Part 3 – Nevada Music Therapy Licensure Journey

Welcome to my third blog on successful legislative advocacy, addressing events and marketing tips. The following is a brief overview excerpted from upcoming presentations for the Online Conference for Music Therapy, February 18, 06:15 GMT and the Western Region Conference in Salt Lake City, March 23, 5pm.


Public events are necessary to educate, honor and celebrate the multi-facets of music therapy. Three Nevada Legislature events were successful over four years, along with regular music therapy public events scheduled in southern and northern Nevada for ten plus years.  Our biggest challenge: Nevada employs less than one dozen music therapists with extreme distances of 450 miles between densely populated areas in northern and southern Nevada.

Therefore, additional music therapists were needed with strong advocacy skills. The first legislative events were scheduled in the Governor’s Mansion and the State Legislature Building featuring music therapists in Reno and Las Vegas, Oregon and Washington D.C., Remo employees from California, and local music therapy clients demonstrating the benefits of music therapy through performance and drum circles. These February 2007 events created the template for other states’ advocacy efforts. Sponsors and participants included:

  • Nevada Arts Council
  • Remo, Inc.
  • WRAMTA – Western Region Chapter, American Music Therapy Association
  • AMTA – American Music Therapy Association
  • Omni-Present Sound Research and Development, Inc.
  • Center for Creative Therapeutic Arts
  • The Note-Ables
  • Marvin Picollo School

The legislative events were very successful even though not well-attended due to last-minute conflicts and not being close to a dense population area.

  • Key legislators attended early who received 1:1 attention from music therapists to learn more about the profession who then provided essential advocacy support for future successful bills.
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas attended and finally listed a music therapy degree program on their strategic plan.
  • Key meetings occurred with the Department of Education and Health & Human Services which built relations for future legislative efforts.
  • Media coverage featured these events on the front page of the Capitol’s newspaper.
  • The most powerful Senator in Nevada sent an invitation during the event to present our funding request before the Senate Finance Committee scheduled within days of the event – which resulted in funding.

Testifying before the Senate is an event that can be successful using different approaches.

  • Spontaneous testimony and materials speaking from the heart.
  • Advance planning with music therapists and clients identified to speak on specific topics and/or perform.
  • Playing recorded music of a memorable performance which stimulated emotional response to pass a bill.

Local events serve to educate, honor and celebrate partnership achievements with heart-warming stories about music therapy’s effects.  These events can build partnerships, advocates, clientele and media relationships. If fund-raising is also the focus, then silent and live auctions, event tickets, raffles, etc. round out the successful event. An “event” can be a 1:1 on an airplane, a library educational seminar, a staff in-service, a concert, a fashion show, or a gourmet dinner. Your imagination is the limit to the possibilities!


Build relationships with media – radio, television, newspaper, magazine – for music therapy stories. This requires clients who are willing (comply with HIPPA law) to advocate for greater service access with written permissions telling heart-warming stories with photos and videos about music therapy’s effectiveness.

When marketing music therapy, avoid the appearance of trying to create new jobs. Focus on needs, problems and solutions. Here are some marketing tips when expanding your efforts beyond your current clients.

  • Focus on providing greater access to music therapy, protecting the public, ensuring music therapy providers are credentialed, and avoiding confusion about what music therapy is and is not.
  • Include statewide music therapy representation to attract statewide support, both urban and rural.
  • Create marketing materials with heart-warming statewide client interactions in pictures and brief stories.
  • Accumulate all population fact sheets from the American Music Therapy Association to share with VIPs who have specific interests.
  • Video example is optimally less than two minutes demonstrating before/after music therapy effects (not the actual intervention) with permission for use.
  • Use neutral contact information for a music therapy task force to avoid conflicts of interest (i.e. or your state music therapy association contact info).
  • Organize successful events showcasing music therapy and acknowledging supporters.
  • Register as an unpaid lobbyist to access legislative private office space and elevate the profile of music therapy.
  • Build positive media relations (i.e. invite a media personality to Emcee your event).
  • Print out the legislator directory with pictures and room to make notes for staff names, advocate assignments, etc., updating after each election. Don’t discard old directories as “retired” legislators may still be important advocates and your notes from previous interactions are important to reference.
  • Create a database of all legislators’ emails which needs updating after each election.
  • Send event invitations that include DVD invites or video emails to VIPs (i.e. legislators and their staff).

