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AMTA Election: Candidates' Responses to Traditional Questions

October 13, 2017 08:33 AM

Attention All 2017 Eligible AMTA Voting Members

Important Announcement From the Nominating Committee Chair, Amy Furman, MM, MT-BC

American Music Therapy Association Election
Candidates for 2018-2019 Term

Please take a moment to learn more about the candidates who are running for President Elect and Vice President Elect for the 2018-2019 term. The AMTA candidates have taken a moment to answer the question below. Remember to attend the Meet the Candidates session on Saturday, November 18, 2017 from 1:45-3 PM at the AMTA conference to ask your questions.  As this election will be totally electronic please check your AMTA member record to ensure your primary email is accurate. You may do this by clicking “my account” on the home page, and then “my information.”

President Elect Candidates

  • Jean M. Nemeth, PhD, MT-BC
  • Deborah Benkovitz Williams, MSW, LSW, MT-BC

Vice President Elect Candidates

  • Edward P. Kahler, II, PhD, MT-BC
  • Wendy S. Woolsey, MA, MT-BC

Candidate Responses to Traditional Questions

President Elect Candidate, Jean M. Nemeth, PhD, MT-BC:


Jean holds a BS in Music Education from the University of Connecticut, a M.A. in Music Therapy from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a PhD in Expressive Therapies—Music Therapy concentration—from Lesley University.  She is a board certified music therapist with over 35 years experience working with special needs populations. Her area of concentration has been children with special needs in the public school setting. Until recently, she worked as the district-wide music therapist for the Cheshire Public Schools where she serviced a wide range of students from pre-K through high school. Her specialty is inclusive programming, a topic she has written and presented on extensively over the years.

Jean has remained a very active member of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) throughout her career and held a variety of positions within that organization. She served on the New England Region (NER) Board as delegate to the AMTA Assembly of Delegates for 20 years. Nationally, Jean has chaired committees and was appointed Council Coordinator on the AMTA Board of Directors.  During her seven-year tenure as co-chair of the AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice Committee, she successfully guided a complete revision of the Clinical Standards Document. Jean went on to co-chair the AMTA Continuing Education Committee for four years and served on the Education & Clinical Training Advisory Board. In addition, her service has included terms on the Development Committee and as chair of the Silent Auction, Scholarship Committee, and Awards Committee. Most recently, Jean was privileged to be elected as AMTA Vice President Elect and is currently completing her term as AMTA Vice President with primary duty as AMTA Conference Chair and head of the Conference Team. She is again humbled to have been nominated as a candidate for AMTA President Elect.

Jean has been the fortunate recipient of two NER service awards along with the prestigious AMTA service award.  She is a contributing author to the AMTA publication: Effective Clinical Practice in Music Therapy: Early Childhood & School Age Educational Settings and is a frequent presenter at regional and national conferences. Jean’s Doctoral Dissertation is entitled Essential Music Therapist Attributes for Effecting Positive Outcomes with Children which focused on the person of the therapist and how personal qualities are addressed during training. A proud mother of three grown daughters—Miriam, Amelia, & Haley—Jean resides in Berlin, CT with her husband, Marc, and their two dogs, Daisy & Bentley. She enjoys reading, song writing, traveling, guitar, singing, running, yoga, and staying physically active & cognitively engaged.

Why do you want to be AMTA President?

I have been a music therapist for over 35 years. During that time, I’ve witnessed myriad changes within our profession and major progress garnered by our organization. It seems not so long ago that we struggled simply to be heard within the marketplace. Marginalization of our efforts was common. However, through the arduous labors of so many friends and colleagues—clinicians, educators, and researchers alike—I feel music therapy is on the brink of transcending this past.

The music therapy profession and the work that we do is very dear to me. Like many of you I suspect, being a music therapist is not only my occupation, it is my identity and my passion. I feel it is important and incumbent upon me to give back in equal measure to this profession that has given so much to me. It has been my privilege throughout my career to work alongside fellow music therapists to move this profession forward. Whether serving in my New England region, on the Assembly of Delegates, within the Committee structure, or on the AMTA Board of Directors, my continual aim has always been to further the work of promoting, safeguarding, and enhancing this profession’s ability to provide access to music therapy services wherever and whenever the need arises. As I complete my term as AMTA Vice President, I still feel compelled by this mandate and wish to continue working toward this goal. I can see no better way to forward these aims than to offer myself to the task of leading our organization as AMTA president-elect and future president.  

