'OVER 150 musicians, therapists and health care practitioners ...'

attended a one-day Music and Medicine conference in the Castletroy Park hotel.
"The conference was hosted by the Irish World Academy and the Graduate Medical School at the University of Limerick and marked the inaugural meeting of the International Association for Music and Medicine, drawing attendees from 12 countries,some as far afield as Singapore and Canada.

The conference was attended by over 150 musicians, medical practitioners, creative arts therapists, nursing and health care practitioners, as well as interested members of the public, who heard about how music is increasingly being used in a variety of medical contexts.

The attendees were discussing the very real benefits of music therapy – an MA in Music Therapy has been offered by the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in UL for the past 10 years.

"Music therapy has existed in different places and at different times for almost 50 years – and the MA in UL celebrated its tenth anniversary last year," explained Dr Simon Gilbertson, a lecturer on the course, of which Professor Jane Edwards is course director.

"There have been people working in this area for some time – this conference demonstrated the timeliness of how the area is growing. They came here because the course has been offered for the past 10 years so it is a recognition of the work that has been done in this area in Ireland, and it was a great honour that Limerick could host the conference."

The conference increa-sed understanding of how qualified music therapists and medical doctors use music for therapeutic gains, and was preceded by the visit of some the experts to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, the neo-natal care unit in the Maternity Hospital and Milford Care Centre.

"The conference was pre-empted by three visits of some of the presenters to the those units and the response of the intensive care nurses in particular was phenomenal, they were so encouraged and inspired by the therapy that it added tremendously to the visit," explained Dr Gilbertson. "There are very real benefits of music therapy, some very high quality research studies that have been done have provided scientific evidence of the benefits of music therapy in medical settings. It is quite a simple thing really, it is quite crazy but enormously effective."

One of the keynote speakers was Dr Joanne Loewy, Music Therapist at the Louis Armstrong Music Therapy Centre at the Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York City. Her paper gave a general overview of how music therapy forms part of mainstream treatment in an increasing number of hospitals and medical facilities throughout the USA.

Dr Gilbertson explained that a lot of contacts were made at the conference and that these would prove invaluable in developing the area.

"You could really see that people are interested in adding music therapy to the repertoire of healthcare in Ireland, specifically in Limerick, where it has been shown to be possible," he explained." ( Published Date: 20 June 2009 | By Alan Owens)

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