Jacksonville University offers first music therapy program in Northeast Florida

September 22, 2023

The world war periods rendered thousands of service men and women catatonic, concave, disabled, and distressed; many hospitalized for traumatic injuries and persistent symptoms. In a seemingly unsoothable state of unfamiliarity, veterans confronted their post-war bodies and minds with the unlikely help of sympathetic musicians—America’s first music therapists. 

For nearly a century now, music therapy has been proven to treat and manage a range of conditions from autism, cognitive disorders, cancer, and dementia to mental illness, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes. Research shows that music therapy can achieve results similar to traditional therapies and even medications. Some examples of outcomes include stabilization of vitals (blood pressure, heart-rate, oxygen), decreased perception of pain, decreased anxiety, improved walking speed or distance, improved balance, increased number of verbalizations, and improved attention and memory. 

Both a medical profession and an art, Jacksonville University introduces Northeast Florida’s only music therapy program to its undergraduate curriculum. 

“We have had a focus on adding Music Therapy as a program for a few years, working our way through the process of proposal to implementation. Exploration of the program came from faculty across campus teaching in various disciplines such as Occupational Therapy, Communication and Sciences Disorders, Speech Language Pathology, Psychology, and of course Music. We are so excited for the launch of this collaborative, timely, and relevant program at our University,” said Associate Professor of Voice and Department Chair of Music, Kimberly Beasley. 

The Bachelor’s of Music program is interdisciplinary, consisting of courses in dance, health sciences, kinesiology, music, and psychology. Outside of their courses, students will develop clinical skills under the supervision of a board-certified music therapist in community centers, hospitals, nursing homes, mental health settings, rehabilitation centers, schools, and private practices.

“Between our unique collaboration with Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences and affiliations with a variety of medical settings in Jacksonville, we truly have the ideal educational and training experience for music therapy students,” said Interim Program Director for Music Therapy Danielle Porter. 

“This will allow them to develop therapeutic skills with persons of varying conditions and further determine what population they want to focus on during their internships. Students will learn how to assess clients, set goals, collaborate with the interdisciplinary team, and engage in treatment planning and implementation.”

Music therapy sessions look vastly different from patient to patient. Clients might move or walk with music, play instruments to improve coordination, engage in songwriting, analyze lyrics or perform with instruments for emotional expression, chant rote phrases or sing preferred songs to improve verbal clarity, or learn educational concepts and modify their behavior through music. 

“Music therapists are the future of healthcare and an expression of the search for natural, therapeutic remedies for every population. The integration of mind and body through music therapy will be life-changing for patients and the training of those therapists begins here at JU,” added Beasley.


Jenna Blyler


All Stories

See All News