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Healing power of music to be explored at conference

Mar 21, 2014

Music can lift depression in the elderly, reach lost memories in those with Alzheimer's, and stimulate social interactions among autistic adolescents.

These and other therapeutic benefits of music will be explored Saturday during a daylong conference, "75 Years of Music Therapy at Pacific: A Celebratory Symposium."

The conference will highlight strides that Pacific graduates -- now working and teaching throughout the country -- have made to a field that touches people in hospice programs, special education classrooms, youth homes, early childhood centers, burn rehabilitation units and prisons.

"Graduates from University of the Pacific have made significant contributions to the music therapy literature over the past 75 years," said Feilin Hsiao, associate professor of music therapy at Pacific and director of the Music Therapy Program. "It is a legacy that has helped to improve quality of life for people of all ages, and we are proud to showcase it."

Among the presentations:

Music therapy in depression, cancer, cardiac rehabilitation and dementia

Suzanne Hanser, past president of both the World Federation of Music Therapy and the National Association for Music Therapy, will talk about her National Institute on Aging-sponsored research demonstrating that music therapy can significantly improve depression, anxiety, mood and self-esteem in clinically depressed older adults.

Hanser will also talk about her research into the impact of music therapy on women with metastatic breast cancer, individuals who are in cardiac rehabilitation, and people with dementia and their family caregivers.  A recipient of the American Music Therapy Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, Hanser was chair of University of the Pacific's Music Therapy Department for 14 years. She is currently chair of the music therapy program at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Music therapy in hospice care

Karen Moran, a board-certified music therapist at Napa State Hospital, will talk about the impact of music therapy on patients in hospice care, the topic of her master's thesis at University of the Pacific. Moran earned her degree in 2011.

Music therapy in autism spectrum disorder

Carmen Steele-Abundez, who has worked as a board-certified music therapist in the Central Valley for 12 years, will discuss how music improvisation groups can benefit adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, the subject of her master's thesis at University of the Pacific. She earned her degree in 2011.

Music-induced relaxation

Maria Montserrat Gimeno, an assistant professor of music therapy at the State University of New York at New Paltz, will talk about how music therapists can create scripts and choose appropriate music for relaxation based on patients' reports of their wellbeing. Gimeno has a master's in music therapy and earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from University of the Pacific in 2000.

History of music therapy

Leanne Wade, a long-time music therapist with San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services, will tell the story of Wilhelmina Keniston Harbert, a Pacific alumna who in 1938 began developing a new major at College of the Pacific called "Musical Guidance and Therapy," among the first of its kind in the nation. One of her first classes, "Social Objectives Through Music," required students to work at the former Stockton State Hospital. Wade is herself a 1998 graduate of University of the Pacific. She is now completing a Ph.D. at the University of Kansas.

Business opportunities for music therapists

Hope Young, president of the Center for Music Therapy in Austin, will provide entrepreneurship tips for music therapists. A 2009 recipient of University of the Pacific's Young Outstanding Alumni Award, Young consults in startup and tech development. She earned her degree from Pacific in 1989.

More information about the symposium:

About University of the Pacific

Established in 1851 as the first university in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton campus offers more than 80 undergraduate majors in arts and sciences, music, business, education, engineering and computer science, and pharmacy and health sciences. The university's distinctive Northern California footprint also includes the acclaimed Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco and the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. For more information, visit

Media contact:

Claudia Morain | office: 209.946.2313 | cell: 209.479.9894 | email:

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