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Dr. Laura Beer, director of the music therapy program, authored an article titled Qualitative Music in The Qualitative Report, a peer-reviewed, weekly open access journal published by the TQR Community of Nova Southeastern University.
"The aim of this article is to point towards incorporating music into qualitative explorations in a creative yet rigorous manner," Beer writes in the article's closing summary.
Excerpt from Qualitative Music by Laura Beer, published in The Qualitative Report, May 27, 2013.
Recently I embarked upon an intensive exploration of the role of spirituality in the work lives of higher education administrative leaders for my doctoral dissertation project (Beer, 2012). I conducted a series of interviews with highly ranked administrators at a mid-size Western university and used a variety of creative methods to access deeper levels of the experiences they shared. ... The stories and insights gathered profoundly affected me, and I felt a heavy responsibility to accurately and respectfully transform their words into representations in a way that did justice to the level of intimacy we shared in our meetings.
At one point during the interviewing process, I discovered one long interview had not recorded on my recording device. I was extremely distressed by this event and immediately spent hours re-creating, from memory, the conversation I had had with this participant. I remembered events, discussions, and memories into quotes, stories, poetic forms, and illustrations. Once finished, I felt exhausted and worried that I had potentially lost invaluable data. My mind began to wander, and suddenly I entered a quiet space inside myself and simply remembered what this person had said, how they said it, what their body language was like, the rhythms of their speech, and the overall tone of their being.
These impressions began to synthesize into musical melodies and harmonies, and after internally listening for awhile I got up, turned on the recorder, and began to capture the sounds on keyboard, violin, and the Native American flute. When I listened back to what I had recorded, there was a sense that this music somehow directly represented this person. I became aware of experiencing who they were at an essential level. In our next meeting I brought this music and played it for her, and her response was immediate: "That's me? Yes, that's me". This sparked a musical/scholarly journey that resulted in music portraits of each participant. And every one of these people acknowledged, after listening to "their" music, that the piece did indeed capture elements of who they and how they are in the world.
Laura Beer has extensive clinical experience as a music therapist, having worked in the field more than 24 years. In addition to the creative use of music in qualitative studies, other research pursuits include the challenges international students face in bringing a western style education back home; music therapy with people who have dementia; and the role spirituality can take in therapy. She is the director of the music therapy program at Marylhurst University.