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Music Therapy Conversations

Jul 15, 2020

Amelia Oldfield feels incredibly lucky to have worked as a clinical music therapist in the NHS for 40 years. In the early 1980s she worked full-time with people with learning disabilities for six years, and then part-time with pre-school children and their families referred from a child development centre, as well as with primary aged children and their families in a child and family psychiatric unit.

In 1994, she and her colleague, Helen Odell-Miller, jointly set up the MA music therapy training course at Anglia Ruskin University, and Amelia has taught music therapy students on this course since that time. She has particularly enjoyed running workshops to enable and encourage students to develop clinical music therapy improvisation skills on single line instruments. It has always seemed very important to continue to be active clinically herself during her teaching, as her clinical music therapy work inspired her teaching, and her teaching made her think about her clinical work in a rigorous and critical way.

Over the years, Amelia has completed four music therapy research investigations (two of which contributed to her PhD, completed in 2004) and has been a consultant on two recent large music therapy randomised control research trials. She has published 8 music therapy books, some of which have been translated into Russian, Greek, Korean, Japanese and French. She has produced six training videos, two of which have won Royal Television Society Awards.

In 2017, she carried out a music therapy follow up project interviewing ten families with autistic children who received music therapy from her 16 years before. This project was made into a documentary film which was shown at the Cambridge Film Festival in October 2017 and won the Silver Punt 2017 Audience Award for Best Documentary. The film, “Operation Syncopation”, was directed by Max Thompson who received music therapy treatment with Amelia 23 years previously, when he was 3 years old.

In September 2019, Amelia officially ‘retired’ but continues music therapy supervision, research consultancy and teaching both in her role as Emeritus Professor at Anglia Ruskin University, and for other Universities, organisations, or individuals in the UK and abroad. She is also very much enjoying having more time to play the clarinet and starting most days with some yoga practice.

In this interview, we talked about Operation Syncopation, about defining music therapy, the importance of the clarinet in her clinical practice, and about Amelia's educational work in music therapy around the world.