Ohio University

Healing through the art of music

Music Therapy program celebrates 60th Anniversary 

Group of musicians practicing in an attic.
Students work with clients at The Gathering Place, 2018. Photo by Daniel J. King.


When Ohio University’s Music Therapy program celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019, Professor and Chair of the Music Therapy program Kamile Geist, PHD ’17, reflected on the program’s history.

“I look at the professors who have taught in this program and think, ‘I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.’”

Geist is a licensed, practicing music therapist who has taught at OHIO since 2003. She points to the work of other professors and the ambitious alumni who have enriched the program and promoted its healing agenda for decades.

The field’s beginnings took place on June 2, 1950, when psychiatrists, public advocates, and musicians met in New York City to standardize the fledgling field of music therapy. The National Association of Music Therapy (NAMT) organization emerged, one that set modern standards for music therapy education and practice. With NAMT guidelines in place, William Sears, a leader and founding member of the organization, came to Athens in 1951 to teach OHIO’s first music therapy course. Because of Sears’ success, OHIO began to offer music therapy as a major during the 1958-59 academic year. The rest is history.

“In the past ten years, there has been consistent enrollment growth in music therapy programs across the country,” Geist says. “Ohio University’s undergraduate and graduate programs are well known across the country and the world for our high standards of education and clinical training, engaged alumni who are successful leaders, clinicians, and researchers in music therapy, and for our qualified team of faculty and clinical supervisors who engage in student-centered teaching, quality research, and high-profile national leadership."

Alumni of the Music Therapy program convened in March 2019 in Cincinnati for the annual Great Lakes Region Music Therapy Conference to celebrate the program’s milestone. OHIO’s Music Therapy program was recognized as one of the most longstanding in the country and the program’s faculty were recognized for their excellence. A celebration of the program on the Athens Campus was cancelled because of the closure of the University due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the Geist presented the intended keynote speaker, Lisa Gallagher, the Research Program manager for the Arts & Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and a renowned music therapy clinician, scholar, and advocate for music therapy and medicine, with the Ohio University School of Music Achievement in Music Award during a live-streamed School of Music Honors Assembly in spring 2020.

Alumni Michael Ray works with Violet Dalton in 2000.
Alumni Michael Ray works with Violet Dalton in 2000.