LEARNING CURVE: Steve Barrett, music therapist</br>by Su Bacon, Special to The Star, The Kansas City Star, October 15, 2002

LEARNING CURVE: Steve Barrett, music therapist
by Su Bacon, Special to The Star, The Kansas City Star, October 15, 2002


Curbing road rage may be as close as a car's compact disc player.

Rather than a commute filled with horns honking, tires screeching and other audio irritants, motorists can tune in to the soothing sounds of "Smooth Cruise," a compact disc by music therapist Steve Barrett.

The disc is designed to replace the cacophony of commuting with "rhythms and reminders designed to lower your stress," Barrett said.

He and Richard Stanley, a counselor with Legacy Performance Training, created the disc, subtitled "good music for bad traffic."

Barrett is a musician and a board-certified music therapist. In working with troubled children and adolescents at Marillac Center, a psychiatric treatment facility in Kansas City, he has seen how music can smooth out the rough spots in life.

"Music can open the door to get children talking," Barrett said.

Barrett uses a variety of techniques to break through barriers, from analyzing lyrics to teach tolerance and social skills to beating on drums to teach communication skills and leadership.

The music helps build trust. Clients at the center who have repressed anger and other emotions may begin discussing their feelings and eventually "find peace and move on with their lives," Barrett said, rather than dealing with their problems in anti-social ways.

Barrett spent 15 years as a performing musician before he returned to Kansas City to earn a degree in music therapy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Robert Groene, associate professor and director of the music therapy program at UMKC, said, "We're a helping profession."

Students are admitted by audition into the program at the Conservatory of Music, where they earn a bachelor's degree in music therapy. In addition to general education requirements, course work is a combination of classes from music and the healing professions. Classes include anatomy, physiology, psychology and special education, as well as music theory, history and performance on primary and secondary instruments.

Students also spend time working with music therapists in the community, and they complete an internship of 1,040 hours.

Music therapists need people and performing skills as well as education and training.

"Therapists are `onstage,' " Groene said. "The quality of musicianship will make a difference in the response of the client."

Demand for music therapists is high, Groene said, and graduates find jobs in schools, halfway houses, correctional facilities, hospice programs, nursing homes, rehabilitative facilities, retirement communities and other settings. Some are self-employed with private practices.

For information:

American Music Therapy Association
8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 589-3300

University of Missouri-Kansas City
Conservatory of Music 4949 Cherry St.
Kansas City, MO 64110
(816) 235-2920

Income potential
Range: $18,000 to $70,000 annually
Average for one to five years' experience:
$31,952 annually