History of Music Therapy

In: Historical Events

Submitted By morgann
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The idea of music as a healing influence which could affect health and behavior is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato. The 20th century profession formally began after World War I and World War II when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to Veterans hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musicians needed some prior training before entering the facility and so the demand grew for a college curriculum. A very brief historical glimpse of this fascinating profession follows, below.

Earliest references

The earliest known reference to music therapy appeared in 1789 in an unsigned article in Columbian Magazine titled "Music Physically Considered." In the early 1800s, writings on the therapeutic value of music appeared in two medical dissertations, the first published by Edwin Atlee (1804) and the second by Samuel Mathews (1806). Atlee and Mathews were both students of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician and psychiatrist who was a strong proponent of using music to treat medical diseases. The 1800s also saw the first recorded music therapy intervention in an institutional setting (Blackwell’s Island in New York) as well as the first recorded systematic experiment in music therapy (Corning’s use of music to alter dream states during psychotherapy).

Early Associations

Interest in music therapy continued to gain support during the early 1900s leading to the formation of several short-lived associations. In 1903, Eva Augusta Vescelius founded the National Society of Musical Therapeutics. In 1926, Isa Maud Ilsen founded the National Association for…...

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