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A BRIEF HISTORY OF
THERAPEUTIC MUSIC AND THE NSBTM

Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the use for music for therapeutic purposes has spanned centuries. Music's value lies in its inherent ability to enhance connection and communication, as well as to benefit physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Music used for healing in modern times consists mainly of the practices of Music Therapy, Therapeutic Music, Sound Healing, and other similar vocations. Modern forms of Music Therapy began after the first and second World Wars, when community musicians, both amateur and professional, visited veterans' hospitals around the country to play for those suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The patients' notable responses to the music led to healthcare staff requesting that musicians be hired at hospitals, but it soon became evident that hospital musicians needed training prior to entering a facility. From here, the field of Music Therapy developed. In the 1980s, Dr. Ron Price, a music professor at Northern Illinois University who had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, discovered that playing his harp every day kept his neurological symptoms at bay. He credited this improvement to the harp's engagement of both mind and body. Later, he discovered that neurological improvements from playing the harp were not confined to his own experience. He formed a harp program for troubled boys, and later a local performance group consisting of members with physical, neurological, and emotional disabilities. Dr. Price clarified that, though the harp is no miracle cure, the working of the muscles and brain aided his performers, just as it did himself. Soon, formalized training programs were created. In 1991, Therese Schroeder-Sheker, a harpist specializing in medieval music, opened the first training program in Music Thanatology. Music Thanatology is focused on end-of-life care using voice and harp in individualized response to the changing physiological needs of the patient. In 1993, four musicians (Laurie Riley, Martha Lewis, Mary Radspinner, and MaryAnn Schulz) founded The Music for Healing and Transition Program (MHTP) and offered on-site training for harpists and other musicians. The program was conceived in response to a need for a training program for those who wished to provide live music for many patient settings beyond end-of-life, but who were not interested in becoming Music Therapists. There was a growing interest in providing music that deviated from the interactive, prescriptive work of Music Therapy. While Music Therapists often incorporate various instruments, rhythm, and singing for the purposes of socializing, neurological development, psychology, and rehabilitation, Certified Therapeutic Musicians play with less of a linear outlook, instead playing at the bedside without soliciting any reaction from patients and without setting specific patient goals. The field of Therapeutic Music grew, and within a few years, three additional Therapeutic Music training programs had been developed, each with their own method of delivery and specific focus, but all having similar objectives: The International Harp Therapy Program (IHTP), founded by Christina Tourin, offered on-site therapeutic music training for harpists only. The International Healing Musician Program (IHMP), founded by Stella Benson, offered webinar-based training for harpists and other musicians. The Clinical Musician Certification Program (CMCP), founded by Laurie Riley, offered training for harpists and other musicians through independent study. This program was initially named the Clinical Musician Home Study Course. The mission of each of these programs was to train musicians to provide effective therapeutic music at the bedside. In 2003, the founders of these programs, along with several individuals also interested in developing the field of Therapeutic Music, created the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians (NSBTM). The founding board established curriculum standards, an accreditation process for training programs, and a code of ethics for programs and practitioners. The organization was incorporated in 2007. The first Board was seated in 2008 and completed the first accreditation process with the assistance of three outside consultants. The process resulted in the accreditation of the four programs mentioned above. The IHMP closed its certification program in 2010 and is no longer active. The other three programs are still accredited as of 2023. Bedside Harp, founded by Edie Elkan in 2002, was accredited by the NSBTM in 2017, and the Healing Harp Certification Program was accredited in 2022. Each accredited program must go through a re-accreditation process every 4 years. The accredited programs, as well as affiliate programs that support the NSBTM's mission, are represented by members of the Board and/or Representative Council. The NSBTM defines and upholds the standards of training for these programs and continuously works to improve and grow the field of Therapeutic Music through projects and resources. The board developed and sells the Therapeutic Music Presentation Planner to assist Therapeutic Music students and graduates in presenting and communicating effectively their services and scope of practice. The NSBTM is committed to supporting the availability of professional, non-prescriptive live music at the bedside of patients in healthcare facilities.

The Founding Committee

Established in the fall of 2003, the founding committee, comprised of directors and officers of established certification programs, was instrumental in creating the original Courses of Study, Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Accredited Programs, and Scope of Practice, as well as recruiting the first board of directors. The founding committee hired, and worked in conjunction with, independent consultants to establish the first application process for the accreditation of certification programs. The founding members were:

  • Stella Benson

  • Lynette Edelson

  • Melinda Gardiner

  • Mona Peck

  • Cynthia Price-Glynn

  • Laurie Riley

  • Dee Sweeney

  • Christina Tourin

  • Betty Truitt

  • Sarajane Williams

The Board thanks the following people for their contributions in the formation of the organization.

  • Edie Elkan

  • Julie Hussar

  • Rebecca Lytle

  • Nell Morris

In Memoriam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stella Benson

 

Stella Benson passed away on the 28th of July 2014. She began her journey into healing music in 1992 and was instrumental in bringing together leaders in the emerging field of therapeutic music to create the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians. Stella was the person who steadfastly imagined and held the “container” that has manifested the NSBTM as it is today. She chaired the Board for several years, was its archivist, developed and maintained its original website, and devoted countless hours to the Board as it matured.

Stella’s impact extends far beyond the Board and the patients for whom she played. Her educational books, therapeutic music collections, and recordings have been and will continue to be invaluable resources to therapeutic musicians entering and working in the field, both in the US and internationally. The Board is very grateful for her contributions to our field and know her presence will continue to be felt.

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