The National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) was founded on June 2, 1950.  The events prior to the formation of the Association were influenced by various activities of the early musicians who employed music in the clinical setting.  The armed forces for example had longed recognized the value of music for morale purposes, music provided by the music organizations and clubs to the military and civilian hospitals and the growth of music in industry.  These are the developments that led to the growth in utilization of music in the treatment program.  Although several music associations such as Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), Music Educators National Conference (MENC), and National Music Council (NMC) had for many years showed their interest in music in therapy, it was apparent that if the use if music was to be realized fully its therapeutic potential as well as to secure the respect of the medical profession, the music therapy movement would need some sort of judicious leadership (Boxberger, 1962).  The associations also realized that for music therapy to continue to develop into a profession, it would also required trained personnel to carry out the work.

            The first institution to establish education for music therapists was Michigan State University at
East Lansing, Michigan.  The program was established in 1944 and five years later, other institutions such as the University of Kansas, Chicago Musical College, College of the Pacific, and
 Alverno College also began to offer both undergraduate and graduate degree program in music therapy.  Thus, by late 1940’s, it was apparent that there was a need for some sort of organization to promote the growth and development of the use of music in therapy, as well as the establishment of standards in the education and certification of music therapists.  The establishment of such an organization was seen as a way to avoid exaggerated claims and policies of “self-styled experts” and also to provide the means for the exchange and evaluation of materials and information by the workers.  Perhaps, the most ultimate goal was to promote research so that a body of knowledge based on scientific methods and evidence would eventually be available (Boxberger, 1962).

            The Executive Committee of the National Music Council invited Ray Green to be the Acting Chairman of the Committee on the Use of Music in Hospitals in fall of 1947.  The first issue of the Hospital Music Newsletter was published in the National Music Council Bulletin and also separately for subscribers in the following year. In this issue, a survey reported that there were at that time 117 hospitals employed full-time musicians and of this number 49 were Veterans Administration hospitals (Boxberger, 1962).

            In 1948, the conference on Functional Music was held in November at the Boston City Club and the Musical Guidance Center.  The acting Chairman of the Music in Therapy Eastern Regional, MTNA, Arthur Flagler Fultz, planned and arranged in bringing together full-time hospital musicians for the purpose of discussing common problems that they came across.  One of the problems listed was that there was the lack of research to provide information and knowledge for the hospital musicians.  A desire for more exchange of information was expressed by the musicians. At another conference, the Conference for Hospital Musicians held at the  University of Kansas sponsored by the department of Music Education under the directorship of E. Thayer Gaston, musicians had the opportunity to exchange information and ideas.  The purpose was to hope that ideas from the participants would lead to further growth and progress in the field of music in hospitals.  It was also suggested that a committee be appointed to work on the proposals with the University of Kansas served as a clearing house for the projects (Boxberger, 1962). Gaston was asked to select a committee to communicate with hospital musicians and to plan for an organization.  Gaston on the other hand stated that he would be glad to select a committee but not to form an organization.  The conference thus closed on this decision.

            In March of 1949, a conference on the use of music in hospitals was held in Chicago, Illinois for the purpose of getting hospital musicians, occupational and recreational therapists, psychologist, physicians, and teachers of the handicapped to be interested in the therapeutic uses of music.  The conference committee members were Ester Goetz Gilliland, Roy Underwood, and Beatrice Wade.  The conference promoted discussion on areas of interest for those who engaged in the use of music for therapeutic purposes.

            Roy Underwood, the chairman of Music in Therapy of the MTNA continued to developed programs at various meetings with the intention of bringing music therapy to the attention of musicians and layman. Various sessions on music therapy were held at the MTNA in Cleveland in early 1950.  At the request of Roy Underwood, Ray Green presided at a sectional meeting that was held for the purpose of developing a national organization in the field of music therapy (Boxberger, 1962).  At a general meeting of the NMC held in 1950, Green urged that a meeting was to be held on June 2 to form an organization in the field of hospital music. It was planned to draft a constitution and elect officers for the coming year.  The organizational meeting that marked the birth of the National Association for Music Therapy was ultimately held at the invitation of Ray Green in New York City. The purpose of the meeting was to consider a proposed constitution and bylaws for the organization.  It was at this meeting that the name of the organization was approved as the National Association for Music Therapy (Boxberger, 1962).

            The officers elected during the early formation of the association were: Ray Green, President; Roy Underwood, First Vice-President; Myrtle Fish Thompson, Secretary; and Freida Dierks, Treasurer (Wheeler, 1995).  Research was also an important issue during the formation of NAMT.  In fact, the Research Committee was the only standing committee initially provided for the constitution, and the members of this Committee included: Arthur Flagler Fultz, Ira Altshuler, E. Thayer Gaston, Jules Masserman, and Roy Underwood (Boxberger, 1962).

            Research continued to be an agenda item at NAMT meetings throughout the first decade of the organization.  Standards were adopted at the Third Annual Conference of NAMT to support publication and encourage research.  A survey conducted by NAMT in 1955 showed that scientific methods were needed to determine how music therapy functions in the clinical settings.  Other research activities included the publication of Music Therapy, the first Book of Proceedings of NAMT in 1951.  The constitution also maintained that there would be a publication, the Bulletin, as the official magazine or journal of the Association (Wheeler, 1995).  Research was an important issue not only for establishing sound principles of music therapy intervention, but also as a critical factor in establishing professional credibility and recognition within the medical community (Wheeler, 1995). 

            Education was another important issue in the first decade of NAMT.  In 1952, curriculum was designed to reflect “the ideal program” rather than following any curricula already in existence.  The hope was that these standards for the education and training of music therapists would lead to the certification of music therapists in the future.  The core curriculum was presented and approved in that same year while NAMT continued to assume responsibility for the approval of the clinical training programs for interns in music therapy.  By the eighth annual conference, educational standards were more or less set with the assumption that eligibility for registration as a music therapist would in the future be dependent on the completion of a college degree that included a period of internship.  The degree program would be based on the core curriculum adopted back in 1952 by NAMT and approved by NASM (Boxberger, 1962).

            By the end of the first decade, members of the Executive and Research committees were voicing the need for a professional journal (Solomon, 1993).  It was believed by some that the establishment of a professional journal would increase the professional image of NAMT (Wheeler, 1995).  Despite very limited financial resources, the first Journal of Music Therapy was published in 1964.  For the next few decades, most of the research studies accepted by the editorial boards were either experimental or descriptive research, and the Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association became the required style manual for all articles.  Historical scholars expressed frustration with APA style as inappropriate for historical research submission and it was not until in the 1980’s that the Chicago style was accepted as an option for historical and philosophical papers.  Some music therapists had complaint that the Journal of Music Therapy had lost its relevance to clinical practice, and thus, this led to the establishment of Music Therapy Perspective in 1983 (Wheeler, 1995).

            Perhaps, the most significant event for NAMT at the end of last century was its unification with another music therapy association known as the American Association for Music Therapy (AAMT), which will not be discussed in this paper.  In short, NAMT and AAMT is now known as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).  Research is still an important issue after the unification and publications currently under AMTA include: Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives, Music Therapy Matters, and a newsletter.


Boxberger, R. (1962).  A historical study of the National Association for Music Therapy. In E. H. Schneider (Ed.), Music Therapy 1962.  Lawrence, KS: The Allen Press.

Solomon, A. L.  (1993).  A history of the Journal of Music Therapy: The first decade (1964-1973).  Journal of Music Therapy, 30, 3-33.

Wheeler, B.  (1995).  Music Therapy Research:  Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives. 
Barcelona Publishers.

* Author: Tan, L. P. (2007)


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