What do you perceive as the crucial needs to be addressed by our profession: a) within your term of office, and b) in the next 10-15 years?

I believe that the music therapy profession and AMTA are at a critical juncture. It will be incumbent upon the next leaders to guide our organization through some significant changes. Given impending staff transitions, effects of the current political climate, and continual challenges resulting from rampant technological progress, the world in which AMTA operates will undergo untold transformations in the near future.

Of late, increased positive press and widened exposure—initiatives from MTR 2025, interactions with the NIH and neuroscientists, work with the military and Veteran’s Administration, to name a few—have expanded horizons for our profession. To capitalize on these developments, it will be necessary to mobilize music therapy researchers, build our workforce, and develop the capital requirements necessary to respond to these time sensitive possibilities. These opportunities can only be grasped if AMTA, as the spokesperson for our profession, is able to respond with one voice that both represents and transcends our multiple clinical and individual perspectives.

Thus, in the short term, I feel it will be incumbent upon leadership to provide an inclusive forum for all music therapists that allows for positive discourse and harbors all voices. It is only upon such a solid base that our larger initiatives and future growth can be achieved. All music therapists must feel connected to and supported by AMTA in such a way that membership is seen as important. This will require a sense of supportive transparency that must come from the top. If this central tenet—organizational relevance that stems from inclusiveness & transparency—can be achieved, turning attention to the longer-term goals of increasing music therapy’s mainstay role within healthcare and educational markets, developing a well-trained, responsive workforce, and positioning AMTA squarely within the world music therapy community will lend much impetus to achieving AMTA’s stated mission: to increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world.

President Elect Candidate, Deborah Benkovitz Williams, MSW, LSW, MT-BC:


Deborah Benkovitz Williams was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, and attended the Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati.   Debbie received a Bachelor in Music Education from CCM and taught junior high and high school music for several years, taught Suzuki piano at Holy Names College in Oakland, CA, and returned to school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh to obtain her music therapy education.  While working on a Master of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, she provided music therapy services in a geriatric/psychiatric setting and also at an outpatient mental health facility for people with schizophrenia, bipolar, and dual diagnoses.  In the early 2000s Debbie collaborated with Duquesne University to establish intensive CMTE weekend seminars titled “Music & Wellness.”  Sr. Donna Marie Beck of Duquesne University, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UMPC) physicians participated together with local musicians, generating awareness and knowledge of music therapy and self-care techniques.

In 2003, Debbie established a music therapy program at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) of UPMC.   For eleven years, she worked with the CHP Foundation to develop and expand the program, which now includes two full-time music therapists and two full-time art therapists.   Debbie also established a National Roster Internship program at CHP and supervised some 45 interns.   In an effort to reach out for community support and bring a variety of music to the hospital, she collaborated with Penny Anderson Brill of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) to develop a relationship between CHP and the PSO.   PSO musicians now bring monthly live music to the hospital atrium and special events.  This pilot program has grown to include most Pittsburgh hospitals, and is used as a model for hospitals in other cities. 

While living in Pittsburgh, PA, Debbie was elected President of the Mid-Atlantic Region. She served on the board for six years, then continued to serve on the Assembly of Delegates several additional years.   She also served as Chair of Clinical Practice on the World Federation of Music Therapy for two years. 

Debbie has had many remarkable opportunities to present on topics of pediatric pain, pediatric hospice and palliative care, general pediatric music therapy, and areas of self-care for music therapists.   She has given presentations at nearly all national conferences in the past 14 years, and internationally in Italy, South Korea, Argentina, and Austria.   

In 2014 Debbie returned to Cincinnati to work at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for two years.   Most recently, she has served on the AMTA Board of Directors as Regional President Representative, connecting with regional presidents, and providing information and assistance wherever it is needed. In the past two years this developing role has included “disaster response,” and offers help to any music therapist in need with connection, emergency response and support, and, at times, coordination of local help and/or replacement of lost equipment. Although Debbie is retired from a full-time position, she continues to provide music therapy education and consultation, and serves on the AMTA Board of Directors. 

Why do you want to be AMTA President?

