The History of Music Therapy



The roots of music as medicine trace back throughout human history, and in the United States Music Therapy has a long history as well.  The earliest known academic literature on the subject was the article “Music Physically Considered,” published in 1789 by Columbian Magazine of Philadelphia, PA.  Music Therapy was first used in an educational setting in the 1830s at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.  It was established as a profession in the aftermath of World Wars I and II when musicians worked with veterans in VA hospitals to address the physical and emotional traumas that war veterans struggled to overcome.  Doctors and nurses noted the patients’ unique positive response to music and requested that the hospitals hire musicians. It soon became clear that the hospital musicians would require specialized training; thus, the demand for a college curriculum grew.  The first academic Music Therapy program was established at Michigan State University in 1944.  The National Association for Music Therapists was founded in 1950 and today is called The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).  The board of the AMTA is responsible for creating a constitution, bylaws, research journals, a standardized curriculum, a board certification exam, and continuing education requirements that ensure it’s Music Therapists across the country provide the highest standard of care.