students, and the responses they gave in return.



the act of persuading for, supporting, or recommending.    

Why is it important for students to advocate for music therapy?

“We are the future practitioners and we are learning the most current, up-to-date theories, philosophies and methodologies. Advocation is necessary to promote the significance of the field and without it the field may cease to exist.”  –Megan Sumner, senior at Nazareth College

“Advocating is my opportunity to share with others my knowledge about my future field and to remind myself what I’m working towards.  As a student I have physical therapists, speech therapists, nurses, teachers, and psychologists as my classmates… if I can help them get a basic understanding of what music therapy is, what we do as students to get our degree and become certified, then when I go out in the workplace I will be greeted with open arms by my interdisciplinary teams, rather than have to fight to start a position.”  -Jessica Jarvis Nazareth College, AMTAS-President Elect

“It is important that students advocate for music therapy because we are the future of music therapy and we can have the most effect when it comes to music therapy.  We should be around for a while so anything we start doing now will continue for years to come.  We are also closest with the people who will be in government positions in the future. If we advocate and spread the word to peers now, they will grow up knowing about music therapy, and understanding the benefits.”  -Erica Stone, junior at Nazareth College

“We are the ones who are learning about the current music therapy and we are the ones that need to educate and change peoples minds about it.  We are the future- we may not be able to influence current government officials, but we can influence the future officials that are our peers. Convincing the minds of people now is more important and influential for the future of music therapy.  If we can influence them, then the generation after us will also be influenced and music therapy will become a more recognized and respected field of work in society and in the government.”  -Anonymous

“We need to advocate for our profession because we are misunderstood and sometimes not taken seriously. People are naive to the fact that music can be a source of therapy and that we need to go through extensive training before we can practice.”  -Ryan Gerling,  junior at Nazareth College

“I feel like its very important for students to advocate because it will be are duty to keep music therapy alive and prove to other professions that music therapy is a proven discipline that works for the benefit of the clients.”  -Jennifer Colombo, Nazareth College

“Many people either do not know what music therapy is, or they have an incorrect view of what it is.  It is important for us as students to advocate for music therapy because we are coming from a fresh and new foundation with music therapy- learning about all the variety and not working with one population or area.”  -Kim Miller, junior at Nazareth College

Check in for Part 2… where students explore more questions…!

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Filed under Music Therapy, Student Life

Guest Post: Sharing Your Story, Making a Change (Part 2) by. Dena Register Ph.D., MT-BC

Part 2 continues with the story of what happened with music therapy in Oklahoma. Missed Part 1? Read it here.

The Powerful After-Effect

As influential as seeing a live session was, the interactions that followed are what I will never forget.

The Director of the RISE school arranged for the physical therapist (PT), the occupational therapist (OT) and two parents to come to the meeting and share their experiences. Both the PT and the OT indicated that having music therapy services available at the school made their job easier AND more effective. Children didn’t need to be pulled out of the group as often because Robbin was able to use music to support the goals that the PT and OT were working on and the children could “work” in the context of the large group.

However, the most powerful moment of the day came from a mother of one of the children with autism. She shared her experience at a number of different early childhood programs where her child was provided the requisite services, including a paraprofessional, according to the law. She said that while these services met the requirements there were no laws stating that those individuals had to work to see the best in her child or to try and maximize his potential and help him thrive in a least restrictive environment.

She ended by saying, “When Robbin comes in to provide music therapy we all see responses and possibilities in him that we don’t see at any other time. It is a chance to see my child look like every other child.”

The room was silent. I still tear up when I share this story.

This was followed by the Director of Developmental Disabilities Services for the state asking a very pointed question, ”Where can we send other legislators to observe these kinds of services?”

Robbin smiled sweetly and said,  “Right here.”

His reply: “I understand but what OTHER locations in the state offer this kind of service?”

And again she replied, “Right here.”

There were at least three jaws that dropped with that realization. In essence, only 18-20 young children in the whole state of Oklahoma were receiving these services on a regular basis.

