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Careers in music therapy are deeply rewarding, and certified music therapists are increasingly in demand.

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University of the Pacific launches Bay Area's first music therapy program

Applications are being accepted now for the Music Therapy Equivalency Program that will start next fall at the University’s new San Francisco campus.
Oct 6, 2014

What do music therapists do? A) Aid in disaster relief and recovery; B) Improve motor function in people with Parkinson’s disease; C) Reduce pain in cancer patients; D) Improve sleep patterns in premature infants; E) All of the above.

The right answer is E ­— but this multiple-choice list encompasses just a few of the many roles music therapists play in settings ranging from the 2011 Japan earthquake recovery effort to preschools, nursing homes and prisons.

Until now, becoming a music therapist in California has meant competing for limited seats each year in music therapy programs at University of the Pacific’s Stockton campus or Cal State Northridge, the only two institutions statewide that have been accredited by the American Music Therapy Association.

But starting next fall, Pacific will launch the Bay Area’s first music therapy program at the university’s new state-of-the-art San Francisco campus at Fifth and Mission. Applications are being accepted now for the Music Therapy Equivalency Program.

The new program is designed for working professionals who have a bachelor’s degree in music or a related field, such as psychology or special education. The flexible curriculum design enables students to complete the coursework, clinical practicum and other prerequisites required to take the Board Certification Examination for Music Therapists, without having to earn a second baccalaureate degree. Students will be able to complete the program in as few as four semesters.

Clinical practicum opportunities will be available at institutions such as the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation-Golden Gate.

“Careers in music therapy are deeply rewarding, and certified music therapists are increasingly in demand. We are proud to be able to extend this opportunity to working professionals in the Bay Area,” said Feilin Hsiao, director of the Music Therapy Program at Pacific’s nationally acclaimed Conservatory of Music. Hsiao’s recent research has focused on improving music appreciation for patients who use assistive hearing devices such as cochlear implants.

Music therapy is a clinical and evidence-based health profession that uses music to increase people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment. Therapy might include creating, singing and moving or listening to music. It offers emotional support for clients and their families, and provides an alternative means of communication, especially for those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.

Nationally, there are some 5,000 practicing credentialed music therapists. They work primarily in geriatric facilities, child care centers, schools, medical and mental health facilities or in private practice. The average salary is about $51,899 nationally and $71,742 in California, according to the American Music Therapy Association.

Pacific was an early pioneer of music therapy, offering the first course in 1939. In the 75 years since, Pacific’s Music Therapy Program has educated hundreds of music therapists, many of them now leaders in the discipline.

In addition to the new program in San Francisco, Pacific’s Conservatory of Music offers both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at the university’s main campus in Stockton. Pacific is the only institution in California that offers a master’s degree in music therapy. An equivalency program has been offered at the Stockton campus for more than 30 years.

To apply for the equivalency program in San Francisco or Stockton, prospective students are required to complete application forms and an audition in which they perform music on their primary instrument and sing with and without accompaniment.

Music Therapy is one of several academic and clinical programs that will launch this fall and next at Pacific’s new San Francisco campus. Audiology patient clinics will open their doors in October, and an audiology doctoral degree program – the largest in California – will launch next fall. Also slated are a master’s of science degree in analytics and a master’s degree in food studies. Pacific’s 395,000-square-foot San Francisco campus is also home to Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, one of the country’s top dental schools.

Learn more about the new program

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 a campus in San Francisco, which is home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, and a campus in Sacramento, home to the McGeorge School of Law. For more information, visit

Media contact:

Claudia Morain | | office: 209.946.2313 | cell: 209.479.9894

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