Environmental Music in a Hospital Setting: Considerations of Music Therapists and Performing Musicians


  • Jing Wen Zhang SUNY New Paltz
  • Mary A Doherty SUNY New Paltz
  • John Francis Mahoney SUNY New Paltz







Background: This qualitative study explores the considerations of music therapists and musicians who provide environmental music therapy (EMT) and environmental music (EM) in hospital settings. EMT is an approach within the field of music therapy, utilized by trained, certified professionals who apply live music to address the physical, psychological, and cultural needs of patients, caregivers, and staff in the hospital environment. EM is defined as live music performed by musicians in public areas of hospitals typically on a volunteer basis. Both models might appear to be similar in actual presentation. However, the underlying differences warrant discussion.

Objective: This study explores the similarities and differences between musicians and music therapists’ experiences of playing music within the sound environment of hospitals, and the unique considerations and impact their music conditions may have upon patients, and caregivers.

Method: Interviews were conducted with 6 musicians providing EM and 5 music therapists providing EMT. Data were analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach.

Results: Results suggest that music therapists and musicians consider their contributions to be beneficial to the hospital environment and to the emotional states of individuals, as well. Findings indicate that music therapists’ considerations are more goal-directed. Of the 11 participants- 5 were music therapists from urban hospital settings and 6 were performing musicians who were involved with community music programs. All of the interviewees expressed unique understanding of music’s value in medical settings, which can often be associated with anxiety and stress. Discussion includes considerations for collaborations between music therapists and musicians in the hospital setting inclusive of administrative understanding of the essential differences between music therapists and musicians.


Keywords: music and medicine, music and health, environmental music,
                    Environmental music therapy, community music, attunement,  

                    deep listening.                                                                                                                  multilingual abstract | mmd.iammonline.com

Author Biography

John Francis Mahoney, SUNY New Paltz

John Mahoney, Ph.D., MT-BC, LCAT Music Therapy Program Director




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