For thousands of years, people have known that music is more than a mere pleasure, that it also improves our quality of life in a deeply significant way. In the Hebrew Book of Samuel, King Saul is tormented by an evil spirit that only departs when the young David plays the lyre for him. When the music is playing, King Saul is soothed and restored to his right mind. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates — widely considered the father of modern medicine — used music as part of the treatments he offered patients. Ancient Egyptians helped women through labor and childbirth with healing music.
Relatively recently, in the past one hundred years, a more formal, codified use of music as therapy, as a treatment for diseases, and a therapeutic aid for groups like students with special needs, emerged worldwide. The initial stirrings that led to this development began at the turn of the twentieth century. In the U. S., a society was established in 1903 for the promotion of the therapeutic uses of music. It was called the National Therapeutics Society of New York. Interest in the research and work of this group intensified and grew around the worldto name just one example, when a group of Australian musicians heard about the ideas of the New York Society, they formed one of their own. Inspired by the first Society, the Australians called theirs the International Society for Musical Therapeutics. It was founded in 1924.
This interest in and proliferation of groups to promote music as therapy were ignited by World War I. Doctors and nurses treating the war wounded noticed a hugely beneficial effect on patients when volunteer musicians played for them. As a result, the medical profession began to seek a way to make this type of treatment more scientificto create educational programs where musicians could be trained as therapists. Music therapy programs were the result. The first degree granting program was established in the United States, at Michigan State University in 1944.