Music therapy seniors research emotional expression through playing instruments

Samantha Kick November 3, 2016 0

Senior music therapy students Zoe Robinson, Sarah McCollum, Ashley Doron, Cody Thompson, Bethany Wentling and Madison Button are currently engaged in conducting research for a senior project. Their study aims to discover the way in which different emotions are communicated by different instruments.

Each student has been equally involved in the various aspects of the project, which required a literary review and analysis. According to Button, the group selected this during a collective brainstorming session. They selected the topic over others present because of the lack of current research on emotions and instruments, the level of difficulty involved in setting up experiments and the appeal of the topic to the group members.

“[This project] was the most feasible to get done within our specific timeframe,” Doron said.

Projects such as these are important to music therapy. “[Music therapy] relies on research to prove itself a legitimate field,” Button said. “Conducting student research at Etown gives our students the knowledge of what proper research entails and how to read and comprehend research articles and gives us experience that can be beneficial on the job hunt.”

Music therapy students are assigned projects such as this one in order to familiarize them with how to properly conduct research studies.

Button considered the hardest part of the study the preliminary paperwork. After that was approved, the group began locating a focus group of participants.

“I did not know what to expect going [into the project], but I’m enjoying it now that we are conducting research instead of preparing to conduct,” Button said.

Doron considered determining the methodology of the study the most difficult part. Once that was agreed upon and confirmed as ready by their faculty member, the group sent an email to randomly selected Etown students asking them to participate in the study.

According to the email, participants spend approximately 25 minutes listening to “short recordings of music improvisations played on different instruments” in the Zug Memorial Hall computer lab at a time convenient to them and “identify the emotional content using SurveyGizmo.”

Now in the process of enacting their empirical study, the seniors are all holding one another accountable for helping collect and manage data. “We all try to balance out the work as much as we can,” Doron said. “Each group member is responsible for putting in a certain of amount of time, so we can get the work done.”

Doron feels strongly that working on this project will help her and her classmates succeed in their chosen field. “The importance of research in music therapy is to prove that music, the tool we use to work with clients, is efficient, effective and accountable because music therapy is an evidenced-based practice,” Doron said. “The importance of student research at Etown is to help us become better professionals in our field, to teach us how to think critically and support our claims to prove that what we expect to happen in our study will happen.”

The researchers believe that the project is receiving a good response to their participation requests. However, they would like to see more student involvement to be sure the results are applicable to general population.

To participate in the study, email


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