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UMKC Music Therapy Department Celebrates 50 Years

The program reflects on the last 50 years, and the next.
Kelsie+Lemon+and+Dr.+Amy+Robertson
Provided by MCOM CNS Music Therapy Class
Kelsie Lemon and Dr. Amy Robertson

 Faculty, students and alumni of UMKC’s Music Therapy department are gearing up for a momentous occasion as they celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary.

  Set to take place April 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, the event promises to be a day filled with reflection, connection and a vision for the future of music therapy.

  Dr. Amy Robertson, a music therapy professor, emphasized the close-knit relationships among faculty, students and alumni, underscoring the program’s legacy of excellence and community support. 

  “It’s in the heart of Kansas City, and it’s hard to find a university program with such a thriving music therapy community around it,” said . “Here in Kansas City, we are inundated with music therapists working throughout the city and in multiple populations.” 

  Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals, according to the American Music Therapy Organization.

  The anniversary event will feature presentations by alumni and students, showcasing the breadth of experiences and accomplishments within the UMKC music therapy community. 

  Andrea Dalton, an alumna and current president of the American Music Therapy Association, will deliver the keynote address, sharing insights from her impactful work in trauma-informed care education. 

  Additionally, state representative Ingrid Burnett, another UMKC music therapy graduate, will offer remarks highlighting the program’s influence beyond academia. 

  The program’s experiences have equipped students like Tess Martens and Hadley Jarvis with invaluable skills and versatility.

  Martens, a senior music therapy student and president of the Association of Music Therapists, emphasized the program’s emphasis on hands-on learning and community engagement.

  “My real-world practicum experience has been so diversified,” Martens said. “I’ve worked in stroke rehab, I’ve worked in early childhood, I’ve worked in hospice. This semester, I’m in inpatient psych and in NICU.”

  Jarvis, a junior music therapy student and president-elect of the Association of Music Therapists, praised the program’s unique approach to education, particularly its rigorous clinical skills evaluations. 

  Semester exams include a “test performance” where students play a few songs on various instruments, sing and perform other elements that are important to music therapy. This test is also practice to help students get more comfortable with each skill and overall better at their craft.

  “It really prepares us for practicum and internships because we have those skills to be able to do some of those things on the fly because we’ve had to do them going through school,” Jarvis continued.

  Looking ahead to the next 50 years, the UMKC Music Therapy department is poised for continued growth and impact. With a commitment to advocacy, innovation, and community engagement, the program seeks to expand its reach and solidify its position as a leader in the field of music therapy.

  “I would love to have our program to not only be known for providing its students preeminent education and a successful transfer into contemporary music therapy practice,” Dr. Robertson said. “But to also be on the map for high-level innovative research, and for it to be a destination not only for undergraduate and master’s degrees, but also for PhD students as well.”

  To learn more about the anniversary event, visit the conservatory’s website.

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