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WIU Celebrates School of Music's 50th Anniversary

Western Illinois University is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Music Therapy option in the Bachelor of Music program. This milestone celebrates years of graduates and many shared successes.


Introduction to Music Therapy then numbered MUS 100 (music 100), was first taught in the summer session of 1974 by Leo Muscatavic. In 1975, Pat Patrick was the first full-time Music Therapy faculty member whose name appeared in the University catalog. Bruce Prueter was hired in 1977 as the Music Therapy Program Director. Prueter developed, expanded, and led the program until his retirement in May 2006. Jennifer Jones joined WIU in August 2006 after Bruce’s retirement and continues as program coordinator today. Many music therapy faculty have contributed to the program over the years. 


From the program's start in 1974 through 1980, the Music Therapy curriculum was a set of additional courses added to the music education option. The bulk of the music therapists' training happened in practicum courses and during their post-coursework internship. In 1980, a Bachelor of Art with an option in music therapy was offered. Though a few of the music education courses remained for several more years, a separate curriculum with clinical skills courses, theory and practice courses and a series of practicum placements became the degree requirements for music therapists. WIU Music Therapy Professor and Program Coordinator Jennifer D. Jones revised the curriculum in 2008 to meet newly established national education and clinical training standards.


The music therapy curriculum continues to evolve to reflect expanding research evidence. Curriculum revisions also reflect changes in healthcare, disability, society and culture.  Likewise, music therapists continue to expand the persons served by the profession. The Introduction to Music Therapy course planned for Fall 2024 no doubt looks very different from the first course taught 50 years ago.


“I am most proud of our graduates,” Jones said. “WIU music therapy alumni are practicing clinicians, business owners, internship supervisors and college professors. Many have master's degrees in music therapy and related fields. Several WIU music therapy graduates have doctorates. Alumni have shared that their education at WIU led to their successes in higher education and clinical practice.”


One of the hallmarks of the Music Therapy program is its community engagement. Through our practicum partnerships, our students gain invaluable hands-on experience, providing music therapy sessions in various community settings. These include special education classrooms, senior care facilities, hospitals and hospice care. This community-focused approach is a testament to the program's commitment to serving others through music therapy.


“We have a space on campus where several individuals come to us for music therapy sessions. Some of these community partnerships span multiple decades,” Jones said. “It is an honor to provide both a valuable learning experience for students and a therapeutic service for individuals in need. Music therapists are a unique combination of musicians and therapists. We love music and are performing musicians and we value service to others as therapists. We always wear two hats, musician and clinician. Perhaps WIU music therapists wear three hats - we also proudly wear our Leatherneck hats,”


For more information on WIU’s School of Music, visit wiu.edu/music.


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