Since my introduction to music therapy, I have been deeply intrigued with the power of music.  I arrived at a music therapy career later than most, in my early forties. My early training in music education and performance provided a solid background; however, the impressive accomplishments of music as therapy have fascinated me since my first introduction to it, and I found myself back in the university to complete my music therapy education. The field of music therapy is exploding, in part because of the growing body of research and number of practitioners, and also because of the recent intense interests of neurologists and the NIH in collaborating with music therapists to study the brain. Although progress in many areas of music therapy research has been developing steadily, the growing interest of other disciplines in collaborating with us in the pursuit of our goals has the potential to catapult us into new levels of expertise and practice.  I want to be a part of shaping music therapy’s future.

During my service as President of the MAR and Regional President Representative on the AMTA Board of Directors, I have acquired a solid framework of leadership skills, learned about our organization and our membership, become knowledgeable about politics inside and outside the AMTA as well as many of the important issues we face. I have been become acquainted with people, organizations, and resources that provide pertinent information and expertise to inform my perspective and leadership. As the Regional President Representative on the AMTA Board, I have broadened my knowledge of needs and issues of some particular groups and regions.

I have a strong interest in seeing the AMTA through these exciting but challenging times, and know that I have the energy and skills to do the job.

What do you perceive as the crucial needs to be addressed by our profession: a) within your term of office, and b) in the next 10-15 years?

Goals for next five years:

  1. Develop/increase diversity and multiculturalism in the AMTA by assisting the newly formed committee to develop and accomplish its goals.
  2. Increase our service accessibility to more populations by supporting our affiliate relationships and increasing awareness of music therapy research.
  3. See our organization through leadership changes as people retire and new staff is hired.
  4. Increase the number of practicum and internship sites by developing relationships with music therapists who are able to provide student experiences and, if needed, forming a task force to study why some music therapists are hesitant to establish practicum and internship sites for students.
  5. Continue to increase our membership by supporting the membership committee and exploring new avenues for developing strong relationships with music therapists.

Long-term goals for next 5-15 years:           

  1.  Work toward establishing equal standing with other Allied Health Specialists in dealing with issues such as billing codes and hiring requirements.
  2. Increase and stabilize membership.
  3. Continue to develop the number of practicum and internship sites to keep pace with the growing number of students.
  4. Support academic institutions in keeping up with increased demands on their curriculum. 
  5. Continue to support and fund music therapy research, and to convey research results not only to music therapists, but also to academic, medical and general audiences.

Vice President Elect Candidate, Edward P. Kahler, II, PhD, MT-BC:


I want to express my sincere appreciation for being nominated.  I am truly honored and humbled.  Since an undergraduate, I have been a member of the former NAMT and now AMTA.  Membership and service in this organization have been very important to me and a major part of my professional career.  I look forward to my involvement with AMTA continuing. 

Educational and professional experiences have led me to this point in my career.  I had the opportunity to study with a number of leaders in the music therapy profession.  Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, I sought out and earned an undergraduate degree in Music Therapy and Music Education from the University of Georgia.  I completed a Master’s degree from Texas Women’s University and a Ph.D. from The University of Kansas.  I have clinical experience with a wide range of populations including mental retardation, mental illness and physical rehabilitation (stroke, head injury) patients. My first job as an educator was in Enid, Oklahoma at Phillips University. Following that experience, I accepted a position at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) and I am in my twentieth year as the director of music therapy and eighth year as associate dean. 

Like many, my involvement in the profession began early.  The commitment to participate in and serve the profession was emphasized in my early years by my undergraduate professors.  As an undergraduate student, I was actively involved in the local university music therapy organization.  During that time, I served the former NAMTS (student organization) and attended regional and national conferences. 

Throughout my professional career, my involvement in AMTA has been rewarding and diverse.  I have served at the local, regional, and national levels.  Locally, I hosted and presented workshops for music therapists.  I have participated as a committee member or co-chair for two regional conferences and am currently serving as a co-chair for our regional conference in 2018.  I have served the Southwestern Region (SWAMTA) as the Student Affairs Advisor Board (SAAB) representative, an Assembly of Delegate to AMTA, and as President-Elect, President, and Past-President, and Assembly Delegate representative to the SWMATA board.  I currently serve as parliamentarian of the region. 

