Original Research

Understanding music’s therapeutic efficacy: Implications for music education

Diane Thram
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 10, No 2 | a110 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v10i2.110 | © 2014 Diane Thram | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 February 2016 | Published: 30 November 2014

About the author(s)

Diane Thram, Rhodes University

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In the current era of electronic domination of human experience, be it via cell phone and/or computer addiction, or the ubiquitous television, actual participation in music- making is less and less common for the average person, child or adult. Passive participation through listening is most often cited by people as their major experience with music in their lives. When asked if listening has therapeutic effects, it is rare for anyone to respond in the negative. Likewise, for performers/active participants in music- making, be it solitary or as part of a group, invariably an enhanced sense of well-being from the act of making music is reported.

This paper addresses therapeutic aspects of musical participation (singing, clapping, playing an instrument, dancing, listening) by providing a historical overview (12th c to present) of attitudes toward music’s therapeutic effects. It argues that music exists through the interaction of our biological capacity to make music with our cultural circumstances. How individuals benefit in all aspects their being – physical, mental and emotional – from engaging in the act of making music is illustrated with examples from field research in southern Africa. Finally implications for Music Education are explored which emphasize how more comprehensive integration of music into the curriculum can serve as an antidote to the increasing isolation and alienation of modern life.


Musical participation; well-being; biological and cultural interaction; music education


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