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A Tribute to Richard Graham

May 8, 2015 09:20 AM

AMTA has lost a great pioneer. We are all saddened by the loss of Dr. Richard Graham on May 4, 2015. President Amy Furman honored him with a special presidential commendation at the 2014 annual meeting and the Southeastern Region held a special ceremony at its spring conference, which included video tributes. Through his leadership as President of the National Association for Music Therapy from 1976-1978 Dr. Graham guided, with a clear vision and steady hand, many profound changes in the Association that still remain in place today.

Richard Graham was born September 24, 1931 in Kansas City Missouri. At an early age he took up piano, later changing to the trumpet in 9th grade as he began his education at Lincoln high school. His leadership qualities that would serve him well as president of NAMT were evident during his four years at Lincoln. Not only did he participate in many musical organizations, such as swing band and take private music lessons, but found time to engage in other activities as a member of the student council and as an integral part of the school’s basketball team. His college years were spent at the University of Kansas where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education (1955) and in quick succession a master’s of music degree in 1958 also at KU. After completing his internship at Topeka State Hospital he worked for three years at Logansport State Hospital, Indiana, serving a diverse client population before moving on to the next important chapter in his life.

Lincoln University located in Jefferson City MO, offered him the opportunity to begin an academic program. He quickly accepted. While building this program from the ground up, he also completed his doctorate at KU (1965). After a three-year stint at Lincoln University he began the successful program at the University of Georgia where he eventually became Director of the School of Music.

Dr. Graham was involved with NAMT during the early years of his career. This set the tone for his lifelong commitment to music therapy and the NAMT. As examples of his dedication he served as a member of the NAMT Research Committee; and later as treasurer, first Vice president moving on to second VP, and then, in 1976,  as President of the Association. He also served as the Editor of the Journal of Music Therapy from 1984-1997.

His leadership qualities came into sharp focus during his presidency. He had a commitment to increase membership (which he did), dealing with budget deficits that plagued the Association and, perhaps most importantly, helped to restructure the governance model used by NAMT at that time. The lasting changes included moving from an unwieldy single body referred to as the Executive Committee to a structure still in place today: a board of directors and a policy-making body that we know today as the Assembly of Delegates. Other major accomplishments during Dr. Graham’s tenure as President were to appoint Margaret Sears as Executive Director. The list of accomplishments continues; he was an amazing leader who was in the right place at the right time to move NAMT forward with his clear ideas, leadership, and complete dedication to the profession of music therapy and to NAMT.

The family is having a graveside ceremony and requesting cards instead of flowers:

Mrs. Melba Jean Graham
6110 South Minter
Grain Valley, MO    64029


This tribute was prepared by Dr. William Davis based on the following article:

Edward P. Kahler II. The Life of Richard M. Graham: President During a Changing Time Journal of Music Therapy (1997) 34 (2): 106-118 doi:10.1093/jmt/34.2.106



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