MUW to have first music therapy graduate

By Jill D. O'Bryant

Mississippi University for Women

COLUMBUS – Amanda Miles chose the music therapy major for simple reasons.

“I have a passion for music and the need to help others,” she said.

“Music has influenced my life in so many ways, and I knew I had to use the power and knowledge it has given me to help change the lives of others,” said the Maben native. “Until you experience it first hand, you cannot fully respect the power music has to offer and the importance of the music therapy profession.”

Miles will be the first graduate of Mississippi University for Women's music therapy program this month. She will be recognized at the Graduates' Recognition Ceremony at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 in Rent Auditorium of Whitfield Hall.

Miles transferred to MUW, the only public university in Mississippi with a music therapy program, after earning an associate of music degree from Wood College. She is one of 10 students enrolled in the program this fall. Three more will graduate in the spring.

MUW's music therapy program, which began accepting students in 2002, is approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Accreditation with the National Association for Schools of Music will be official now that the program has its first graduate.

Music therapy is the use of music activities, experiences and interactions by a board-certified music therapist in a therapeutic setting to restore, improve or maintain mental and physical health.

In order to maintain a clinical practice, music therapists must complete an approved bachelor's-level degree program in music therapy, complete at least a 1,020-hour approved music therapy internship and pass the National Board Certification Exam in Music Therapy.

Proud of graduate

Kristen Chase-Trask, assistant professor of music and director of music therapy, said she is proud that the program she helped start will have its first graduate.

“I am very proud, not only to have our first graduate, but to know that she finished a very competitive internship” at Healthsouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Facility in Birmingham, Chase-Trask said. “Her internship supervisor stated she was the most prepared student she has ever had, and this internship has been around for quite some time.

“It's very satisfying to know that the program you started is gaining an excellent reputation.”

Miles said she enjoyed her internship experience at Healthsouth, which treats patients who have suffered brain injuries, strokes or spinal cord injuries. She sees four patients and conducts three group sessions per day. She is responsible for the patient's initial assessment, treatment planning and treatment sessions every day until they are discharged from the facility.

“The work is very demanding but also very rewarding,” she said. “The drive and sheer emotional strength I see in my patient make me strive to not only be a better therapist but to be a better person.”

In addition to the required course work and internship, students provide free music therapy services to several community agencies, including the on-campus Child and Parent Development Center as well as Windsor Place Nursing and Rehab Center and Brainstorm, a program at the YMCA for persons with brain injuries, as part of their supervised clinical practicum training.

“Our program fosters connections between the school and the community,” Chase-Trask said.

Typical employment opportunities are in medical hospitals, public schools, nursing homes, counseling centers and private practice.

After taking her board certification, Miles said she plans to start her own music therapy business in the Golden Triangle area called Healing Notes LLC.

“Through my clinical experience I have seen what a difference music therapy can make in the lives of those in need, and my hope is to bring the profession to life in the Golden Triangle area,” she said.

For more information about MUW's music therapy program, contact Chase-Trask at kchase@muw.edu or (662) 329-7341 or visit the Web page at www.muw.edu/fine_arts/MusicTherapy.htm.