Not All Music is Created Equally

Not All Music is Created Equally #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #CreatedEqually

Who would you ask to fix your broken leg? – a dentist or a doctor?

Why? They both work with medicine.

Who would you ask to trade your investments? – a mathematician or a stock broker?

Why? They both work with numbers.

Who would you ask to fix your car? – a mechanic or a plumber?

Why? They both work with tools.

These questions may sound silly because we understand the dedication and training it takes to specialize in the fields of medicine, math, and maintenance.

What about the field of music? Where’s the appreciation and discernment for those who are trained in specialized fields of music? You may be thinking, “Wait a minute. I appreciate the training and practice that goes into becoming a professional musician who gets paid to play in a symphony orchestra; or someone who goes through college certification to become a music teacher; or the hours of rehearsal and crazy tour schedule to become a nationally recognized band.” Yes, those are very specialized areas within the field of music.

What about the field of Music and Healing? Do you know about those specializations? As the power of music awakens within our collective awareness, the feeling of excitement grows.

If you’ve been in a hospital lately, you may have seen musicians playing in the lobby or in chemotherapy infusion units. You’ve probably read newspaper articles about how music helps to reduce pain, heart rate, recovery times and more. You may even know someone who’s worked with a music therapist as part of their healing protocol.

Without belaboring my personal journey within this field, from classically trained professional harpist to intuitive spiritual healing harpist, I’d like to share an observation for consideration. (Full Disclosure: I am not and do not claim to be certified in any specialized field of music. My journey has been one of classical musical training, deep spiritual exploration, and applied experience which paralleled the evolution of the therapeutic musician field.)

Not all music is created equally.

This is not a judgment, rather a statement of discernment. Within the field of music, there are as many different types of musical expressions as there are musicians – and they all have value.

What I’ve observed for years is the need to increase awareness as to the various types of musicians within this emerging field of Music and Healing.

Here’s just a sampling of what it takes to specialize in this field:
Music Therapist:

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. In addition to the academic coursework (typically designed to be completed in 4 years with an additional 6-month internship after the course work is completed), the bachelor\’s degree requires 1200 hours of clinical training, including a 6-month supervised internship. Upon successful completion of the bachelor’s degree and internship, an individual is eligible to sit for the Board Certification exam to obtain the credential MT-BC (music therapist-board certified) which is necessary for professional practice.

Therapeutic Musician:

The practice of the TM is to use the intrinsic healing elements of live music and sound to provide an environment conducive to the human healing process – defined as the movement toward mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness. All of the training programs accredited by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians (NSBTM) maintain a current list of graduates on their websites. These directories list certified musicians who have completed training in therapeutic music and related concepts and a 45-hour internship playing at the bedside of patients in hospital and palliative care settings.


Music-thanatology is a professional field within the broader sub-specialty of palliative care. It is a musical/clinical modality that unites music and medicine in end of life care. The music-thanatologist utilizes harp and voice at the bedside to lovingly serve the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the dying and their loved ones with prescriptive music.

Vibroacoustic Harp Therapist:

A certified VAHT practitioner delivers live therapeutic music via an amplified harp (with at least 36 strings) to a patient who is positioned on a vibrotactile mat or chair. The VAHT home-study program is available for TMs and licensed medical professionals. Completion of a supervised practicum is required for certification.

I love that musicians of various levels of proficiency are offering to play in hospitals. My concern is the lack of discernment as to where they are playing. A lobby or public cafeteria is a great space to offer live music from musicians who are called to share their gift. From school age choral groups, high school volunteers, to professional symphony members, their musical gifts can be enjoyed by the general public.

Playing for families in waiting rooms or at a patient’s bedside is an entirely different scenario. It is not appropriate, ethical, or beneficial to allow just any musician to play in these areas. I don’t care how proficient they are with their instrument, if they have not been exposed to nor had some kind of preparation to play in these situations they could find themselves creating more distress for families and patients than healing. I know this may sound extreme so let me share an example:

“I will never forget when a local hospice called me to play harp for a young woman in a nursing home. This woman had listened to my CDs for months and the nurses wanted to surprise her with live music. I sat at her bedside and played the first chord. The waves of love flowing through this musical highway gently surrounded her and made their way into her heart. Something broke open and all of her pent up fears, anxiety, and unspoken feelings rushed to the surface. Her overwhelming cries of release were comforted by two nurses who climbed in bed and held her as if she were a child. I continued to play until she eventually fell asleep.”

For a musician who isn’t prepared for this type of response, it could be frightening. As the field of Music and Healing continues to grow, this conversation becomes even more important for musicians, hospital administrators, families and patients.

My next question:

Who would you ask to play music for your parent in hospice care? – a volunteer who plays in the lobby on Wednesday afternoons or a Specialized Musician?

Remember, not all music is created equally.

– Amy Camie

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