Owl News and Blog

Returning to Wakefield
Posted 02/13/2017 01:05PM

What is Music Therapy?

Returning to Wakefield to "Expand the Academic Horizons" for Students After Graduation

By Ava Marvin, Wakefield '13, Queens University of Charlotte '17

In early January, I had the joy of sharing my passion and a somewhat unique, yet viable, career path with Upper School music students. I am currently in my last semester of studying music therapy at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. A career in music therapy provides an opportunity to use creativity, scientific thinking, and musical skills while helping people through their journeys in life. Music therapy is difficult to briefly define because the practice can cross domains (e.g. motor, cognitive, emotional) and be appropriate for a wide range of populations, ages, and settings. For the purposes of this post, I will give my "elevator pitch" definition: Music therapy is the evidence based practice of using music as a tool to help facilitate specific, individualized, clinical goals.

I expanded on this definition in my presentation with the music students at Wakefield, explaining the many possibilities in the career, and the variety of therapeutic outcomes. I had done many "What is music therapy?" presentations in the past and I was particularly impressed with the deep and thoughtful reflections and questions the students had for me. However, I would have expected no less from curious Wakefield minds. Practicing and advocating for music therapy has taken me many places in my college career including pre-school classrooms to dementia care facilities, rock concerts to traveling in Ghana, Africa! Last month, music therapy took me back to where I came from. I was happy to come back to the school where I spent 14 years developing my basic educational toolkit, to now be able to expand the academic horizons of current students. For more information about music therapy I encourage you to check out the American Music Therapy Association's website at

"We are so proud of Ava and appreciative that she came back to Wakefield to share her passion and excitement for music therapy with us. Her presentation was poised and polished!" noted Chris Mulligan, Arts Department Chair. Wakefield loves to hear from our Alumni and share their stories.

Photograph: Ava Marvin '13 playing instruments and advocating for music therapy at Charlotte's Annual 2016 Buddy Walk for Down's Syndrome.

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