Healing through music: Music Therapy program recognized

In the fall of 2016,  Janice Schreibman, director and assistant professor of the music therapy program, worked on the proposal of a new major for the University of Indianapolis’ music curriculum: music therapy. There is a shortage of music therapists in Indiana, Schreibman said, and when she became involved in the creation of the major, in January 2017, the first course was made available for students.

Currently, the program has not been around long enough to allow any graduates since it is a four and a half year program, with four years in the courses, and a required six month internship of 900 hours. 

There is also an equivalency program within the department which allows students who already received their bachelor’s degree in music to take music therapy courses and receive credit for them. At UIndy, the program was implemented because of the interest shown from current students and alumnus in the music department. If the students want, they can go through the music therapy major, but with the extended hours it requires, the equivalency shows that they have similar skills to those in the major.

“Music therapy is recognized as an up and coming field, so it made sense to have a music therapy program. And many students who are graduating with a general music degree have pointed [at an] interest to music therapy as a career choice,” Schreibman said. “Now, also, other graduates prior to the music therapy program here at UIndy that had gone on to get equivalency [degrees] in music therapy from other institutions, so a couple different ways [UIndy] was looking at it, they could recapture students that had already graduated with a related music degree, and they could also provide services for the community here, where there’s a shortage of music therapists available.”

Music therapy is typically used for developmental issues, Alheizmer’s disease, rehabilitation and many things in between. Senior music therapy major Connor Furgason said that he was taught the purpose of music therapy is to use it to reach non musical goals, such as medicinal use. Currently, music therapy is offered in hospice facilities, Medicaid waivers,  in private practices, and among other facilities, Fergason said.

The program’s two year anniversary of certification from the American Music Therapy Association was recognized on Sept. 11, 2019. The department only had one professor when the major was created because Schreibman had only eight prospective students. Currently, they have 30 degree seeking students so they had to add another professor.

“The biggest thrill has been creating the program from scratch…”

To expand the program further, Furgason was approached by the professors of the music therapy department and was asked to create the Students of Music Therapy Program, a group that gets together solely to practice music therapy. Other universities with a music therapy major had the group already, and the professors at UIndy saw it as a beneficial opportunity for a small university and a new major to grow. Furgason became the founder and president of the group. From there, Furgason worked to guide the department to make it bigger, as well as expand the group’s knowledge. The group has traveled to music therapy conferences in Michigan, Ohio and this year, they will be traveling to Minnesota. 

“I think that really helps because we can all bring in a guest speaker or if there’s something we all don’t understand as a whole, we can figure it out together and play guitar together and get better at our own skills just off the clock of being in class,” Furgason said. 

Music therapy majors are required to know how to play the piano and guitar as well as pass in the voice category, said Furgason. Piano and voice are required for all music majors to learn, but the guitar is especially important for music therapy majors, according to Furgason. 

“It’s super portable, that one [instrument] you can take anywhere,” Furgason said. “It’s always on our backs, and you can play a melody or just cords, and it can either be super peaceful or really invigorating so it’s just really universal.” 

Schriebman said if students have questions or are curious about the program, they should take the Intro to Music Therapy Course. There are printed handouts available in the music office or students can email her directly to discuss possible careers in the field of music therapy.

“The biggest thrill has been creating the program from scratch and talking to other universities and seeing how they do things, discovering what works best for our community,” Schreibman said.