Music therapy program rejoins music department

Music therapy class.

Music therapy program rejoins music department

S ome things are simply meant to go together—like salt and pepper, pencil and paper, lock and key. In July, after 23 years in the health sciences, Georgia College’s music therapy program will return to the music department.

All the various dominoes that were needed for this unification to happen were starting to fall, in regard to supporting reconnection between the two areas. By having both programs together, we avoid a lot of redundancy.
– Dr. Don Parker, chair of music
“All the various dominoes that were needed for this unification to happen were starting to fall, in regard to supporting reconnection between the two areas,” said Dr. Don Parker, chair of music. “By having both programs together, we avoid a lot of redundancy.”

Studies in the last several years showed advantages to moving music therapy from health sciences back to the music department in the College of Arts and Sciences. It made sense, since 45 percent of the Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT) courses fall under music. Music therapy programs at other universities are also grouped with music, Parker said.

Music therapy students practicing.
Music therapy students practicing.

The reunion allows for greater access to shared materials and gives music therapy students a better sense of community with other music majors. The move also allows Georgia College to promote its music department as the only program in the state with a Master of Music Therapy (MMT).

It’s more strategically cohesive for the future. We’re stronger together than we are separate, in terms of the way we function. We’re prepared for future opportunities and growth.
– Dr. Don Parker
“It’s more strategically cohesive for the future,” Parker said. “We’re stronger together than we are separate, in terms of the way we function. We’re prepared for future opportunities and growth.”

The music department sends yearly reports as part of Georgia College’s accreditation agreement with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Every year, Parker was mandated to include information about all music degree programs on campus, including music therapy, even though it didn’t fall under his jurisdiction. The music therapy program also receives yearly approval from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), based on its accreditation from NASM.

Parker chairs a transition committee to help facilitate changes with personnel, general operations, facilities, curriculum, programming, recruiting and marketing. Talks started in November between deans, chairs and faculty. In January, changes were explained to students. Parker and Lisa Griffin—interim chair of creative arts therapy and director of the School of Health and Human Performance—are doing all they can to ensure a smooth transition.

There will be slight changes and adjustments for faculty. Information needs to be added to the department’s mission statement, handbooks and recruiting materials. It’s also be a good time to review curriculum and streamline policies, Parker said.

Music therapy student with a client.
Music therapy student with a client.
For about 65 music therapy majors and five graduate students, however, there are no changes in their degree. Being in the music department will make things less confusing, Parker said. Students will access music resources with greater ease. They’ll be able to apply for music scholarships, and they won’t need academic approvals from two separate departments for courses.

The message to prospective students will be more consistent, as well, and the music therapy clinic that services the local community will be continued. Improvements to update Porter Hall will begin this summer.

“Really, nothing has changed for the students. It’s all for the better,” Parker said. It’s more consolidated. Everything is working in synergy.”

Junior music therapy major Kassie Dierker
Junior music therapy major Kassie Dierker
Junior music therapy major Kassie Dierker of Fitzgerald, Georgia, agrees. She doesn’t think anything has changed, except better communication between the music and music therapy departments. She’s excited to be eligible for music scholarships now.

Dierker wanted to go into the health field but also keep true to her passion for music. Music therapy was the best of both worlds, allowing her to maintain her saxophone, recorder and accordion skills. To get a degree, she must also be proficient on guitar and piano. So, it makes sense to her to be in the music department. As part of the degree, she’ll continue to take  courses like psychology.

Dierker hopes to work in a psychiatric hospital with patients suffering from psychological disorders and PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).

Other jobs for board-certified music therapy majors include working in rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes, corporate settings or private practice.

We have all of it now in a one-stop shop. Students can go in any direction they choose from general music, music education or music therapy with the best faculty. We’re all working for the students to make sure they achieve their goals.
– Dr. Don Parker

“I welcome the challenge of not only moving the program forward but anticipating what we can do together beyond the current norm to enhance our presence in the future,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with all the faculty, staff and students for a unified approach that will allow us to progress, as well as serve the campus and community.”