This advocacy meeting was a “win”.

Oklahoma’s Music Therapy Practice Act Bill

Things began to move rapidly in the days, weeks, and months that followed this meeting. The task force has been summoned to present to various lawmakers and agency heads. They’ve invited parents and clients to testify about the effects of music therapy, conducted a self-study to explore support for music therapy services in the state and submitted legislation to allow licensure for board-certified music therapists.

If you asked any of the ladies who signed up to join the task force, I’m quite certain none would have said that they 1) always dreamed of doing this kind of advocacy work and 2) that they considered themselves proficient at it.

However, the bill they have helped to champion made it quickly and easily through the Senate last year and into a House committee before getting stalled behind budget negotiations. The bill will be pre-filed again this year and, if all goes well, will move through both the House and the Senate before arriving on the Governor’s desk for passage into law.

Advocacy and YOU

We have all learned so much about our profession and our capabilities through this process. One of the most striking things about this journey and how far this group has come is that there are less than 40 music therapists working in the state of Oklahoma! What an incredible illustration of the impact a few people can have AND the impact of music therapy on the lives of those we serve.

As you enter 2011, what kind of impact will YOU make? What contribution do YOU have to share? I’ll leave you with these few things to think about:

  • Advocacy is for anyone. Advocacy happens everywhere, any day of the week, any time you are engaging in a professional capacity. You can advocate at every level (e.g. from grassroots to state governors to national legislators). Any opportunity, any conversation is a way to advocate for the profession. Advocacy also happens within out profession–as when you talk to a person trained in music therapy about board certification. And the skills are familiar to you because you already do this in other ways–you advocate for your clients, your employment, and your pay.
  • Advocacy is a language. You need to know your audience and tailor your advocacy skills for that audience. It’s just like tailoring your clinical skills for different clinical populations. And experience is the best teacher–having your audience experience music therapy first hand is very powerful.
  • You are powerful. When you choose to support your self and your profession by maintaining your membership in AMTA and renewing your board-certification you are contributing to a more powerful you AND a more powerful professional presence. When you send a letter or an e-mail or make a phone call to a legislator you are using your power to participate in what is happening in your state.

Dr. Dena Register is the Regulatory Affairs Advisor for the Certification Board for Music Therapists and an Associate Professor of Music Therapy at the University of Kansas She can be reached at


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Guest Post: Sharing Your Story, Making a Change (Part 1) by. Dena Register Ph.D., MT-BC

Part of being a music therapist is sharing your stories—incredible stories—of the triumphs, both great and small, that you encounter every day.


We often have the opportunity to witness the absolute best in the human condition, from the new parents who are learning to adapt and support their pre-mature infant to the family who is grappling with a hospice diagnosis of a loved one. It is not unusual to hear (or say) the phrase “power of music” in our work with patients or clients of any age or ability-level.


I’m not sure that we teach storytelling, per se, as part of the music therapy curriculum, but perhaps we should. It is often the masterful account of how we choose, use and manipulate musical elements to get these “amazing” results that catches the eye of a potential funding source, employer or legislator. We are constant advocates for our clients or patients and our profession with every story that we share.


To that end, I’d like to share a story with you about the power of telling the “right” story, to the “right” group of individuals in just the “right” manner.


The Phone Call From Oklahoma

In late September 2008, I received a phone call from a member of the Oklahoma State Task Force. It was a Wednesday afternoon of a very busy week that seemed as though it ought to be Friday. There was mild panic intermingled with genuine excitement on the other end of the line.


But first, a little background:


Through several interesting twists, one of the task force members was introduced to and befriended a former State Senator who was a huge advocate for children’s services in the state, particularly for young children with special needs. He happened to be visiting the new RISE school in Stillwater, Oklahoma on a day that Robbin Buford, a board-certified music therapist, was providing services to one of the groups there.


