Making Medical Advances with Music Therapy in Morgantown


By: Sierra Singleton

When you think of health care you think of medicine and care as pills, surgery, shots, and exams but one may not think about music. The truth is music can be a useful and powerful tool when discussing medical treatment for children, adolescents, and seniors. Many states have come to adopt music therapy as a mainstream practice with Pennsylvania leading with 400 practicing music therapist. Also, many universities have implemented music therapy into their music programs. Berklee College of Music, Florida State University and New York University are home to some of the most popular and best music therapy programs in the US according to the American Music Therapy Association.


Even though the popularity of music therapy has grown over the last 10 years, music therapy is almost nonexistent here in WV. Amy Rodgers Smith, a music therapist and owner of On a Better Note, suggest that maybe the reason WV is behind in music therapy is because there is no formal program teaching and promoting music therapy in the state. WVU and the School of Music hope to change all of that with their new music therapy program. As of spring of 2015, WVU is now the home to the states very first music therapy program where students can complete a Bachelor of Music degree.

Students will be able to engage in lecture and community based leaning while earning their bachelors. Participants will be required to complete courses in musicianship, music therapy, and behavioral sciences such as psychology, health sciences, and development. They will also be required to complete 6 months of a clinical internship and the exam for certification by the Board for Music Therapist. Paul Kreider, dean of the College of Creative Arts, recognizes the importance of training students and providing them with the necessary tools to pursue a career in music therapy by stating for WVU News, “The demand for board-certified music therapists across the country is strong… this will offer our residents the chance to get the training they need to pursue a career in this growing field.”

Dena Register, an associate professor and director, is the head of the music therapy program at WVU since its conception in 2015. Register has had many years of training in music therapy with previous experience at the University of Kansas, where she served as a teacher in their music therapy program as well. Register recalls how music therapy helped a patient with cerebral palsy with his leg stretching exercises for Stacey Dabaldo, a writer for the West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “He was almost five but he couldn’t sit up by himself… he also wasn’t initiating a lot of the movements. So we added music to what the physical therapist was directing. So what we did was put a drum at the bottom of it (his bed) so that when his leg came down, it hit the drum. And he was very motivated by that!” Read more about how music therapy has helped patients and families here.

Many may not know but Morgantown is home to some of the most cutting edge technology programs in the US. Ruby Memorial Hospital makes headlines frequently for their advances in cardiovascular, neurology, and pediatric care because Ruby Memorial and WVU are committed to exploring new strategies, techniques, and medicines to better care for their present and future patients. Music therapy will help Ruby Memorial and WVU truly think outside the box when it comes to medical treatment.


Music therapy has become a radical and essential part of treatment for helping the mental, emotional and physical ailments of patients with autism, dementia, and brain injuries. Through music, patients can meditate, facilitate exercise, and improve movement and flexibility. Music therapy is even used to improve a patient’s memory, physical balance, and can act as a catalyst for development of speech and communication skills. WVU would be able to take advantage of this growing and flourishing new medical practice as music therapy is becoming more popular in hospitals, schools, jails and prison systems, rehabilitation centers, and hospice care.





One thought on “Making Medical Advances with Music Therapy in Morgantown”

  1. This is a really interesting article because I think art and music are so important in today’s society. I know I definitely listen to a lot of music as a form of therapy and to take my mind off of things, so I’m glad to see that things are starting to change. I know that thee is an office somewhere in the Creative Arts Center that hosts a music therapist, but I haven’t been to or talked to him. It seems like a good start, so hopefully WVU will implement a better program here soon!


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