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Updated: November 02, 2015


Man playing guitar

Students from All Walks of Life Study Healing Power of Music Therapy

Foothill Class Features Guest Lectures by Sound Healing Experts

Students are adding the power of music therapy to their professional portfolios by enrolling in Foothill’s MUS 83A: Introduction to Music Therapy course. The four-unit class—the only one of its kind offered by a California Community College—is taught by Foothill Music Technology Instructor Bruce Tambling, who has also won numerous recording industry awards.

In addition to assignments and exams, the course features numerous guest speakers who demonstrate music therapy techniques and share the science and research that support the study of music therapy. Throughout the 12-week class, Tambling and his guest lecturers also emphasize careers in the music therapy industry, including degrees, certificates and multimedia production applications.

Foothill College music technology student Steve Meyer enrolled in the music therapy course 18 months ago. It’s a decision that’s changed Meyer’s life and his career path.

“I’ve been exposed to various forms of healing, mostly spiritual,” says Meyer, who holds a master’s degree in international relations. “I’ve practiced meditation, chanti and yoga for years. I even had someone do a sound healing for me using tuning forks. For me, this type of healing seemed a bit far out. But I know Bruce Tambling is an excellent instructor and his enthusiasm for music therapy is contagious, so I decided to take the class.”

Meyer, 55, of San Francisco, recently began working as an intern at a Santa Clara senior center in partnership with board certified music therapist Ian Franklin, founder of Bay Area Music Therapy, and one of the course’s curriculum advisory group members.

“When Ian spoke to our class, he also had us sit in a group and did some rhythmic work. His guest lecture and demonstration really spoke to me. So much so, that I’m now seriously contemplating pursuing formal music therapy training and becoming a licensed practitioner,” says Meyer, who has worked for more than a decade in school settings with children who have cognitive and physical disabilities.

After completing Foothill’s music therapy class and working as a sound-healing intern, Meyer hopes to create a career that blends his passion for music with his experience working with children who have special needs.

Public Also Welcome to Attend Free Music Therapy Guest Lectures

Tambling believes that one of the strengths of the course is its free music therapy guest lecture series. Guest lecturers are leaders in the field of music therapy, sound healing, bio-acoustics and related topics. These events often include live concert performances and hands-on experiential workshops. It’s also a great place to network and meet people in the music therapy community. Enrolled students and the public are invited to the guest lectures; admission is free.

“A live, face-to-face on-campus event offers students the opportunity to personally interact with and meet guest presenters,” Tambling says. “Opening these events to the general public enriches and expands the group energy and dynamic with their questions and enthusiasm. Everyone benefits.”

Before working with major record labels such as Motown, Sony and Warner Brothers, before building his own recording studio that is the envy of musicians and producers across the country, before his gig as a popular music technology college instructor, Tambling recognized that music could transform listeners.

“I'm passionately interested in the power of music and sound as a transformative force in people’s lives,” Tambling says. “I find it a fascinating field of study.”

For example, music is clinically proven to reduce your brain's perception of pain and it’s proven to reduce blood pressure, Tambling says. Music has been found to be extremely effective in memory recall for dementia patients, can increase reality-orientation in severe psychiatric patients and can be used to regulate heart and respiratory rates.

Instructor Studied With Music Therapy Pioneer

As a young musician, Tambling completed a two-year certification program at the Institute for Music, Health & Education in Boulder, Colorado. One of Tambling’s mentors was Don Campbell, author of the 1997 best-selling book, The Mozart Effect. Campbell’s books advocate for the beneficial links between music and mental health.

Studying with Campbell, an early pioneer of music therapy, and a lifetime in the music industry has helped shape Tambling personally and professionally.

“As a film composer, audio engineer and producer, I’ve always been inspired to create music that is positive, uplifting and of service to the world,” Tambling says. “As a college instructor, I’m inspired to introduce students to the study of music therapy. We want our students to experience music therapy and make their own observations about how the power of music can help people. Then they will share this knowledge with family, friends and our greater community, which increases the number of people who can benefit from music therapy. It’s also important to ensure that our students are aware of career opportunities that relate to music therapy. After completing the class, many students tell us this course was life changing because they were unaware that the study of music therapy existed.”

Spotlight on Music Therapy Career Opportunities

Music therapy is one of the fastest growing careers in the music business, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and American Music Therapy Association, as well as the members of Foothill’s music technology curriculum advisory group—all of whom work in the music industry. The Foothill course focuses on music therapy history, theories and techniques, and emphasizes the academic and career opportunities that are available to students who want to pursue further study in the field. Some Foothill students have transferred to universities to pursue advanced degrees in music therapy. Others, like Meyer, are receiving entry-level, hands-on music therapy experience working as interns with companies like BayAreaMusicTherapy.com. Still others are already employed as health care practitioners, including medical doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and social workers. Tambling says that the knowledge learned and skills developed in the music therapy course directly enhance care and treatment options that health workers can introduce into patient care. In fact, some of the class’s meetings and guest lectures offer continuing education units (CEUs) for health care professionals.

To skeptics of the healing power of music, Tambling points to the volumes of peer-reviewed research that give the study of music therapy credibility. He’s also excited to see how the field of music therapy has gained widespread public recognition.

“A Google search for ‘music therapy research’ will return 50 million hits featuring clinical data gathered at top research institutions like Stanford and UCSF,” Tambling says. “There are a number of scientific, peer-reviewed music therapy journals and publications. Music therapists are employed at many mainstream medical centers like Kaiser, Mayo Clinic, etc.”

Class Attracts College Students & Working Professionals

Students who enroll in the popular MUS 83A course are just a diverse as the types of music they study in Tambling’s class. Students include working professionals, young students who have just graduated from high school, college students majoring in music technology and students interested in careers in music therapy. Some are professional musicians, vocalists, composers, songwriters, music producers and recording engineers. Still others are therapeutic and education professionals, yoga and movement instructors—anyone interested in music, sound and healing arts.

Foothill will offer the MUS 83A course this fall and next spring. There are no prerequisites for the introductory class. Fall classes begin the week of Sept 21. Registration is ongoing through Sept. 20. Register now at foothill.edu/admissions.php.

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