Music therapy is a major at Elizabethtown College that deserves more credit and publicity than it is given. It is a profession that uses the healing power of music to work on the non-musical needs of a variety of clients, such as the physical, emotional, cognitive and social skills of the individuals.
“Music therapy can make the difference between withdrawal and awareness, between isolation and interaction, between chronic pain and comfort — between demoralization and dignity,” said Barbara Crowe, a past president of their national association. This profession requires a dedicated, caring and hard-working person who is willing to work as hard as he or she can for the benefit of others.
The music therapy program at Etown is very well-known and is dedicated to helping the community. There are a number of music therapy opportunities around this area with which students get involved as part of their required coursework and additional volunteer experiences.
The music therapy students at Etown put on multiple events throughout the year. One of them is an interactive recital at the Masonic Village for around 100 older adults with varying diagnoses, and another is their “Open Door Recital” at the College for children with and without special needs. Approximately 60-80 children and parents attended the “Open Door Recital” this year. The recital for children started because the parents of many of the young clients wanted a recital they could attend where they wouldn’t be disruptive. Performances for the recital are kept to about three minutes, and they are very interactive to keep the children’s attention.
In the fall, the students go to Masonic Village and perform a different genre of music each year for their “Love the Music” recital. The last concert was love songs through the ages, in the past other themes included patriotic songs, Broadway and sing-a-longs. The recital at Masonic Village started as a volunteer project to bring music to the residents. This helped students learn how to present music to different types of audiences, such as what songs to pick for certain age groups for whom the students perform. Also, twice a month on Wednesday mornings, the students go to the Masonic Village to present music experiences for an Activities of Daily Living Program. This music program lasts for about 30 minutes.
Etown’s music therapy students also go to a regional conference every year. Elizabeth Shea, a senior music therapy major, described how the education and experience she received at Etown has really paid off. She noticed when all the students were assigned tasks at the conference that she felt very comfortable doing them when others did not. “I felt leaps and bounds ahead of other students with experience,” said Shea, who won the Jenny Shinn award at the Regional Conference.
The clinical experience that the music therapy students at Etown receive teaches them to effectively use music to meet the needs of a variety of clients, and thus have a wealth of clinical experience when they get a job after graduation. Etown’s program is unique because of the amount of clinical experience the students are able to get from their first semester at Etown all the way through their senior year.
The students start observing sessions at the clinic right away as first-years. In their second semester, the students track the progress of a client they are assigned. One method is through the one-way mirror. The student can view the client’s therapy session and keep notes on it. In their third semester, the student takes part in the session as an assistant. They observe, record data, write chart notes, assess treatment plans and draft final reports. From their fourth semester on, the students have to complete five practicums with three to five different groups of people. These practicums are either at the on-campus clinic, the Masonic Village, a special needs classroom in an elementary school, the Hershey Penn State Medical Center in the neonatal or oncology center or the Bethany Children’s Home. Students get feedback about sessions, which helps their learning and helps the clients move forward. This clinical experience brings together everything the students have learned.
The music therapy program at Etown is very prestigious and gives the students a solid education with which to enter the real world. The students in the program frequently volunteer throughout the community, which helps the students learn about the profession by putting them in different real world circumstances. It also helps build the reputation for the music therapy program.