Over the course of their new friendship, the former Senator asked a number of questions about music therapy, what kinds of services were available to constituents in the state, what kind of training music therapists received and if there were schools and internships in Oklahoma. Former Senator Long was impressed by what he saw at the RISE school that he began coaching the Oklahoma State Task Force in what steps to take to

  1. ensure that music therapy was recognized by the state and
  2. that state job descriptions were updated to require the MT-BC credential and provide quality services to patients and clients in the state.


Now back to that phone call:


Ed Long had arranged for several lawmakers who were currently in office, as well as some agency directors, to come to the RISE school the following Monday morning. He wanted the guests to have the opportunity to see Robbin in action and to have some time to discuss music therapy and the implications for the state over lunch following her session.


Robbin was calling me to see if there was any way to have regional and/or national representatives from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) present at the meeting to help field questions and talk about other clinical areas where music therapists provide services. Needless to say, this was an opportunity that we just couldn’t miss! With the help of the other members of the task force and Judy Simpson, AMTA’s Director of Government Relations, we were able to pull together packets of materials and a brief presentation following Robbin’s session.


I left Lawrence, Kansas on Sunday evening to drive most of the way to Stillwater for the Monday morning meeting. We all arrived an hour before the session to set up materials and prepare ourselves to meet and greet as people arrived to observe the group of eight children in the early intervention classroom. There were four children in the group with various special needs, including Down syndrome and autism.


As our guests arrived most were congenial and found a place in the observation booth or at the classroom entrance to watch the session. One gentleman in particular came in, introduced himself, shook hands and maintained a closed body posture with his arms folded across his chest. He went to the observation point that was the farthest away from the group and stood in the background.


A Change in the Room


As the session began, you could see the increased interest in what was occurring during the music therapy session. Body tensions subsided, people moved to a closer location to get a better view of what was happening and they began to ask questions about what was going on in the session.


The children, as always, did a fantastic job attending and engaging in a variety of musical processes that worked on skills across all developmental domains. This was true throughout the session, all the way to the post-session clean up where several children sang while marching the materials down the hall to be put away. Our observers were all smiles and full of questions as we moved from the classroom space to the conference room.


Next week: Stay tuned to learn what happened after the music therapy session, as well as tips for how YOU can be—and already are—an advocate.


Dr. Dena Register is the Regulatory Affairs Advisor for the Certification Board for Music Therapists and an Associate Professor of Music Therapy at the University of Kansas She can be reached at



Filed under Music Therapy, Musical Resources, Student Life

Skoog: Instrument Focusing on Accessibility

is a Skoog?
accessible musical instrument - new musical instrument 

The Skoog is an exciting new musical instrument with accessibility at its heart.  An instrument designed explicitly for special education to empower those unable to play traditional instruments.  The Skoog is a soft, squeezable object that simply plugs straight into your computer or laptop’s USB port.  Simply touching, pressing, squashing, twisting or tapping the Skoog allows you to play a wide range of instruments, intuitively.


Skoog - angle view Real expression, Real music 

Start making your own music.  For anyone unable to play orchestral instruments, the Skoog offers the opportunity to experience and play realistic musical sounds for yourself.    The Skoog gives you access to the full dynamic characteristics of a real flute or xylophone,  without asking you to master the real thing.  For example, you can use any part of your body, just squeeze the Skoog to blow a flute, or just tap it to strike a xylophone.

Full sensory feedback

The Skoog gives you unparallelled potential for personal musical expression.  It responds directly to your movement – and because the Skoog uses physical modelling synthesis, and not just sampling, midi or wavetable synthesis – variations in your touch directly affect the sound you produce.  Every subtle gesture held within your movement is converted into beautifully nuanced musical sound.

Watch demo

watch demo at


Pupil using the Skoog Versatile teaching resource 

The Skoog is extremely versatile as a teaching tool. The software offers a range of instruments including Brass, Woodwind, Percussion and Strings.  You can change the sensitivity with a click of the mouse, and save individual user settings. Skoogmusic’s software allows you customise the Skoog to suit the needs of a wide range of potential musicians and adjustable skill settings offer the opportunity to learn and grow.

