Advocates drum up support for music therapy program |

Advocates drum up support for music therapy program

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, center, jams with a drum group at the Legislature on Thursday afternoon. Music therapy advocates, including from left, Judith Pinkerton, Judy Simpson, and Michael Burkhardt, were educating lawmakers about the benefits of group drumming and music therapy.

The beating of drums echoed through the halls of the Legislature on Thursday, drawing the curious to a third-floor meeting room where advocates were making their case for music – particularly group drumming – as a therapeutic technique.

Jane Creagan, of the American Music Therapy Association, said they will take their case to the legislative money committees Monday, hoping to show the value of music therapy in schools – especially special-needs children – physical rehabilitation, disability services, mental health programs, hospices and senior activity centers among others.

They have asked that lawmakers put $1.7 million in the budget for the next two years to create a four-year music therapy program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and to fund access to the services through the schools, the Mental Health and Disabled Services division and senior programs.

Dr. Dennis Burkhardt, past president of the Center for Creative Arts, said the state recognizes music therapy as a profession but doesn’t provide funding to actually make those services available. Sitting in a circle of chairs and more than a dozen drums, he and Creagan said there are only seven music therapists working in Nevada: Two at the new state psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas, two at a private clinic, two with the Washoe School District and one at a nonprofit organization for disabled adults.

He said that compares with more than 400 music therapists in Arizona, Utah and California.

Lillieth Grand, president of the Western Region of the American Music Therapy Association, said the funding is vital “so that Nevadans who need our services can have access to them.”

She said the budget would also enable the organization to recruit therapists to Nevada while UNLV gets its program going.

They were joined by Alyssa Janney of Remo Inc., a major U.S. manufacturer of drums. She said that company provides drums to the organization because they, too, believe in the therapeutic effects of music to a variety of people.

They are supported by more than 30 professional papers proclaiming the calming and other effects of music therapy, particularly drumming. They argue drumming and other music can reduce anxiety and help with neurological disorders including Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s because of its ability to enhance “reality orientation.”

Grand said there is a growing demand for music therapy among professionals and organizations providing those services but, at present, almost no access to the services in Nevada.

On the Net:

More information is available from the American Music Therapy Association Web site at or from the western regional AMT Web site at

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.