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Music Therapy


The MSc Music Therapy (Nordoff Robbins) offered by Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, represents the only programme of study in Scotland for those intending to train as music therapists. There are a further six programmes throughout the UK; five in England and one in Wales. The programme at Queen Margaret University is offered on a two-year full-time basis.

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy

The genesis of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy lies in the work undertaken from 1959 onwards by Dr Paul Nordoff, then Professor of Music at Bard College, USA, and Clive Robbins, a teacher working in Sunfield Children’s Home, England. In 1974, they established the first British Nordoff Robbins training programme in London. Today, there are clinical and training centres in this approach worldwide.

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy is an established approach to personal and group therapy which utilises the inherent potential of music as an effective communicative medium. Creating and improvising music with the client, the therapist seeks to draw her/him into active musical involvement, seeking out, gaining and maintaining contact in order to establish and develop a working relationship. Both therapist and client are engaged in a progression of interactive therapeutic experiences from session to session, the therapist supporting each stage of the client’s creative development with the music itself regarded as the main agent of change.

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland was established as a charity in 1996 and has developed as a service provider to local communities in recent years. It is a multi-approach workforce, employing music therapists from different training backgrounds.

It is the first independently funded Music Therapy Charity in Scotland dedicated to developing music therapy services nationally. At the present time the charity employs several music therapists working at premises in Broxburn in West Lothian, Glasgow, Dundee and Crosshill by Lochgelly in Fife. There is also an extensive community service covering practices in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and Stirling.

Programme Aims

The aim of the programme leading to the award of an MSc Music Therapy (Nordoff-Robbins) is to guide and support students in the development of knowledge, skills and professional attributes required to become music therapists. Graduates are then eligible to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council . Those who practise music therapy must demonstrate the required competence as well as accountability for the effectiveness of their work. In essence, this requires a successful theoretical and practical partnership. Without this partnership the music therapist would be unlikely to cope with the therapeutic , musical and administrative responsibilities that comprise the day-to-day demands of the profession.

A key element of this programme is the systematic integration of seven modules. Students will experience the continuous interaction of theoretical instruction, the development of practical musical resources, the observation of therapeutic work of others and the responsibility of undertaking therapeutic work themselves with both individuals and groups. The progression of content seeks to respect the developmental needs of students as they become accustomed to working with people whose lives may be affected by a diverse range of psychological, physical and social problems. This will be achieved by the interrelation of personal and professional development to help equip each student to successfully manage the diverse demands of a music therapy practitioner in the 21 st century.

Programme Structure

The programme consists of the following modules:

Music Therapy Studies (30 credits)

Music Studies 1 (30 credits)

Placement and Supervision 1 (30 credits)

Research Methods (30 credits)

Music Studies 2 (15 credits)

Placement and Supervision 2 (15 credits)

Professional Project (60 credits)

Admission and Selection

To be eligible for admission to the MSc Music Therapy (Nordoff-Robbins), an applicant should normally meet the following requirements:

• possession of an appropriate undergraduate degree (or diploma equivalent); it is not a condition that this should be in music and that degrees in other subject areas such as psychology or nursing will equally be considered;

• satisfactory demonstration of musical ability, diversity and openness; this should include competence in the playing of a harmonic instrument (e.g. piano, guitar or harp) and application of a fluent chordal vocabulary; proficiency in other instrumental and vocal areas is regarded as advantageous; it is recommended that applicants should be able to perform at a Grade 7 or 8 benchmark of a recognised examination board on a harmonic instrument; a specific benchmark of proficiency on another instrument or voice is not required; a creative approach towards the value and functionality of music is encouraged; a secure knowledge of musical theory and notation is essential.

• personal characteristics of maturity, responsibility and empathy that are suitably tailored to working with people who may present a range of challenges and abilities;

• previous professional working experience that would lend itself favourably to the nature and demands of music therapy training and practice;

• writing and communication skills that demonstrate command of the English language; requirements are set at: IELTS 7.

• Candidates will be required to comply with the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and mental health legislation for clinical placement and employability in the NHS, Local Authority and Departments of Social Services, working with children and other similar sensitive areas of employment.

