Ann Dinsmore

About the Author: Ann Dinsmore is the director of music therapy at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.

“Passion” – “boundless enthusiasm, powerful emotion”

“Advocacy” – “the act of arguing in favor of a cause, an idea, or policy”

The board-certified music therapists at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown are passionate about their profession, and four of them put that passion into action last week.

A three-hour training course led by the Pennsylvania State Task Force of the American Music Therapy Association prepared Kathy Keener Shantz, Angela Junker, Elizabeth Eargle, and I to spend the next day, October 21, at the Capitol in Harrisburg. There we joined 30 other music therapists and students, advocating for support of Senate Bill 947 and House Bill 1438, which would establish a professional Music Therapy Licensure Board. The legislation will protect Pennsylvania consumers by ensuring that they are receiving safe and quality services by a clinically trained and educated healthcare provider, and that only licensed and credentialed professionals can provide “music therapy.”

Masonic Village music therapists met face-to-face with almost 20 lawmakers; the entire group met with over 50. We shared with them stories of how music, intentionally provided by a qualified music therapist, builds relationships that make amazing responses possible. We shared stories that are daily occurrences at Masonic Villages: purposely including songs of several decades and varied genres in our sessions so diverse residents’ needs can be met; and playing specific, individualized songs to help residents sing, yodel, dance, hum, smile, and even recognize family members. We shared stories of how the right music can encourage sleepy individuals to awaken and engage, people who speak very little can sing with enthusiasm, and residents with physical limitations are stimulated to move and dance.

Masonic Village committed to hiring only board-certified music therapists when the present program began in 1999, and is currently one of the largest employers of board-certified music therapists in Pennsylvania. There is exemption language in the licensure bill to allow others to use music as long as they do not refer to their work as music therapy. This area sets Masonic Village apart from many continuing care facilities, and demonstrates the passion that this organization has for this program. “Hill Day” reminded us how blessed we are to work in a place where there is support for true music therapy and its goals and interventions. Talking to others about the work we do fueled our passion, and was a great way to celebrate October as Music Therapy Month in Pennsylvania.