Concordia University

‘We wanted to create something unique’: Concordia’s trailblazing Music Therapy program turns 10

Founder Sandi Curtis and her colleagues expanded the field in innovative ways — and they now draw students from the world
April 30, 2019
By Richard Burnett

Music Therapy The Music Therapy Graduate Program celebrates its 10th anniversary on May 1.

Sandi Curtis is not just the creator, but the revered heart and soul of Concordia’s trailblazing Music Therapy Graduate Programs in the university’s Creative Arts Therapies Department, which will celebrate Music Therapy’s 10th anniversary on May 1.

There are four other music-therapy programs in Canada, so when Concordia decided to create its own program, it chose to expand the field in an innovative way.

“I was hired in 2008 to start the Music Therapy program,” Curtis explains. “You could already enter a career at the bachelor's level, so I didn’t want to duplicate what was already out there, and Concordia wanted to create a graduate program. We wanted to create something unique. So in 2009 I got our graduate diploma approved, and in 2010 I got our master’s up, approved by the province.”

Also key to the program’s success, Curtis hired music therapy professors Laurel Young and Guylaine Vaillancourt, who is also the Chair of the Creative Arts Therapies Department. “I was so delighted to hire Guylaine to come in and teach, and then Laurel,” says Curtis. “What a wonderful team!”

Music therapy is used to treat patients with Acquired Brain Injury, AIDS, autism and various other medical conditions, using such intervention techniques as rhythmic-based activities, singing and playing instruments.

“The role of music therapy in our society today is critically important,” says Curtis. “It addresses people’s quality of life, wellness and health in a unique and extraordinary way because music is a very powerful medium. It affects us cognitively, physically, psychologicially and emotionally all at the same time. It has a great power for healing at the hands of a qualified individual.”


Among the Music Therapy Graduate Programs’ many milestones is their first online course which was launched in January 2019. Says Curtis: “After 10 years, we are also moving our program online in September 2020, which is unique in Canada as well. We continue to embrace a diversity of new and innovative approaches.”

The program’s sterling reputation draws students from around the world.

“Our team is pretty well published and we present internationally,” says Young. “Sandi was a visionary in the way she designed these programs. Our graduate diploma is unique in North America in the way it is designed.”

Curtis – who retires in August 2019 – is a living legend in these parts.

“I feel very honoured that people say that, but I’m not sure I live up to that,” says Curtis. “I do have a passion for music therapy – particularly working with women and girl survivors of violence – and I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished here at Concordia.”

The Music Therapy Graduate Program celebrates its 10th anniversary with at 5 à 7 at the Concordia Art Hive in the E.V. Building on May 1.

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