In 1969 I began my work in music therapy. At that time, in America there
was only one respectable book in our field, which had been published in
1968. It was of course E.T.'s very own Music in Therapy. In the United
States at least, this was the one textbook, the one source of academic
knowledge or to put it another way, The Bible of Music Therapy. Now more
than thirty years later, it's no longer possible to keep up with the music
therapy literature. Each year more and more books are published on music
therapy. And there's also an abundance of journals and newsletters from
around the world. Music therapy literature is written in many languages
So, you can imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when in the fourth stage
in a six stage process in my application for tenure at our university, the
University Tenure Committee came back with the news that no one on the
committee had ever heard of music therapy. Nor were they willing to give
me approval on the word of the six external evaluators from all over the
world, who had commented rather favorably on my scholarship. "Am I on the
right planet?" I asked myself. It was virtually inconceivable that a
group of nine academics could gather together in one room, put their heads
together and come up with the idea that no one had any knowledge about
music therapy. No one had read even one article (mind you these are all
senior scholars). No one had had a family member who had received music
therapy services. No one had ever heard the word mentioned, much less
considered it a legitimate field of study.
Don't worry. I did get tenure and I didn't even have to appear before the
"Inquisition". I was saved by the fact that a few members of our own
Faculty of Education Tenure Committee (stage two in the tenure process)
had heard of music therapy. And some were even aware of the prestige of
one of the presses (State University of New York Press) that published one
of my books, the prestige of the Journal of Music Therapy, in which I
published an article last year and the high level of scholarship in
theoretical and philosophical discourse of the Nordic Journal of Music
Therapy, where I have also published. A cynic might say that prestige is
the name of the tenure game. But not me!! Of course no one had really
heard of the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy. But after checking it out
on the web, half of the professors on the Faculty Tenure Committee want to
publish something in the Nordic Journal because they respect it so much!
That's dance educators, philosophers of education, critical theorists, and
administrative leadership scholars.
Now for the tough stuff. What does it all mean? The most obvious answer,
of course, is that there is a lot of work to be done. As we are
developing a wonderful discourse in music therapy through the elaboration
of our literature on the various methods and practices, the theoretical
implications, the professional issues such as supervision and licensing,
we must take care to remember that there are other things going on outside
our beautiful bubble. For those of us who have been working in the field
for thirty years or more we (and I certainly count myself in on this one)
feel that our work is done as far as public education. We've done enough.
It should be happening already. But it is not. And perhaps this work
must fall to the next generation.
A couple of years ago, in an interview on the Canadian Broadcasting
Company, I tolled the bell for music therapy by saying that I felt music
therapy would be subsumed by other more established fields such as
medicine and philosophy. And I also said that in another twenty years,
music therapy would no longer exist as a separate field. I used this
feeling or belief or vision, whatever it might have been to justify the
proliferation of good music therapy literature. My rationale was: "We
must preserve this work in text" before the field disappears. (Maybe that
tragic romantic tendency comes from playing too much Russian music). At
the time, the "music and medicine" label was appearing more and more. I
saw doctors writing about music therapy with great authority, sometimes
never mentioning music therapy and music therapists. Another version of
this was the psychologists or professional researchers who wrote (and
still do write) about music therapy theory. Certainly collaborations
between fields are important. I'm the first to support this. However,
when the voices and the experiences of the music therapists themselves are
not a significant part of the discussion, well, one has to wonder if any
of this is about music therapy.
There has been a tremendous interest in the relationship between music
therapy and ancient healing systems. This important aspect of our
discourse in music therapy is often subsumed by New Age entrepreneurs and
disillusioned academics who have gone commercial.
Yet, I have to say, even with these unfortunate pronouncements, I have
changed my belief about the length of life for music therapy. My sense is
that it will endure.
But what is the work to be done if it is to endure? Certainly music
therapy research is critical and we also need more and more variations on
our themes of practice. One reason I now believe that music therapy will
endure is the tremendous diversity that I have seen in the music therapy
literature and at presentations at international meetings.
However, what about the people who do not read our "insider" literature
and do not attend our conferences? There is also work to be done here.
We need to create literature and participate in community events and
popular expressions of literature if we are to gain access to the public
at large, to educate the general public about our art, our craft, our
science, our knowledge, our ways of knowing. We need to make more bridges
between fields of engagement disciplines, countries, classes,
socio-economic levels. Access is key. How will people know to ask for
music therapy if they don't know about it?
In discussing my tenure experience with one of my colleagues last week, I
said: "Well, you never know, maybe there is someone on that committee,
who will one day have a parent with Alzheimer's Disease, or someone who
will have a child with autism. Now they will know about music therapy."
My colleague responded with a smirk on his face, saying: "Oh, yea? Send
them a bill." There is much work to be done.
I'm happy to say that "Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy" is
dedicated to this bridge-building work. The works in our forum are
written in a style that makes them easily accessible to a broad range of
folks. The vision is inclusive and dedicated to supporting the music
therapy work in developing countries, places where "access" to clear and
understandable texts is extremely important. There are still many
scholars like the ones on my own University Tenure Committee who might
have to access the world wide web to "check music therapy out". Though
these people are scholars in their own fields, to us they are laymen who
need introductory ideas in order to "situate" music therapy first, before
they attempt to understand our bubble.
Well, I still like imagining that one of those guys (yes, they were mainly
guys) will find his new knowledge about our beloved field useful in a very
practical and maybe even profound way in his personal life. I don't think
I'll be sending out any bills for this one.
Kenny, Carolyn (2001) Will Music Therapy Endure?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2001-will-music-therapy-endure