What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is an allied health profession which utilizes music and music-based interventions to help clients achieve emotional, physical, mental health, cognitive, educational, developmental, communication, wellness, and social goals. The curriculum includes a variety of areas including music, applied instruments, psychology, general education, and music therapy-specific courses. Students receive clinical training in a variety of child and adult settings and diagnoses. These include developmental disabilities, special education, mental health, medical, substance abuse, autism, early childhood intervention, and geriatrics. Students complete a minimum of 1200 clinical training hours, which culminates with an internship that can be completed in a variety of settings across the country. After graduation students are eligible for the national board certification exam in music therapy.

Woman holds guitar in clinic while child plays

Career Opportunities

Music Therapists work with many different age groups of people who have varying levels of physical and mental health needs. Among the workplaces where music therapists are employed are:

  • Medical Hospitals
  • Psychiatric Treatment Centers
  • Developmental Centers
  • Pre-School/Head Start
  • Prisons
  • Private Practice
  • Public and Private School Settings
  • Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers
  • Community Music Schools
  • Counseling Centers
  • Music Therapy Agencies
  • Community Service Agencies

In addition, opportunities continue to arise for music therapists with advanced clinical experience and degrees to serve as facility administrators or university instructors. In the United States, music therapy is one of the most quickly growing professions.

What Training does a Music Therapist Need?

Music Therapists must have the credential MT-BC (Music Therapist-Board Certified) to maintain a clinical practice. This credential means that the music therapist completed an approved bachelor's level degree program in music therapy. A major component of the degree is the completion of at least 1200 clinical training hours, including a clinical internship of at least 900 hours at the conclusion of the university coursework. Upon graduation students are eligible to sit for the National Board Certification Exam administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT)

University curricula in music therapy includes courses in music theory, music history, music therapy, psychology and general studies. In addition, students must be proficient in their primary instrument, guitar, voice, and piano.

The Music Therapy Program at The W

This program combines the excellent education and resources offered by the University and a dedication to the value of a liberal arts education to provide an exciting and challenging training program in music therapy. Students experience an intimate learning environment and a strong emphasis in applied learning.

The 124-credit hour curriculum combines a diverse General Studies core with intensive work in music (including Theory, History, Conducting and Performance), Music Therapy, and Psychology, leading to a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Therapy.

Students in The W's Music Therapy Program receive at least six semesters of supervised clinical practicum with various clients at facilities on campus and throughout the Golden Triangle Area. Students are supervised by a Board-Certified Music Therapist, and engage in music therapy assessment, treatment planning, and documentation along with the actual provision of the music therapy services.

Students begin their music therapy core curriculum, in addition to conducting several observations and volunteer music therapy experiences, as a first-year Freshman or Transfer Student. This allows the students to become immediately involved in their chosen major, and refine many skills needed to become a music therapist.

To prepare students for internship, board certification and the demands of professional music therapy clinical practice, students are required to pass voice, guitar and piano proficiency exams before they may take their senior level music therapy courses and practicum. These exams focus on musical competency skills necessary to music therapy clinical practice with a variety of clients.

Audition and Scholarship Information

All incoming students who wish to major in music are required to perform an audition in front of the Music Faculty. Prospective students must be admitted to the university prior to the audition date. All students who audition will automatically be considered for a music scholarship.

Audition Information

The W Music Therapy Clinical Practicum Sites

Students complete their practicum courses in a variety of settings, some of which have included:

  • Child and Parent Development Center, The W, Columbus, MS
  • Home Place Nursing and Retirement Center
  • Baptist Memorial Hospital - Golden Triangle, Palliative Care and Transitional Unit, Columbus, MS
  • Baptist Memorial Hospital - Golden Triangle, Willowbrook Behavioral Health Care, Columbus, MS
  • Lowndes County School District, Columbus, MS
  • Windsor Place Nursing Home, Columbus, MS
  • The Arrington Assisted Living, Columbus, MS
  • Vineyard Court Nursing Center, Columbus, MS
  • Recovery House, Columbus, MS

Questions about the Music Therapy program at The W?

Carmen Osburn

Program Contact

Carmen E. Osburn, MA, MT-BC
Professor, Director of Music Therapy
(662) 241-7897

Carmen E. Osburn, MA, MT-BC, Professor of Music and Director of Music Therapy at The W received her undergraduate degree in music therapy from Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN and her graduate degree in Creative Arts in Therapy from Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA. Board-certified since 1994, she has provided music therapy services for children and adolescents in school settings and for those with medical, emotional and behavioral problems, as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Her work with adult clients includes geriatric home health services, medical, emotional, psychiatric problems, and drug and alcohol addiction. Before coming to The W in 2005 she was on the faculty at the University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, where she taught music therapy clinical techniques, and supervised students in clinical fieldwork and practica. She also created the first AMTA National Roster Music Therapy Internship in Kentucky at an adult and adolescent psychiatric facility. A frequent presenter at Music Therapy conferences, she represents the Southeastern Region of AMTA (SER-AMTA) on the AMTA Academic Program Approval Committee, and on the AMTA Assembly of Delegates. She serves on the Executive Board of SER-AMTA as 2nd Vice President, editor of the newsletter Quodlibet.

Music Therapy Curriculum

This information is presented for informational purposes. In the event of a discrepancy between this page and the Undergraduate Bulletin, the Bulletin should always be used.

General Education Curriculum

In keeping with The W's Mission, the General Education Program provides students with the skills, knowledge, and values they need to become independent, productive members of society in our continually changing world.

The W's General Education Program provides a foundation in the liberal arts that includes knowledge in the historical, literary, aesthetic, scientific, and cultural traditions that shape the world, and fosters skills that allow students to become civically responsible life-long learners ready to adapt to new challenges.

