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Music Therapy Program at SHSU

Sam Houston State University was founded in 1897 and is the third oldest public college or university in Texas. The university has gone through many changes over the last 140 years academically, physically, administratively and in other ways. The amount of programs the university offers has increased immensely and now includes 80+ undergraduate, 50+ master’s, 10 doctoral programs, online and certification programs. [1]

There is one program in particular that is unique to Sam Houston State and a few other universities in Texas, Music Therapy. According the American Music Therapy Association Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. [2]

The music therapy program at Sam Houston State has only been around since 1984, 34 years after Music Therapy was officially seen as a profession. Getting the program at Sam Houston was not an easy task and owes much of its success to Harley Rex. Around the 1970s Harley Rex was given the position of SHSUs band director by the music school’s director at the Dr. Hackney. Rex was very involved in the music program at SHSU and also brought music to the prison system in Huntsville. He knew there was power in music to truly help people. However, he knew that he was not qualified to do music therapy and was doing as close of a job as possible with the inmates in the prison system. After some time went by Dr. Elliot T. Bowers, the Dean at the time, pushed Rex to get a music therapy program at SHSU started. So Rex went to every Dean in the university and told them that he and Dr. Bowers wanted to start a music therapy program and asked them to sign a form saying they were on board with adding the program. Unfortunately, there was one Dean that was not interested in all. Dean Charlie Schmidt refused to sign the form because he did not know what music therapy was and so he did not want it at the university. It wasn’t until about nine or ten years later that Rex got that final signature. Schmidt had passed away and the new Dean was completely on board with adding the program. Dr. Bowers had Rex go to him immediately and get his signature and sent Rex with his wife and the form to Austin. Rex took the form to Austin to get the program approved and it was approved immediately. Dr. Rex did not give up just because there was a little opposition because music was a big part of his life and he knew the importance of music and having a music therapy program at SHSU. [3]

The music therapy program started in 1984 with Marian Mildred who was the director for 16 years until she retired. As the director and only teacher in the program, she did everything by herself. During her tenure students took basic music classes and music therapy focused classes, including 4 semesters of practicum. Practicum provided students an opportunity to learn, use and improve their skills. Each semester they were assigned a population and they would go out into the community and once a week work with a client or group of clients. The students did have supervision from Mildred but not very much due to the fact that there was one of her and up to 80 students at once. Somehow, even though she was by herself, Mildred prepared many of her students to become great music therapists and sparked the interest of Karen Miller. [4]

Karen Miller was the second director of the Music Therapy program at SHSU right after Mildred. She heard of the program because of the reputation Mildred had built of preparing her students well. Miller came to Sam Houston State to take Mildred’s place while she was on leave, but Mildred decided it was time to retire so Miller was made the official director of the program. She was the director for 18 years at SHSU until she got another opportunity in 2018 at Indiana Wesleyan University. When Miller first started, the number one thing on her agenda was to get herself help because she did not want to go through what Marian Mildred had, being the only faculty member for the program. Miller put her foot down right away and said that they needed to get her help, or she would leave. The American Music Therapy Association had recently made changes to academic requirements that required all students to get weekly supervision which Miller could not do by herself. The School of Music hired someone to be a practicum supervisor to meet those requirements, but Miller was still the only teacher. She went a couple of years with just her and a practicum supervisor while still fighting for more help because of the program's growth. Finally in 2006, Mike Bankhead decided to fight for Miller and the program and get her help. Around 2007-2008, his fighting paid off. Dean Jaimie Herbert had been given one line to add a faculty member to the school of music and he decided to give it to the music therapy program. His only was condition was that they add a Master’s program which Miller was happy to do because she already wanted to. All of that fighting for the program almost didn’t happen though because at one point the program was in jeopardy of being shut down shortly after Miller got the position. Thankfully, Rod Cannon wrote what he calls his “second dissertation” and saved the program. He did all the research he could and proved why the program was important to have at Sam Houston State. [5]

Today the music therapy program offers three different programs, a bachelors, master’s and master’s equivalency. The bachelor's program takes between four to four and half years to complete and ends with a full-time internship that takes 5-6 months to complete. The master’s program takes two years to complete and takes students more in depth into what music therapy is and how to do it. Thanks to Karen Miller students get more experience and instruction to become even better equipped music therapists. She kept practicum the same with 4 semesters, weekly sessions and paperwork that the students have to complete. She did increase the amount of supervision that students got which benefitted them immensely.The master’s equivalency program is for students that have already received a degree in either music or another field and want to become music therapists. The program combines undergrad level classes and master’s level classes so that those students can meet both requirements and learn what they need to be successful. The music therapy program also has a music therapy clinic on campus where individuals can receive music therapy services. Some students during practicum get to work in the clinic with clients as well. Students can also observe sessions in the clinic that other students or faculty lead with approval. [6]

Today the program has around or over one hundred students, and is still growing. The program director is now Carolyn Moore and she has a lot of help. Amy Smith is the associate professor and Marcus Hughes is a visiting assistant professor. Claire Kendrick is currently getting her master’s at SHSU and is the graduate assistant. Music is more impactful to us than we realize and music therapy is helping to reveal just how impactful music is. [7]



Program Advertisement
Program Advertisement This is a picture that was used to advertise the Music Therapy Program at SHSU. Source: Google Images
Mu Tau Omega
Mu Tau Omega Mu Tau Omega is an organization on campus at SHSU that supports Music Therapy and holds events to advocate for music therapy on campus. Source: Google Images
Advertisement This is a picture that was used to advertise for the program at SHSU and the current Music Therapy Director is the person in the photograph, Carolyn Moore. Source: Google Images
School of Music
School of Music This is a picture of the outside of the School of Music. It is a fairly big building with three floors. The first floor has practice rooms, second floor has classrooms and the third floor has offices. Source: Google Images
AMTA The American Music Therapy Association is the national association for music therapy. All music therapists have to get a certification through the association. They have a website that is useful for non-music therapists, future music therapists and current music therapists. Source: Google Images
SHSU Logo This is Sam Houston State University's Logo Source: Google Images
Harley Rex
Harley Rex This is a picture announcing the Harley E. Rex Endowed Scholarship. On the left is Harley and on the right is his son handing him a plaque. Source: Google Images
Harley Rex and Dr. Bowers
Harley Rex and Dr. Bowers Dr. Bowers is the one that pushed Rex to pioneer a Music Therapy Program at Sam Houston. This is a picture of Rex (on the right) visiting Dr. Bowers (in the middle) to show him the endowment plaque. Source: Google Images


Sam Houston State University, School Of Music 1751 Avenue I, Huntsville, TX 77340


Aliyah S. Mohammed, “Music Therapy Program at SHSU,” East Texas History, accessed June 20, 2024,