I am a consistent contributor to AMTA, though much of my work has been behind the scenes.  I had the opportunity and privilege to represent the state of Arkansas at the Senate Hearing on Aging in 1991.  I was a member of the program Review Committee for several national conferences, editor of HealthCare Windows, an Assembly delegate, and a regional representative to the Student Affairs Advisor Board (SAAB).  I served as Chair of the national SAAB committee.  I currently serve on the Assembly and the MLE sub-committee.  I have served two terms as a Council Coordinator (Council on Association Services and Council on Education and Training).  This has been a great experience and has given me many opportunities to serve on numerous sub-committees and task forces for AMTA.  I have attended and presented at regional and national conferences.

Why do you want to be Vice President of AMTA?

It was an unexpected honor to be nominated for this position, but as I reflect on my professional career, I am confident I am prepared to serve as AMTA Vice President.  As I stated in my biography, serving AMTA has always been a part of me since my undergraduate education.  It is what we do as members of AMTA.  As we often say – “We are AMTA.” 

I believe my experience in AMTA and my career has prepared me to continue to serve AMTA.  Over the years as regional President, committee chair, Assembly Delegate, Director of Music Therapy, and Associate Dean I have learned to manage a budget, make informed decisions, facilitate teamwork, encourage visionary thinking and planning, mediate differences, solicit community support, and enhance understanding.   I have learned to handle challenging issues while facilitating success for all those involved.  I am a calm and patient leader.  If elected I will bring these skills to the office of Vice President of AMTA where the mission is “to advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world.”  I have a breadth and depth of experience that contributes to my leadership skills needed to serve this organization.  I am eager to serve and prepared for the challenge.  I want to be Vice President of AMTA because I believe I can contribute to the advancement of the organization and to the development of the profession.  I believe in and support AMTA’s mission and have always enjoyed serving AMTA.  

What do you perceive as the crucial needs to be addressed by our profession:  a) within your term of office, and b) in the next 10-15 years?

Within the years of this term and the next 10-15 years, AMTA needs to continue to focus on growth, development, and advocacy.  AMTA membership, financial initiatives and protection of the profession is important. 

We need to continue the great work AMTA is doing.  For our profession to grow it is essential to increase and maintain the membership.  With increasing membership, finances will grow and so will services.  I think we have made great progress in providing unique opportunities at our conferences.  This effort needs to continue as the needs of our membership change.  Advocacy is currently pushing forward with great efforts around the country.  We have seen great increases in many state-task forces and professional recognition continues.

There are exciting times ahead for the next 10 to 15 years.  The contract with Oxford University Press provided a giant step toward the scholarly development of the profession.  The AMTA must continually re-evaluate the strategic plan, adjust it where needed, and forge ahead.  Sitting on the Board, I find the emphasis placed on financial initiatives exciting.  Services to members should be a constant focus of the AMTA. 

There is a need to prepare for the changes coming with retirements (educators and clinicians) across the country and deal with the implications.  Finally, we need to promote music therapists around the globe and address new populations of service receivers not yet identified.  We must be flexible and forward thinking. 

As a profession, we have never sat by and allowed events to shape us.  Consider our history.  We have always been leaders.  We have a passion for music therapy and a desire to provide services.  We must work together to provide for those who need us.  We hold the future in our hands and working together we can achieve great things.

Vice President Elect Candidate, Wendy S. Woolsey, MA, MT-BC:


I knew I wanted to be a music therapist when I was 17 years old, after experiencing the powerful ways music helped my Grandmother who had Parkinson’s disease.  I saw the positive effects music had on her pain and anxiety and our family’s interactions at the end of her life.  It was those moving experiences around my Grandmother’s bedside that led me to the University of the Pacific for my BM in Music Therapy and minor in Communicative Disorders. 

After completing an internship at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco with their adult and children’s inpatient units and partial hospitalization program and working in long term care, I returned to UOP for my Master’s degree in music therapy. While finishing my thesis I was asked to develop and direct the activity and rehabilitation program for the retired Jesuit Priests and Brothers in California. I ran that program and a private music therapy practice working with adults and children with neurologic disabilities until my husband and I moved to Redmond, Washington, where we live with our two teenage daughters.

I currently am an instructor of music therapy and the music therapy clinical coordinator at Seattle Pacific University. I am privileged to work with and learn from our future leaders and dedicated music therapists in and around the Puget Sound. I am a resource for people interested in music therapy as a career, caregivers, professionals and researchers wanting information about music therapy. I am also the performing arts music director for a local school of the arts.