All students who complete the Mississippi University for Women general education program will demonstrate:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Effective Communication
  • Cultural Literacy
  • Quantitative & Technology Skills
  • Understanding of Self, Global Societies, & the Natural World
  • Life-Long Learning

View General Education Requirements

Major & Concentration Courses

Course descriptions can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin. A grade of C or better required for all major and concentration coursework.

MUS 101 - Theory I
MUS 102 - Theory II
MUS 103 - Theory Lab I
MUS 104 - Theory Lab II
MUS 105 - Introduction to Music Literature
MUS 121 - Major Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Voice, Woodwinds
MUS 122 - Major Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Voice, Woodwinds
MUS 126 - Class Guitar
MUS 151 - Introduction to Music Therapy I: Foundations
MUS 152 - Introduction To Music Therapy II: Populations
MUS 201 - Theory III
MUS 202 - Theory IV
MUS 203 - Theory Lab III
MUS 204 - Theory Lab IV
MUS 221 - Major Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Voice, Woodwinds
MUS 222 - Major Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Voice, Woodwinds
MUS 226 - Advanced Guitar for Music Therapy
MUS 231 - Percussion for Music Therapy
MUS 251 - Clinical Skills I
MUS 252 - Clinical Skills II
MUS 255 - Psychology of Music
MUS 256 - Music Therapy Research Methods
MUS 301 - History Of Music
MUS 302 - History Of Music
MUS 303 - Music Therapy Professional Skills
MUS 305 - Form and Analysis
MUS 309 - Improvisation Techniques I
MUS 310 - Improvisation Techniques II
MUS 315 - Conducting
MUS 321 - Major Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Voice, Woodwinds
MUS 322 - Major Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Voice, Woodwinds
MUS 351 - Music Therapy with Children
MUS 352 - Music Therapy with Adults
MUS 353 - Clinical Practicum I
MUS 354 - Clinical Practicum II
MUS 451 - Music Therapy Principles
MUS 452 - Music Therapy Practices
MUS 453 - Clinical Practicum III
MUS 454 - Clinical Practicum IV
MUS 460 - Music Therapy Internship

Select Music Ensemble: (4 Semester Hours)

Note: All music majors are required to enroll and participate in an MUW ensemble during each semester enrolled as a full-time student.

MUS 106 - Jazz Ensemble
MUS 108 - Instrumental Ensemble
MUS 110 - University Chorus
MUS 111 - Wind Ensemble
MUS 112 - New Horizon
MUS 114 - Chorale
MUS 115 - Chamber Singers
MUS 116 - Male Ensemble

Secondary Music Sequence: (4 Semester Hours)

Piano majors will take four hours of Class Voice; all other music majors take the Group Keyboard Skills sequence.

MUS 107 - Group Keyboard Skills I
MUS 109 - Group Keyboard Skills II
MUS 128 - Class Voice I
MUS 129 - Class Voice II
MUS 207 - Group Keyboard Skills III
MUS 209 - Group Keyboard Skills IV

Other required courses include: (20 Semester Hours)

PSY 101 - General Psychology
PSY 206 - Human Growth and Development
PSY 304 - Abnormal Psychology
PHL 307 - Medical Ethics
BSB 141 - Human Anatomy and Physiology I
BSB 142 - Human Anatomy and Physiology II

General Electives: (7 Semester Hours)

In addition to the requirements of the major, and the General Education Curriculum requirements, an additional 7 semester hours of coursework is required to meet the requirements of a Bachelor of Music degree. Suggested course: MUS 242 - Computers in Music

Optional courses

  • MUS 253 - Music Therapy Observation *
  • MUS 399 - Music Therapy Special Topics *
  • MUS 455 - Advanced Clinical Practicum **

Total Hours Required for a BM in Music Therapy: 124 Semester Hours

Performance Proficiency

Applied study is offered in class and private instruction. Generally, beginning instruction is carried out in class lessons. Private lessons are for one hour per week. Students enrolled in major applied are required to perform in a jury exam at the end of each semester.

A piano proficiency exam is required of all Music Education and Music Therapy majors. All Music Therapy majors must also demonstrate proficiency in guitar. All Music majors are required to participate in a Performance Class once each semester after the first semester.


*Optional and repeatable for a maximum of four (4) credits

**Optional and repeatable for a maximum of six (6) credits. If at least three (3) semesters pass between a student’s completion of their Music Therapy courses and their request to register for MUS 460 Music Therapy Internship, they must first take MUS 455 in order to maintain currency of their musical and clinical skills

Music Majors with a Concentration in Music Therapy are required to take 12 credits of major applied lessons, 4 credits of Group Keyboard Skills sequence (a piano major will substitute 4 hours of class voice for 4 hours of the Group Keyboard Skills sequence), 3 credits of Class Guitar, and 1 credit of percussion. Music Therapy majors who can perform at a level above that of either Class Guitar and/or Class Voice may request a waiver of that class(es). In these cases Music Therapy majors must still use the credits required for Class Voice and/or Class Guitar for secondary lesson credits. Music Therapy majors must have a minimum of four hours of ensemble credit before they can enroll in MUS 460 - Music Therapy Internship.

Students must achieve a grade of C or higher in all Music and Music Therapy classes in order to be eligible for Music Therapy Internship and sit for the board certification exam. Students who fail to achieve a C in a class must register for an independent study in that course during the following semester or retake it in the semester it is next offered. In addition, students will be unable to take the next sequential Music Therapy course. Students will be given only one opportunity to retake any Music Therapy course. If the student is unable to achieve a C grade or higher at that point, the student will be dismissed from the Music Therapy Program.