Kathleen Howland

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"I often say that music is like a diamond; it has many different facets, and I have been interested in studying all those different facets in a variety of ways. I'm very invested in neuroscience as a way of explaining what we do and what we see. So I look at anthropology, I look at neo-natology, I look in every direction I can, and I think that's reflected in the academic work I've chosen."

"The summer between my freshmen and sophomore years [in college], I was working in a residential school for autistic people. Their muscianship absolutely blew me away; it still does. And yet, as a musician, I couldn't seem to bridge my world to theirs with music, but I knew music had power. I spent another year in my studies at conservatory and then somebody mentioned music therapy. I didn't know what it was, but I knew that's who I was. I was immediately drawn to that as my work, and I switched colleges before my junior year. I enrolled in a program that fed my needs to unharness music in service to others."

"For me there's a continuous relationship between being a researcher, being a lecturer, being a performer, and being a clinician. They all feed one another. I'll see something clinically that sparks my interest, and then I wonder why this could be so. That's when I become a researcher. That researcher then becomes somebody who has something to share with others. And it just goes round and round."

"I think there's no higher use of our musical talents than the opportunity to reach somebody across the bridge of pathology; to reach an Alzheimer's patient, to shape the life of a person with autism, to reach somebody who is afraid or in pain. . . . To be able to reach a fetus who's still in the womb is a tremendous example of the power of music. It's a higher purpose for our music-making than necessarily just gigs. I mean, I've been to concerts that have changed my life, concerts that have enriched my life tremendously. But to really be able to know how to wield and use that power for the higher good of humanity is a tremendous opportunity for us all."

Career Highlights


  • Ph.D., University of South Carolina
  • Baritone saxophone, clarinet player
  • Member of Gathering of Friends sax quartet
  • Performances with Taj Mahal, Les DeMerle, and Rosemary Clooney
  • Recordings include My Private Affair
  • Specialization in music and cognition
  • Licensed speech language pathologist