Inspiring, Informative, Unforgettable: A Sneak Peak at the Music Care Conference Toronto 2016

by Sarah Pearson

The Music Care Conference is a special day in the year. It’s a unique conference that merges expertise with experience, knowledge with networking, and thinking with feeling. Every year a new conference program is carefully curated to both deliver world-class research in music care, as well as to connect each participant to their own relationship to music. This one-day conference brings together experts in the fields of health, music and caregiving, who share their knowledge and experiences with members of Room 217’s learning community. Attendees typically include allied healthcare providers, family and volunteer caregivers, care receivers, musicians, faith-based and community agencies, and students.

This year’s Toronto Music Care Conference is taking place on November 12th, at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, and early-bird registration closes on September 25th. The  day will open with a welcome plenary from Dr. Michael Thaut, a co-founder of the evidence-based treatment system of neurologic music therapy.

Throughout the day, Dr. Michael Thaut will present on a St. Michael’s Hospital study on where music memories are found.  Dr. Corene Thaut will present on neurologic music therapy, a treatment which she co-founded, that uses musical interventions with people who have experienced stroke, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases affecting movement and communication.

The impact of the environment on patient experience will be discussed by Dr. Susan Mazer, co-founder of Healing HealthCare Systems. Dr. Mazer, whose work began in hospitals as a performing musician, has gone on to develop this innovative approach to understanding all the auditory events that affect a patient. Dr. Mazer has written articles and whitepapers for journals and periodicals focusing on noise in hospitals, speech privacy, patient, safety, elder care and other topics. 

Kristine Theurer will present on her approach to building peer support amongst residents in long term care. She has developed the Java Group Programs, which encourages peer relationships among residents and works to offset loneliness and isolation. 

Other presentations will include exploring the dimensions of music care by Bev Foster, a global landscape of music therapy by Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes, and Sing It Girls, a program for girls who worry, by Adrienne Pringle.  Performances include an opening by the University of Toronto’s Klezmer Ensemble, and a closing performance by the Juno-award winning Toronto Mass Choir.

I attended my very first Music Care Conference in 2011, during my first semester of a Master’s in Music Therapy. That one day was both inspiring and informative, and I remember floating home from it with a renewed conviction for my vocational path. I’ll never forget the closing concert with Steven Page, and the flood of emotion as he told the story behind his iconic song “Brian Wilson” and then started to strum the opening chords.

MCC never fails at being powerful, inspiring and unforgettable. 


Sarah Pearson is a music therapist working in oncology and palliative care in Kitchener, ON . She is the Program Development Coordinator for the Room 217 Foundation and Lead Facilitator of the Music Care Certificate Program.