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2021 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

September 2, 2021 11:56 AM

Announcing AMTA 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

Each year, the AMTA Board of Directors honors two deserving individuals with the Lifetime Achievement Award.   The 2021 recipients are Dr. Kenneth Aigen and Dr. Cynthia Briggs.

Dr. Kenneth Aigen

Kenneth Aigen

Kenneth Aigen, DA, LCAT, MT-BC has been an important figure in the profession of music therapy for several decades. He has had significant impact on music therapy treatment, research, philosophy, education, and the development of AMTA. As a clinician, Dr. Aigen is a skilled and sensitive improvisational-based music therapist trained in Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy (NRMT) who spent his clinical career working at New York University’s (NYU) Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy, primarily with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. He continues today as a director of the NRMT Foundation.

This clinical experience was foundational to his writings and research on music therapy. Dr. Aigen has authored numerous books and articles that are known around the world. An important focus of his scholarly work has been to develop an understanding of music-centered music therapy and music as therapy. This re-centering of music therapy practice on the music itself both as an agent and manifestation of change is important in the profession as it emphasizes what is unique about what music therapy offers clients. His focus on connections between musical elements and human behavior/experience truly deepen the practice and understanding of music therapy as a whole. His extensive research and writings have furthered this understanding of the impact of musical engagement and expression in terms of intra- and interpersonal growth and development.

In addition to the development of philosophical foundations and approaches in music therapy, Dr. Aigen has worked to more fully understand the impact of music and music therapy within the neurodiverse community. In 2017, he was awarded the AMTA’s Arthur Flagler Fultz Research Award for his study, “Music in Everyday Autistic Life: The Significance of Music for Autistic Adults.” In 2004, he was awarded the Research/Publications Award from AMTA. His research will continue to impact the practice and understanding of music therapy for both students and professionals.

As a music therapy educator, Dr. Aigen has influenced numerous students, professionals, and music therapy clients. For most of his career in academia, he has taught at NYU with several years at Temple University. At Temple, he was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Dr. Aigen was highly influential in the unification of the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) and the American Association for Music Therapy (AAMT) to form the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). He was president of AAMT during the unification process, and was instrumental in creating the membership organization that exists today. His vision for the future of music therapy has benefitted AMTA and all its members. Through his accomplishments and steadfast commitment to furthering music therapy, it is evident that Dr. Aigen has left an indelible mark on the profession.


Dr. Cynthia Briggs

Cynthia Briggs

Cynthia A. Briggs, PsyD, MM, MT-BC started her teaching career in higher education in 1976 at Drexel/Hahnemann University as a director of the music therapy program. Her passion for educating music therapy students led her to a position as director of the music therapy program at Maryville University of St. Louis, where she inspired and nurtured students as a professor. Dr. Briggs had a significant impact on both students and faculty members with her genuine interests in students, excellence in teaching, and service to the university.

Maryville University recognized her outstanding teaching, service, and scholarly work by presenting her with the Outstanding Faculty Award in 2011. A true testimony of Dr. Briggs as a devoted educator is seen in the legacy she created; many of her former and current students have followed in her footsteps, playing pivotal roles in the music therapy profession as music therapy educators, clinicians, and crucial members of AMTA.

Most importantly, under her strong leadership, the music therapy program at Maryville University has become an integral part of the community. One of the Maryville University music therapy community reach-out programs, “Kids Rock Cancer” (a therapeutic song writing program for children with cancer), has served more than 1,000 children with cancer and helped them write and record their own songs. The “Kids Rock Cancer” program was produced as a documentary in 2014, viewed by over 2 million people on Public Broadcasting Service stations across the nation and was nominated for a 2015 Mid-America Emmy in the human-interest category.

Dr. Briggs is a role model to members of AMTA as a change-maker through her tireless service to the profession. A few selected examples of her extraordinary record of service to the music therapy profession follow: Dr. Briggs served as president of the American Association for Music Therapy (1987–1989); she was instrumental in developing and administrating the first music therapy board examination by serving on the Certification Board for Music Therapists Examination Committee (1983-1986); she was a member of the Academic Program Approval Committee (2004-2010) and the Master’s Level Entry Subcommittee (2013– 2017); she chaired the Education and Clinical Training Advisory Board (2008-2012); and served as an editorial board member for several journals including Music Therapy (1988-1992), The Arts in Psychotherapy (1978-1982), and Journal of Music Therapy (1997– 2000). Dr. Briggs’ exemplary service was recognized by the association with the 2016 AMTA Award of Merit and the 2016 Regional Service Award.  

Through a lifetime of service, research, practice, and education, Dr. Briggs has made a difference in the lives of countless individuals in the profession of music therapy.


Congratulations to both these outstanding and deserving awardees!