Forms of music therapy existed in the ancient world and have occurred in most subsequent cultures. An early instance in 19th-century Canada was described in the Report of the Commissioners, Beauport Asylum, Quebec, January 1849: 'In several cases we have found music and dancing of great benefit as remedial agents. In one case they roused a patient from a state of the most abject melancholy, and gave a stimulus to his mental faculties, which resulted in perfect recovery.' This was more than a coincidence, for in his Hochelaga, or England in the New World (London 1846), Eliot Warburton said in 1845 (p 176) about the same asylum: 'With very few exceptions, music appears to cause them great pleasure, soothing rather than exciting them.' In 1879 in Biddeford, Me, the Canadian Roch Lyonnais is known to have read a paper stressing the therapeutic value of music. Its practical introduction to Canada, however, is related directly to developments in Great Britain and the USA.
As early as 1919 Columbia U (New York) offered courses, and in 1941 a National Foundation for Music Therapy was established in the USA. The use of music in rehabilitation programs in military hospitals late in World War II led to the establishment in 1944 of a degree program to train music therapists at Michigan State College (now University), and by 1991 some 75 US colleges offered degree programs. The National Association for Music Therapy, originally with headquarters in Lawrence, Kan, was formed in 1950. In England the British Society of Music Therapy, founded in 1958 as the Society for Music Therapy and Remedial Music, collaborated with the GSM to develop a one-year post-graduate program leading to an LGSMT (Licentiate, Guildhall School of Music Therapy).In Canada Alfred Rosé initiated one of the first pilot projects (1952-61) at Westminster Hospital in London, Ont. In the early 1950s three prominent music therapists established programs: Norma Sharpe at St Thomas (Ont) Psychiatric Hospital; Fran Herman at Bloorview Hospital, Toronto; and Thérèse Pageau at Hôpital St-Jean-de-Dieu (now Hôpital Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine), Montreal. Other programs began in the early 1960s in Weyburn, Sask (under Dorothy Twente Sommer), and in Kitchener, Ont (under Earl A. Charboneau). In August 1974, a conference organized at St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital by Norma Sharpe, assisted by six music therapists, led to the founding of the Canadian Music Therapy Association. In 1976 the name was changed to the Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT), which was incorporated in 1977. A constitution and bylaws were adopted along with a code of ethics. A number of provincial chapters of the CAMT were later formed. By 1979 the first 17 music therapists were accredited according to the registration procedures developed by CAMT; and in January 1991 the number of Music Therapists Accredited (MTA) by the CAMT was 78. By 1990 the total membership had grown from the original 63 who attended the 1974 conference to 285. Presidents of the CAMT have been Norma Sharpe (1974-5), Thérèse Pageau (1976), Susan Munro (1977-80), Fran Herman (1981-2), Valerie Ivy (1983-5), Doreen Alexander (1986-8), and Paul Lauzon (1989), succeeded in 1990 by Cheryl Beggs. Lifetime memberships have been awarded to Fran Herman, Thérèse Pageau (deceased), and Norma Sharpe.
In 1974 Norma Sharpe and Marjorie Burnett co-edited a number of issues of a newsletter entitled the Canadian Music Therapy Bulletin; and in December 1975 the CAMT Newsletter became the first official publication of the new organization. In 1991 it was a quarterly publication. Seven issues of a professional journal were also published 1974-81. Annual conferences began in 1974 and have been held in various Canadian centres including Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, and Waterloo. In 1979 Fran Herman established the publication of the conference proceedings - a practice that has continued following each successive conference.
Until the mid-1970s most accredited music therapists in Canada had taken their training in England at the GSM, or in the USA. The first music therapy training program in Canada was founded at Capilano College, North Vancouver, in 1976 by Nancy McMaster and Carolyn Kenny. Originally implemented as a two-year diploma program, it was revised in 1990 to a three-year undergraduate format. Other university undergraduate programs in music therapy that were introduced were at UQAM in 1985 (co-ordinated by Connie Isenberg-Grzeda), at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1986 (directed by Rosemary Fischer), and at the the University of Windsor in 1990 (directed by Sammi Liebman). All programs have been providing courses in the social and behavioural sciences, human anatomy and physiology, music, clinical music improvisation, and music therapy, as well as supervised field training. In order to qualify for CAMT accreditation, the graduate must complete a supervised clinical internship of approximately 1000 hours. Following this, the student may apply to the CAMT accreditation review board which assesses the candidate's academic training, clinical experience, and personal suitability. Accredited music therapists may use the letters MTA. The training is designed to reflect CAMT's 'emphasis on the importance of the music therapist's musicianship and the basic humanism inherent to the therapeutic relationship... [a relationship] that unfolds through the aesthetic experience which [client and therapist] share' (Isenberg-Grzeda 1990-1, p 33).
In 1990 Canadian music therapists were working in schools, hospitals, private clinics, day care facilities, mental health centres, nursing homes, palliative care units, and other institutions. In most settings, the music therapist works as an integral member of a multi-disciplinary team planning, implementing, and evaluating the treatment of conditions of an emotional, intellectual, and/or physical nature. Their work has assisted people suffering from a broad range of conditions, including AIDS, asthma, autism, blindness, cancer, cerebral palsy, deafness, environmental deprivation, head injury, learning disabilities, intellectual deficits, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, physical and mental abuse, and substance abuse. Music therapy techniques vary as widely as the conditions they treat. Music therapy may be used as a primary therapy or as an adjunct to other therapies.
Although music therapy services are not covered by provincial medical plans, some funding has been provided on a regional level. Government funding has been provided beginning in 1985 in several Ontario municipalities by the Ministry of Community and Social Services through its Special Needs at Home program for the treatment of children and youths defined as 'developmentally delayed'.