The 10 Best Music Therapy Schools in the US

If you’ve ever felt better after listening to or playing music, you’ve experienced the healing power of music therapy.

Music therapy is an official field of study that has grown rapidly over the past few decades. 

It involves a thorough study of music, psychology, teaching, and real-world clinical experiences. 

Music therapy has been proven to help children, adolescents, adults, the elderly, and those with mental health, developmental, or learning disabilities.

The curriculum for music therapists usually involves a combination of health courses and modules on music performance, composition, and theory.

A mandatory clinical internship or period of fieldwork experience is usually part of this highly interdisciplinary degree.

Today, music therapy is offered as an undergraduate and graduate degree at many schools with highly regarded music programs across the country.

The following list describes 10 of the best music therapy degrees in the U.S. 

To make the list, each school must have both undergraduate and graduate degree options in music therapy. All of these programs are certified by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).

To become a board-certified music therapist, graduates of these programs must pass the national exam of the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). The national pass rate is about 74%.

Western Michigan University School of Music (Kalamazoo, MI)

Music therapy at WMU is a fully interdisciplinary program with clinical connections to over 30 medical, educational, and health-related institutions in and around Kalamazoo.

WMU’s Brain Lab aims to study how sensory stimuli are processed through the central nervous system. Specifically, researchers want to know how music affects human functions such as arousal, attention, memory, mood, and movement. 

Currently, WMU works with research partners McGill University and the University of California, San Francisco to help answer these questions.

Music therapy students at WMU have several opportunities to gain professional experience before they graduate. 

They can apply for a music therapy internship, get involved at the Music Therapy Clinic, and join the Student Music Therapists Association, a student organization open to both undergraduates and graduate students.

Arizona State University School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (Tempe, AZ)

Music therapy students at ASU will receive a broad, rigorous education in instrumental performance as well as therapeutic skills.

Students learn improvisation, songwriting, world music, and popular music styles. They can hone their instrumental skills by participating in one of ASU’s many orchestras, bands, ensembles, and choirs. 

Ethnomusicology ensembles include African Drumming, Javanese Gamelan, Mariachi, and Steel Pan.

The ASU Music Therapy Clinic offers professional development opportunities for students, connecting them with real patients in the community. 

The school’s metropolitan location makes it easy for students to complete the six-month required internship at local healthcare facilities.

SUNY Fredonia School of Music (Fredonia, NY)

The music therapy curriculum at SUNY Fredonia involves musical training, professional courses in psychology and music therapy, and clinical and therapeutic experience.

Music therapists who have a bachelor’s degree from Fredonia or elsewhere and are board-certified can complete the Master of Music in Music Therapy in 18 full-time months or at their own pace.

The master’s program gives students the chance to supervise undergraduates, prepare for the New York State License in Creative Arts Therapy, and train in advanced models from field experts. 

Graduates emerge from the program ready to expand opportunities for music therapy services in clinics and educational institutions across the country, serving older adults, children with disabilities, people with mental disorders, and other populations.

Shenandoah University Conservatory of Music (Winchester, VA)

Shenandoah University Conservatory of Music
Eruditefello, Shenandoah U; Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre, CC BY-SA 3.0

At Shenandoah, music therapy students receive a multidisciplinary, dynamic education that has the potential to take them across the world.

Options abound. Students can take classes in a virtual reality lab; work in teams of nursing, pharmacy, and occupational therapy students in the interprofessional education program; complete a clinical placement at INOVA hospital; or travel abroad to the World Congress of Music Therapy

The education that a music therapy student receives here is as varied and dynamic as the field of music therapy itself.

In addition to excellent academics, Shenandoah hosts several special events, like the Music Therapy Colloquium.

The student music therapy association, SUMTA, puts together further events where students, alumni, and other community members can network.

Montclair State University John J. Cali School of Music (Montclair, NJ)

Studying music therapy at Montclair State University ensures ample opportunity to do clinical work every semester at New Jersey and New York City facilities. 