Listen to music therapist Patti Catalano’s interview with Judith on the Music 4 Life Radio Show podcast aired July 22, 2011 to learn more about the Washington State of Music Therapy. Patti is the Regional Project Manager for the American Music Therapy Association’s $400,000 Wilson Trust Puget Sound Music Therapy Project.

“Success is not the destination, it’s the journey.” — Unknown

Reference Judith’s January 5 blog post for the link to the advocacy personality quiz and read about the important collaborative efforts and support offered by AMTA and CBMT.


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Part 2 – Nevada Music Therapy Licensure Journey

Welcome to Judith’s second blog on successful legislative music therapy advocacy, addressing advocacy skills and communication pathways. The following is a brief overview excerpted from her upcoming presentations for the Online Conference for Music Therapy, February 18, 06:15 GMT and the Western Region Conference in Salt Lake City, March 23, 5pm.

Advocacy Skills

The successful legislative Advocate is well-armed with multi-faceted ways of communicating music therapy’s strengths. As a member or supporter of the State Task Force, s/he recognizes that one person alone does not possess all the required skills for a successful campaign, nor has the time to execute all supportive areas. Therefore, the well-rounded, cohesive Task Force comprises diverse skill sets to facilitate maneuvering successfully through many different target markets, including public and private sectors. When building your team, recruit people – music therapists and non-music therapists – with specific skills and willingness to volunteer, from a diverse pool of your colleagues, support staff, family, friends, media, business leaders, board of directors, caregivers and clients. Legislators like to see their constituents from all walks of life. The Task Force Chair is optimally a strong leader capable of melding many different personalities, communication styles, commitments, and expertise, as well as demonstrate his/her willingness to feature everyone else and allow others to lead, too. Here are some thoughts about skill areas needed for successful advocacy.

  • Crafting all correspondence, advocacy aka marketing materials (print, internet, video), and public speeches to be appropriate within each target market. (i.e. crucial meetings with 30-second to 3-minute overviews with legislators in hallways or social media for timely connections and squelching misinformation)
  • Connect meaningfully with legislators to create advocacy. (i.e. read their bios for information related to interest areas)
  • Build advocates who are state agency leaders, business leaders, clients and caregivers. (i.e. enthused parents want to shout to the world what is happening so file their written permission and story for that moment when media contacts you)

“Some people skate to the puck. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” — Wayne Gretzky

Communication Pathways

Timing is crucial with appropriate means of verbal and written communication methods. Find out what communication method works best for each person, work setting, or situation. As the legislative journey continues with increasing intensity, you may find that previously effective methods are no longer used and 1-20 word texts are optimal!

  • Develop good relations with your personal legislator and the legislator in your business’ district to build trust for that “final hour” when they may vote without time to read legislation updates. They just may trust your advice.
  • Your party line (Republican or Democrat) may suit you for special assignment when the power of persuasion is crucial.
  • Discover what time of day is best using which communication method for optimal connection.
  • Become friends with legislative staff as they are your best connection to their legislator.

Verbal communication happens in-person (first impression sticks), telephone, video conference, and possible public bathroom discussions. Written communications include letters, emails, eNews, texting, press releases, social media, and adaptable advocacy packets.

  • Be mindful and respectful of time.
  • In–person and video conferencing can be terrifying while testifying before legislators. Speak with humble confidence and respect (know protocol and listen). Take notes, be willing to admit not knowing the answer, and follow up asap being mindful of protocol.
  • Let your passion lead with a brief client story that interests legislator(s), cost effectiveness, etc.

Listen to music therapist Kat Fulton’s interview with Judith on the Music 4 Life Radio Show podcast aired June 10, 2011. Because Kat experienced loss of one communication method, she created and strengthened another method that is now the core of her business model that reaches ’round the world.

“Politics should be the part time job of every citizen.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

[Judith notes that advocacy is the political process to influence public policy.]

Reference Judith’s January 5 blog post for the link to the advocacy personality quiz and read about the important collaborative efforts and support offered by AMTA and CBMT.