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Filed under Music Therapy, Musical Resources

Guest Post: Judy Simpson MT-BC and Government Relations Director for AMTA on Advocacy

You Want ME to Do Government Relations?

Judy Simpson, MT-BC

Early in my music therapy career, I was asked to serve on the association’s government relations committee.  I declined, as I didn’t think I knew enough about “government relations” to be a strong representative for my region.

No one told me at the time that the skills I had developed as a music therapist were actually very similar to the skills needed for government relations work.  I believe, however, that all things happen for a reason and perhaps that experience was designed to help me share these thoughts with you some 20 years later.

What is “Government Relations”?

“Government Relations” sounds so formal and a little scary, so I think it would be helpful to break it down into something more relatable.  When most people hear the word government, it often brings back unpleasant memories of social studies fairs and history exams or creates negative images of politicians and systems with which they don’t agree.

But simply put:

  • “government” means the direction and management of a group and its activities, while
  • “relations” means the act of telling through friendly or business interactions.

So “government relations” for music therapists means telling everyone about music therapy, including those people involved with directing and managing the groups to which we belong.

Chances Are, You’re Already “Doing” Government Relations

When you think about it, isn’t that something we do everyday?  Or at least since we decided to become a music therapist?  Answering the expected question, “What’s music therapy?”  has prompted every student and clinician to prepare their famous “elevator speech” with variations in mind depending on the audience and the anticipated interaction time.

You know what?  I had that elevator speech, LITERALLY, long before I knew that it was a form of government relations.  When pushing my music therapy cart onto the elevator at the hospital where I worked, my standard line between floors was, “At St. Mary’s, we have LIVE elevator music,” as I proceeded to play a tune on the guitar.  That always prompted a quick discussion about music therapy and the units which received services.

That experience relating to people about music therapy came in handy a few years later, when I found myself presented with the challenge of accessing music therapy services for my daughter diagnosed with autism.

The school offered services with someone trained in music therapy, but who did not have board certification.  This situation required more than my elevator speech, but involved the same set of skills as I expanded the information shared, as well as the audience that was listening.  After about four months of coordinated communication with association staff, local music therapists, and state agency officials, my daughter was receiving IEP-based music therapy services from a board certified music therapist.

Government Relations = Advocacy = YOU

Every opportunity we have to talk about music therapy, to expand awareness, and to potentially increase access to services is a form of government relations.  It’s the work that we do to support our profession and the people who need our services.  It’s all about standing up for what you believe to be important and promoting the “cause” of music therapy.  It’s ADVOCACY.

In the long run, it’s really not hard to do…you are already doing it!  As you think about how you can expand your music therapy skills in 2011, consider joining in on the excitement that is advocacy for music therapy.  Jump on the bandwagon that is seeking state recognition of the profession and the MT-BC credential.

Just follow these simple steps and you’ll discover how easy it is to add “government relations” and “advocacy” experience to your resume!

1)    Attend state meetings.

2)    Participate in advocacy trainings during state, regional, and national conferences.

3)    Read and respond to State Task Force Emails.

4)    Initiate communication with your State Legislators by sending an email to them and telling them about your work as a music therapist in their district.

5)    If possible, invite these legislators to visit your employment setting to see music therapy in action.

6)    Tell your co-workers and administrators about the American Music Therapy Association’s (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists’s (CBMT) national initiative to work with music therapists in your state to improve recognition of music therapy.

7)    Maintain AMTA membership and CBMT board certification to insure access to

current information, technical support, and resources and to demonstrate             commitment to your profession and the provision of quality services.


I look forward to working with you and your colleagues as we “Do Government Relations and Advocacy” for Music Therapy!


Judy Simpson is the Director of Government Relations for the American Music Therapy Association She can be reached at



Filed under Music Therapy