I have served at the local, regional and national levels with both the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) most recently as Chair of CBMT. I have also served on the AMTA Board of Directors as the Council Coordinator for the Council on Professional Practice and on national committees, including the Financial Advisory Committee, the Program Committee, and the task force on the Therapeutic Uses of Music.  I served the Western Region on the Board of Directors as the 2nd VP and Newsletter Editor, Parliamentarian, and as an Assembly Delegate.  I have also served as Co-President of the Music Therapy Association of Washington and on the Washington State Recognition Task Force.  I am a recipient of the Western Region Publication Award, am published in Music Therapy Perspectives and received the University of the Pacific Outstanding Graduate Award. 

Besides regularly attending regional and national conferences, I have chaired two regional conferences, one in San Jose, CA and most recently in Seattle, Washington.  We as music therapists have so much to learn from each other’s clinical experience and research as well as the expertise of leaders in related fields. I enjoy coordinating and facilitating the sharing of ideas and best practice using technology that helps make music therapy accessible, current, and relatable.

Why do you want to be Vice President of AMTA?

I want to be Vice President of AMTA because you are amazing professionals with expertise that change lives. I value AMTA and what you do and want to help you share your innovative techniques and groundbreaking research with other music therapists, related professionals and potential clients. You also have needs crucial to your own professional growth and development and the services you provide to clients.  I will listen to what you need from AMTA and utilize available technology to provide opportunities for individual growth and development for professionals and community members to learn about what you’re doing as a music therapist. Information sharing does not just happen once a year at national conference. We have existing tools and processes that have worked well for us and we need to continue to build on those and expand our reach to allow you to access the information you need when you need it and share developments in a timely manner. It is also important to provide cost effective avenues for continuing education and product discounts to those of you who attend conference as well as those who are unable to attend the yearly national conference.  I enjoy planning opportunities for personal growth and advancement in the field of music therapy from the overall vision to the details. It would be a privilege to work with the AMTA board of directors, staff and music therapists of all experience levels in the field in developing programs and platforms that support the field of music therapy and needs of music therapists and the clients we serve.

What do you perceive as the crucial needs to be addressed by our profession:  a) within your term of office, and b) in the next 10-15 years?

I believe AMTA is extremely important to the profession of music therapy and the clients we serve. To remain an industry leader in a field with changing demographics and increase membership, we need to listen to and stay current with member needs. AMTA needs to be relevant and follow a strategic plan to provide value to music therapists of all demographics and be the go to source for information and learning.

To remain current, relevant and accessible, we need to utilize available technology in practice and information sharing. Expanding the use of technology for education, communication, networking and research would increase opportunities and resources for music therapists and the clients we serve. This will help us stay on the cutting edge of this growing field and keep AMTA a leading source for information on music therapy.

It’s important to have a structure and culture that allows for transparency, accountability and change in a timely manner. Working with a strategic plan will help focus work on the mission and track priorities and progress. This will help us continue to make strides in reimbursement, state recognition, research and education in a well thought out, efficient manner.

AMTA depends on the leadership and expertise of the national office staff as well as volunteer music therapists throughout the country and around the world. Leaders are all ages, have different levels and years of experience and come from all backgrounds. To continue the growth and development of music therapy and AMTA, we must foster the development of our leaders, diversify leadership and make service to AMTA rewarding and fun. Leaders who see value in what they are doing, feel appreciated and enjoy the service experience are invaluable resources and vital to the life of AMTA.



(Please refer to Article III.  Membership, Sections 2-9)
All current Professional, Retired and Honorary Life members are eligible to vote.


All current 2017 Professional, Retired & Honorary Life AMTA members should be prepared to vote electronically this year using a ballot invitation sent to their “Primary” email address listed in the AMTA record.  Your ballot will be emailed on November 21, 2017.  Check your spam folders; the email will come from  You must vote online by December 21, 2017.  No exceptions will be made.

Hard copies of the biographical summaries and question responses WILL NOT be mailed through the US Postal Service out for this election.  Ballots WILL NOT be mailed through the US Postal Service for this election.  All AMTA members will need to vote using the online ballot sent for this election which will be managed by  In order to receive an invitation to vote, members must have provided AMTA with an email address listed as their “Primary” email address in their AMTA member record.  If you do not have an email address, please be aware that there are many free, convenient options for obtaining an email address (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and AOL mail are just a few free email services and local libraries offer free computer access for those who do not own a computer).  You must have contacted the AMTA national office to have your email address added to your record by October 1, in order to be eligible to vote in this election.



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