We are a community of people in every profession and sector using music to create more value in towns and cities all over the world. In the special series #InConversationWith, we talk to accomplished members of our community and uncover their journey.
This story features Joy Allen, Director of the Music and Health Institute of the Berklee College of of Music.
Profile at a Glance
Full Name: Joy Allen
City, Country: Boston, USA
Work Profile/Designation: Chair, Music Therapy and Director, Music & Health Institute, Berklee College of Music.
Current Company: Music & Health Institute, Berklee College of Music.
Previous Notable Work: Founder of the Music & Health Institute, Berklee College of Music.
How did you get involved with music and health? How did it lead to develop a career in music therapy?
Like most of us, my earliest memories include singing, dancing, and listening to music. It was a source of comfort to me when I was scared, it helped me form social connections when I switched schools on a yearly basis, and it helped me learn and experience new cultures. I was excited when I was able to formally learn an instrument (the clarinet in 4th grade) and from there I relished opportunities to continue to play in bands, orchestras, and ensembles and stretch my skills on new instruments. I really didn’t know what music therapy, as a career, would look like, but I knew I wanted to work with people, helping them connect and reconnect with music to support their health and wellbeing. After studying music therapy as an undergrad, I debated applying to med school or pursuing clinical psychology, but at the end of the day, I wanted to prescribe music. Since those early years, I have had the opportunity to develop several music therapy programs — in medical, classroom, clinic, and community-based settings.
How did the opportunity to head and develop the Berklee Music and Health Institute (BMHI) came about?
I joined Berklee, as Chair, Music Therapy in fall 2016. A year later, I was given the opportunity to write a grant to support the development of a music and health institute. From the get go, we knew we wanted the BMHI to engage the local and national innovation ecosystem comprised of academic, artistic, scientific, entrepreneurial, and technological talent, and bring together the most creative minds from across these fields to help accelerate ideation and develop solutions that can improve health and wellbeing for individuals and communities. BMHI leverages the expertise of Berklee’s Music Therapy Department, which has offered degree programs for over 25 years and has established formal training and research partnerships with more than 50 hospitals and healthcare facilities in Boston and across the country. This collaborative community is unique to the area of music and health, and the possibilities for growth and development are tremendous.
BMHI exists to:
Identify and support innovative research on music and health;
Advance creative delivery tools for optimizing access to music experiences for health- related outcomes;
Develop model-based programs to address needs across the health continuum; and
Provide specialized training to professionals and the general public on music applications for health-related outcomes.
Besides the playlists project the Institute developed with Nicorette, what are other interesting projects and results coming out from the Music and Health Institute?
The Institute has three key areas:
Existing research on the intersection of music and health has been difficult to sort through because it is dispersed across academic fields and often cataloged with broad terms, such as "music" and "music therapy. This first of its kind digital repository enables users to find quality evidence that can help them recognize trends across the evidence base; compare and contrast studies on music and health; note quality studies and build on them; and identify gaps in the literature to develop a research agenda. Each of these actions will contribute to the creation of a strong evidence base needed to convince the medical community that music has a place alongside more traditional clinical treatments.
Our exchange series convenes leaders, professionals, practitioners, visionaries, and key stakeholders in order to: foster the exchange of ideas; amplify and elevate innovative voices, best practices, and trends ; and move the dial to raise awareness of the many intersections of music and health. Each exchange has been well attended, with more than 500 invited participants from the academic, medical, healthcare, biotech, pharmaceutical, music, and civic sectors (representing 100+ professional affiliations) attending since its inception.
Lastly, our innovation studio incubates and accelerates the development of music informed, solution-focused resources for a wide-variety of healthcare challenges impacting our global communities. Currently, students are working with industry leaders to design digital protypes to musically engage individuals with dementia, and their caregivers, in music based experiences.
In your opinion, what are currently the most exciting projects, innovations, examples of music and health applications?
What excites me the most is the international cross-disciplinary collaborations taking place to make therapeutic music based interventions more accessible and scalable to diverse stakeholders. Most music therapists work in healthcare or educational settings. Working with leading tech companies is allowing us to create new pathways and interventions so that targeted engagement in music based experiences can be outcome driven for a wide range of medical needs. These advances in technology support person-centered care and evidence-based treatments, and contribute to developing standardized, large-scale research on music-based interventions in an interdisciplinary manner.
I am also excited for large scale government funded collaborations that are taking place such as the SoundHealth Network, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health to promote research and public awareness about the impact of music on health and wellness; the Neuroarts Blueprint which is breaking new ground at the crossroads of science, the arts, and technology; and, the Jameel Arts & Health Lab which represents the first major arts and health initiative in the history of the World Health Organization.
What do you think a city could do to enhance the benefits that music provides to the health and wellbeing of its local community?...
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