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Nevada Music Therapy Licensure Journey

Nevada Music Therapy Licensure Journey

The world’s first music therapy state license was issued on November 2, 2011 to Judith Pinkerton, MT-BC/L, Chair of Nevada’s Music Therapy Task Force.  To new advocates, this appeared as an overnight success, when in fact the journey spanned seven years.  Many people, skills, events, bills, communications, marketing, funding, failures and successes culminated in Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signing into law Senate Bill SB190 for Music Therapy State Licensure on June 3, 2011.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” — Dr. Albert Schweitzer


The Nevada Music Therapy Task Force coordinated mighty forces of clients, music therapists, AMTA (,,, legislators and governors with their staff, legislative counsel bureau, department of health and human services staff, community health practitioners, media, music therapy agency board of directors, and music therapy supporters.  The NMTTF included Judith Pinkerton, MT-BC/L (Chair), Manal Toppozada, MA, MT-BC, Diane Bell, MEd, MT-BC, Judy Simpson, MT-BC, Dena Register, PhD, MT-BC, Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, MT-BC, and Rachel Firchau, MT-BC.  A strong task force chair was essential to coordinate all facets and efforts. State Senator Moises Denis sponsored Senate Bill SB190, who is a musician and at one time considered pursuing a music therapy degree. Listen to his interview with Judith Pinkerton on the Music 4 Life Radio Show June 17, 2011 – click here.

“One’s determination will lead to others’ success.” — Haran Alal

During this Advocacy month of January 2012, Judith will blog weekly on this topic, covering required advocacy skills, recommended events, legislative bill failures and passages, funding ups and downs, communication pathways, and marketing tips.

“Mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are moveable, and those that move.” — Arabic Proverb

In order to assist you “moving” here is a quiz with information from AMTA and CBMT.

What kind of advocate are you – super-star or a behind-the-scene sleuth?

Take this quiz to discover your advocacy personality.

There are many ways to be an advocate. You can be the one to talk face-to-face with a legislator or agency official, or the one who helps behind-the-scenes in organizing grassroots efforts. You can serve on a state task force or help out with periodic letter writing efforts and Hill Day events. Be sure to let us know in the comments section what type of advocate you are.

Since 2005, the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists have collaborated on a State Recognition Operational Plan. The primary purpose of this Plan is to get music therapy and our MT-BC credential recognized by individual states so that citizens can more easily access our services. The AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provide guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as they work towards state recognition. To date, their work has resulted in 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, and an estimated 10 bills being filed in 2012 that seek to create either a music therapy registry or license for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.

What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is for anyone. Advocacy happens everywhere, any day of the week, any time you are engaging in a professional capacity. You can advocate at every level, from grassroots in your community to state agencies and governors to national legislators. In fact, any opportunity and conversation is a way to advocate for the profession.

Advocacy also happens within our profession–as when you talk to a person trained in music therapy about board certification. Plus, the skills needed to be an advocate are skills you already have, since you already advocate for your clients, your employment, and your pay.

Advocacy is a language. You need to know your audience and tailor your advocacy skills for that audience. It’s just like tailoring your clinical skills for different clinical populations. Don’t forget that experience is the best teacher–having your audience experience music therapy firsthand is very powerful.

What is the State Recognition Operational Plan and why is it important to music therapy?

The State Recognition Operational Plan is a national initiative being implemented jointly by CBMT and AMTA to obtain state recognition of music therapy and the MT-BC credential. This collaborative effort between AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provides guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as groups of music therapists work toward recognition as defined by their particular state.

The Plan involves increasing awareness of the music therapy profession and of what it means to be board-certified. The ultimate goal is that, in all situations, the MT-BC be a minimum requirement as a service provision in every work setting.


Judith Pinkerton, MT-BC/L

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Nevada Music Therapy Licensure

Governor Brian Sandoval, on June 3, 2011, signed into law Senate Bill SB 190, sponsored by Senator Moises Denis, approving music therapy licensure. Nevada is the first state to issue licenses for board-certified music therapists. (Note: In 2009, New York began issuing licenses for “creative arts therapists,” including art and music therapists.)

Judith Pinkerton led the Nevada Music Therapy Task Force over a period of seven years which resulted in SB 190′s passage. She is the first music therapist to receive this type of license in the USA. As the United State of America is the world leader in music therapy academic requirements, this type of music therapy license is the first to be issued in the world.

For Music 4 Life prevention and wellness programs and products, visit


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