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From the AMTA Board of Directors

November 13, 2022 01:41 PM

The American Music Therapy Association Board of Directors is committing to building a future that prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, and, to the continuous process to become an anti-racist and anti-oppressive organization.

We, the current Board of Directors of AMTA, acknowledge our complicity with and perpetuation of systemic inequities and apologize to our marginalized and minoritized community members for the resulting harm that you have experienced. We recognize that through our association’s practices we have perpetuated systems of exclusion and oppression. Not all members of national leadership are, or have been, grounded in a diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) orientation, and have been over-reliant on the labor of members of historically and currently marginalized groups. Efforts to engage in DEIA have been further stifled by organizational policies and procedures that are still rooted in harmful, systemic, and oppressive systems. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of an appropriate DEIA framework for conference venue selection, leading to previous events that were harmful, due to culturally appropriative environment (Sandusky, OH, 2016); limitations on movement and lack of safety for our Black colleagues (St. Louis, MO, 2017); ignorance of the culture of human trafficking (Atlantic City, NJ, 2020).
  • A conference culture that did not prioritize accessibility (such as adequate transition time between sessions, presenter amplification, creating and enforcing presenter guidelines for accessibility, inaccessible online conference platforms, and absence of subtitles and closed captioning for virtual conferences.) 
  • AMTA’s disregard for marginalized communities through the reversal of its decision to hold protected “safe spaces” for those communities at the 2019 conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and using legal structure as an excuse to circumvent accountability and responsibility thus resulting in further harm.
  • A lack of communication, accountability, and transparency around DEIA matters, including AMTA’s siloing communication with various affinity groups and using hierarchical power to set groups against one another.
  • Resistance to making statements in response to race-based and LGBTQIA2 -based violence, and exerting power and dominance by shutting down community member requests to make statements on acts of violence impacting those in our profession and those we serve.
  • The use of diversionary tactics like tone policing, gaslighting, and silencing of historically, currently, and systemically marginalized individuals in public forums.
  • A lack of adequate response and action to reported experiences of racism, ableism, and harassment by professionals and students.
  • Exerting hierarchical dominance when working with regional boards, rather than collaborating with and listening to them.
  • Failing to respect all cultural and religious observances by planning meetings, conferences, and gatherings around only the dominant culture’s holidays.

AMTA has not sufficiently communicated transparently, taken accountability for our ineffective action, or committed to—and engaged in—listening and learning in ways that bring about true transformation. This current board acknowledges and accepts responsibility for our failure to ensure individuals’ emotional safety, listen to critical perspectives, value marginalized members’ knowledge, skills, and efforts, and build an association where all feel heard, respected, and safe. In short, we recognize that our actions - and inaction - have silenced voices. We acknowledge and are grateful to individuals in our community, who offered generous feedback, and called in/out AMTA through open letters, blogs, or presentations.

We apologize to you who have experienced harm because of association culture, practices, policies and procedures, and ways of relating. We apologize to our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Disabled, Neurodivergent, LGBTQIA2 , International community, and the affinity groups associated with each of these identities, for the ways AMTA has continued to enable systemic racist, ableist, and oppressive policies and actions that have harmed individuals, the association, and the profession.

For AMTA to be an organization where historically and systemically marginalized individuals feel welcome and can grow and thrive, we must hold ourselves accountable. This apology will only have meaning if we act to repair the harm and erosion of trust, and commit to preventing future harm. We therefore commit to:

  • De-centering historical centers of power in AMTA’s mission, vision, policies, and practices.
  • Disrupting and dismantling harmful systems, regardless of the discomfort this might create for those invested in these systems.
  • Leadership development and organizational change from an anti-oppressive orientation.
  • Continuing to assess our past actions to help inform future actions to be anti-oppressive and reparative.
  • Developing improved collaborative and transparent communication.
  • Rebuilding of trust with students and professionals that have been harmed by AMTA.
  • Establishing increased opportunities for community engagement as we review practices to develop more safe, inclusive, and equitable policies.
  • Using all resources at our disposal to identify and implement safety measures and risk reduction in order to ensure that our events, content and spaces are emotionally, psychologically and physically safe enough for all to participate, grow and thrive.
  • Proactively implementing accessibility for educational opportunities, meetings, and other activities of the Association.
  • Prioritizing accessibility for all association content and events.
  • Continuing conversations surrounding restorative justice with impacted members
  • Recognizing, acknowledging, learning from, and resolving our inevitable mistakes as they emerge through this process.

We acknowledge that an apology is long overdue. And we recognize that we cannot represent the voices of past AMTA leaders no longer serving. We do, though, invite past leaders to engage in their own journeys towards repair related to harms to which they may have contributed. We further hope that, insofar as the current leadership embodies certain collective, historical forces of the Association, that the present apology has impact beyond the scope of the individual members of the current Board of Directors.

This letter was originally drafted to explicitly name and apologize to individuals who wrote open letters about the oppressive harms they experienced by AMTA. Affinity group members had asked for these explicit apologies, yet when we sought consent from these individuals to be named and let them review this letter, they did not want to be included. While some offered specific suggestions, such as facilitating restorative justice circles, most felt this letter was performative at best and not as meaningful without identifying concrete steps AMTA will take to be inclusive, equitable, accessible, and reparative. 

Changing our organization's culture and governance and instilling meaningful and sustainable change must include all voices. We have developed short-, medium-, and long-term action steps, informed by input offered by many of you within the music therapy community. We will continue to engage stakeholder and community input in this process. 

We, the current leadership of AMTA, are committed to the ongoing process of dismantling oppressive systems and the ongoing process of radically restructuring the organization. We will put procedures in place that will require future AMTA leaders to continue these efforts, amplify marginalized voices, and build a culture that centers diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. 

We recognize that our marginalized members have long been calling for AMTA to acknowledge harms. This apology is offered in the spirit of contributing to the ongoing repair of our community. We acknowledge that this letter cannot possibly encompass the entirety of all experiences of harm perpetuated by AMTA. We commit to being receptive and humble, and we aspire to be in partnership with you. 


Jennifer Sokira, Angie Snell, Kate Myers-Coffman, Chelsea Mabes, Katrina Koszczuk, Mia Iliopoulos Krings, Brian Jantz, Leslie Orozco Henry, Spencer Hardy, Lori Gooding, Jennifer Geiger, Alejandra Ferrer, Lauren Daniels, Andrea Dalton, Gretchen Chardos Benner, Brian Abrams



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