Musical Authenticity: Music Therapists' Perceptions and Practices

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Board-certified music therapists (MT-BCs) are expected to provide live music in numerous client-preferred genres, yet often face barriers that prevent them from recreating this music with musical authenticity, defined here as adhering to the expectations of the genre. The purpose of this survey was to investigate the perceptions and practices of MT-BCs (n = 904, 12%) regarding musical authenticity in their own practice. We collected quantitative and qualitative survey data on the importance of musical authenticity, barriers to and strategies for providing music authentically, and the use of electronic technology and the iPad. Descriptive and thematic analyses revealed that MT-BCs value musical authenticity but balance its importance with therapeutic needs and other types of authenticity that are deemed more important. Participants reported that they lacked knowledge of popular genres, functional musicianship, and electronic technology, which created major barriers to providing musical authenticity. Additionally, we found trends related to gender identity and the use of electronic technology in that significantly more male MT-BCs reported using electronic technology compared with female MT-BCs. Overall, however, less than half of the participants reported using either electronic technology or the iPad to increase musical authenticity. With these results in mind, and building on the results of Schippers and Fetterley, we created a model of recontextualization for music therapy practice. This practical tool is intended to guide music therapists to consider multiple issues of authenticity when learning music for clients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
JournalMusic Therapy Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Music Therapy Association. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


  • competency-based education
  • music therapy
  • technology
  • training
  • trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Music
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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