Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Michele Forinash, DA

Second Advisor

Jason Butler, PhD

Third Advisor

Carolyn Moore, PhD


The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of music therapy clinicians, educators, clinical supervisors, and students in the United States regarding functional music skill competence. The study further attempted to identify potential factors that may influence perceptions of functional music skill competence, including the principal instrument, amount of clinical and supervision experience, and educational background of the rater. Data for this study were collected using an online survey that asked participants to listen to 12 musical excerpts and rate each for proficiency in overall musicality, instrumental accompaniment, vocal performance, and musical competence. Additionally, participants had the option to provide narrative feedback for each excerpt, as well as for the overall survey. Participants (N = 661) consisted of music therapy students, educators, and board-certified music therapists recruited using both email and social media.

Quantitative results indicated that guitar samples were rated highest on average, followed by piano, then percussion. Ratings for vocal performance and instrumental accompaniment were correlated with both overall musicality and musical competence in nearly all cases. Significant differences existed between groups for at least one sample in nearly all participant demographic categories. A manual thematic analysis of open-ended responses resulted in 15 themes across four categories: musical considerations, clinical considerations, factors affecting perception, and survey feedback. When taken together, results indicate that perception of functional music skill competence is multifaceted, complex, and subjective, and that the process of functional music skill assessment would benefit from standardized criteria and guidelines.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.



Number of Pages


Included in

Music Therapy Commons




The author owns the copyright to this work.