The four-and-a-half-year degree program includes a six-month internship at one of over 150 facilities across the country. Several internships come with a stipend or residential subsidy, but they all provide essential training to future music therapists through clinical and academic learning.

The school also offers presentations and workshops by visiting clinicians who practice in the U.S. or abroad. Past guest clinicians include Clive Robbins, Clare O’Callaghan, and Elaine Streeter.

The state-of-the-art David Ott Lab for Music and Health is a recording and research space dedicated to examining the effect of digital music on human health. The lab includes a high-tech recording studio equipped with various recording software and hardware.

University of Miami Frost School of Music (Coral Gables, FL)

The Frost School of Music is famous for its patented Frost MethodⓇ curriculum, a comprehensive music education that covers everything from business, performance, critical thinking, and music technology.

Its music therapy program is no less innovative. Undergraduates must complete five clinical training or fieldwork experiences, equivalent to five semesters. 

These real-life courses prepare students to interact with patients of all ages with different neurological and developmental conditions, incrementally developing their musical and therapeutic skills semester by semester.

Students train at their pick of venues in and around Miami, including Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami VA Medical Center, and Miller School of Medicine.

The Ress Family Hospital Performance Project gives music therapy students further opportunities to help the Miami community. The program brings Frost music students to local hospitals to help lift the spirits of patients through live performances.

University of Minnesota School of Music (Minneapolis, MN)

University of Minnesota School of Music
AlexiusHoratius, Ferguson Hall Minnesota, CC BY-SA 3.0

Any student would be fortunate to go to the University of Minnesota, the top public college in the state.

Music therapy students thrive here because there is an on-campus music therapy clinic that has active research engagements with the university’s medical center and local medical community.

The clinic, in addition to providing clinical opportunities, features an observation booth where students can watch professionals give music therapy sessions to different kinds of patients. 

The booth boasts high-tech instruments and computers to collect data for research studies. Junior and senior music therapy students can even provide supervised services at the clinic to practice before graduating.

On top of learning what it takes to be a professional music therapist, students can join various ensembles to explore other types of music to integrate into their practice. Groups include choir, concert bands, jazz, percussion, orchestra, world music, and opera.

Florida State University School of Music (Tallahassee, FL)

FSU’s music therapy program is comprehensive, with a particular focus on developmental music therapy.

The Early Notes Network is a music therapy consortium studying childhood neurodevelopment. The consortium is made up of FSU and six other music therapy programs across the nation, all dedicated to expanding quality music therapy research and clinical practice in early childhood. 

FSU’s National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy also offers sessions for families with young children to develop language, motor, and cognitive skills through music. Music therapy students have the chance to get involved in these highly specialized interdisciplinary fields.

Students can complete pre-internship clinical requirements at one of many practicum sites, including elementary and middle schools, hospices, mental health clinics, and retirement homes in Tallahassee.

Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)

Berklee College of Music
John Phelan, Berklee College of Music, Boston MA, CC BY 3.0

As a world-renowned leader in music education, Berklee is home to a vibrant music therapy program.

The school emphasizes cutting-edge technology as a way to expand access to music therapy for as many people as possible. This includes clients with communicative and creative barriers as well as music therapy practitioners with disabilities.

At Berklee, music therapists and technologists collaborate to make prototype software based on the unique needs of patients and researchers. 

Then, the school hosts symposia to discuss the technology, field testing, and goals for the future. Students can also take a new course on music health applications through the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship.

Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance (Philadelphia, PA)

Temple offers a variety of concentrations within the discipline of music therapy.

Undergraduates can major in music therapy or even music therapy jazz, either of which are completed with a concentration in a performing instrument.

These programs last four and a half years, which include a semester of post-academic clinical training after senior year. 

Graduate students can get a Master’s in Music Therapy (MMT) or a PhD. Whichever path you choose, you will be guided by expert faculty with experience in the NICU, developmental disorders, and more. 

To supplement academic study, students can join the Music Therapy Club — a fundraising organization for charities and for sending students to AMTA Conferences in the mid-Atlantic region — or the National Association for Music Education, the Temple chapter for music educators.

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