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Music Therapy Program Receives Golden Donation From Blue Star Connection

Sept. 4, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Romney Thomas

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Music therapy group with instruments
Music therapy faculty and students received thousands of dollars worth of instruments from the Blue Star Connection just before the fall semester began to aid with the therapy services they offer to the community. Delivering the instruments were (back row, from left) Shane Mills, from the Soul Fixin' Foundation; Michael Widner, from Soul Fixin; and Don Ritter, from Blue Star Connection. The beneficiaries include (front row semicircle, from left) students John Smith and Sarah Rossi, music therapy faculty Karen Miller and Charlie Seaman, and student Mary Zamora. —Photos by Brian Blalock


The fall semester has just begun, but the Sam Houston State University School of Music has already hit a high note after receiving a large donation to aid music therapy students and professors in their clinical work.

Blue Star Connection, a non-profit organization that provides musical instruments to youth fighting life-challenging situations, recently donated more than a dozen guitars, several bass guitars, keyboards, amps, percussion instruments, and a full drum set to the SHSU music therapy program, a gift valued in the effect of thousands of dollars, according to Karen Miller, director of music therapy at SHSU.

Prior to this, music therapy students had access only to a small collection of instruments, and with the growing number of students in the program, SHSU’s music therapy clinic often found itself in need of additional resources.

“Students provided their own guitars and anything else they could contribute,” Miller said. “When our clients needed instruments in order to practice therapy-related skills between sessions or after discharge, we had none to give them, so the benefit they could receive from our services was limited by our resources.”

Most of the instruments will remain the music therapy clinic, but some will be gifts for clinic clients, who will benefit from having an instrument at home.

Student unloading boxes
(Above) Music therapy faculty member Charlie Seaman unloads the instruments that were delivered to SHSU's music therapy clinic, and (below) faculty member Karen Miller tests out one of the new guitars, as Blue Star Connections' Don Ritter looks on.
Karen Miller playing guitar

“Blue Star Connection typically donates instruments to children with illnesses or other challenging life situations and to music therapy programs in hospitals, and we are thrilled to be the first university music therapy program to benefit from their efforts,” Miller said.

Music therapy is the prescribed use of music and musical interventions by nationally certified music therapists for the purpose of restoring, maintaining and improving emotional, cognitive, social, physiological and spiritual health and well-being. It has been found effective for people of all ages, from young children to adults.

Although SHSU’s music therapy program has been serving the Huntsville area for almost 30 years, its music therapy clinic was officially established on campus in 2012.

SHSU’s music therapy clinic offers free services to clients in the community and aids those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and any illnesses or situational challenges which necessitate additional support.

“With the blessing of this donation, students and faculty will have access to numerous high-caliber instruments that will improve the quality and breadth of music they provide, thus improving the quality of the therapy itself,” Miller said.

“The opportunity to share what we have with clients is one of the things I am most excited about, because carryover of skills gained in therapy-setting to home and other environments is a necessity in order for good, lasting therapy to happen.”

It was thanks to Shane Mills, from the Soul Fixin’ Foundation, whom music therapy students met at a recent Passport to Sam event, that the donation was possible. When Mills learned of SHSU’s needs for instrument resources, he put the music therapy program in contact with John Catt at Blue Star Connection.

“It really was that simple on our end, and before we knew it, these two organizations had committed to donating an incredible array of instruments for use in therapy,” said Miller.

“This sort of donation is a gift that keeps on giving, and one that will benefit the music therapy program, the School of Music, the university, and members of our community for years to come."




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