Teaching the Healing Power of Music to Music Teachers

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Amy Wickstrom teaching children to play the xylophone
Amy Wickstrom at work in the classroom | Photo by Allison Corona

Amy Wickstrom (’07 BA, music education) believes in the power of music — specifically, that music education can transform the lives of students with learning disabilities and those who are learning English as a second language. Wickstrom is pursuing a master’s in music education, a graduate certificate in early and special education, and soon will begin her second master’s degree in early and childhood special education. Her goal is to prepare future teachers to use music as a tool to reach vulnerable student populations.

There is a huge gap in special education research right now in how to teach these students music skills, or even utilize music as therapy, she explained. “I’m at the cusp of trying to figure out how to prepare undergraduate teaching students to teach all students before going out into their music classrooms.”

portrait of Amy Wickstrom
Amy Wickstrom (’07 BA, music education)

Wickstrom taught elementary music for five years after earning her bachelor’s degree in a school with blended classrooms that included English language learners and special education students.

“It was an incredible challenge,” she said. “I had a third-grade student who came into my classroom wearing noise canceling headphones as a kindergartener. I had no idea what to do. Eventually she decided she was going to take her headphones off. Before you know it, she was matching pitch, playing instruments, reading and writing music before she could read and write in English. It was a profound way for her to connect with the world.”

The experience helped shape Wickstrom’s desire to give undergraduate music teachers the experience to work with diverse populations.

In summer 2018, Wickstrom traveled to Prague for a conference hosted by the International Society of Music Educators, Music in Schools Teaching Education Commission, with her mentor Dr. Lori Gray, Boise State’s director of music education, to present a poster on how to better prepare undergraduate students for similar challenges. She also traveled to Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, for the World Conference for the International Society of Music Educators, where she presented on how music therapy and music education can work together in a school system, and how we should see music therapists as allies in public schools.