In addition to the above, it is recommended that the applicant has had some prior experience or engagement with people who have some form of special need. This may include voluntary work, or interaction with a family member or friend.

Applicants who are offered a place on the programme will be required, prior to entry, to undertake a period of observation of a pre-school child interacting with other children and adults. This should focus on a child who does not present a particular need or disability and should last for a minimum duration of ten hours. The rationale for this is to allow the prospective student an opportunity to observe, engage and reflect on aspects of play and interaction that may be said to follow normal paths of development. In addition to promoting a heightened sense of analysis and understanding pertaining to human behaviour, it will provide a general context within which the student may consider subsequent responses from individuals who manifest certain developmental difficulties. All students will be required to submit a Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG Scheme) application.

Admissions Requirements of Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education: Health Care Programmes

QMU admissions procedures ensure adherence to equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory policies. Application forms have both an ethnicity and a disability coding system that is monitored by the Admissions Department. Applicants are not required to complete this information if they do not wish to do so. All applicants are invited to attend an interview where a standard and regulated process is routinely followed. All applicants are asked the same range of questions and are invited to ask any questions about the programme. To avoid possible individual bias, interviews are conducted by at least two members of staff. Admission procedures ensure that both the applicant and the education providers have the information they require to make an informed choice about whether to take up, or make the offer of a place on a programme.

For preliminary selection, applicants will be required to submit a written assignment of approximately 1,000 words. The assignment should contain the following details:

• a statement indicating the reason(s) why the applicant feels attracted to the profession of music therapy;

• particular attributes that the applicant holds and that he/she regards will have significance to the clinical work of a music therapist;

• discussion of any work observed or undertaken by the applicant in which the therapeutic potential of music was demonstrated;

• what has been the most meaningful musical experience for the applicant in his/her life thus far.

Following successful selection of this preliminary procedure, applicants will be asked to attend for audition and interview. For the audition, each applicant will be required to:

• perform two contrasting pieces on the a harmonic instrument; one should be in a contemporary idiom in which the applicant’s engagement with modern styles of music – which may include jazz, popular and multicultural – are demonstrated;

• perform one piece on another instrument or voice;

• sing one prepared song in any style while providing a suitable accompaniment on a harmonic instrument simultaneously;

• improvise a harmonic instrument from a given chord sequence as a means of demonstrating harmonic fluency and musical sensitivity;

• improvise on a given theme; this will take the form of a verbal stimulus (such as a title) and will be provided at the audition; this may be played either on a harmonic instrument or on the applicant’s other main instrument; it is intended that at some point during this improvisation, one of the panel members will begin to play a percussion instrument; when this happens the focus of the applicant’s playing should shift to the panel member and the applicant should then seek to meaningfully interact and engage with this person’s playing.

The interview will allude to the written assignment submitted previously by the applicant. The applicant may be asked to expand on certain issues or discuss additional points raised by members of the panel. The purpose of the interview is to assess each applicant’s readiness and personal suitability for the profession of music therapy. It is also a means of assuring for the applicant an awareness of the demands that the programme entails and also of the day-to-day responsibilities of being a music therapy practitioner .Each audition and interview will be conducted by the Programme Leader and one other person. For overseas applicants, the audition requirements may be satisfied by means of submission of a DVD while the interview may be conducted by telephone or Skype.

Timetable Arrangements

The academic year is divided into two semesters. Semester 1 is from September until January and semester 2 runs from January until May. As far as possible, most of the teaching takes place on Mondays and Tuesdays. There is a placement day each week and this can take place either on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday .

Further Information

Formal enquiries for application to the programme should be made to:

The Admissions Administrator
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Queen Margaret University Drive
East Lothian
EH21 6UU

Telephone: 0131-474-0000


Please Apply Online .

There is not a closing date for applications. Applications can be made at any time but it is recommended that they are submitted by the end of April for the commencement of the academic year starting the following September.

Additional information may also be obtained from:

Dr Philippa Derrington PhD, MA, PG Dip, BA (Hons
Programme Leader
MSc Music Therapy (Nordoff Robbins)
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Queen Margaret University Drive
East Lothian
EH21 6UU

Telephone: 0131-474-0000

last modified 16/12/14 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU - Tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000
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