by Dr. Carol Lotter

Music Therapy Student Symposium – July 2023

The University of Pretoria in partnership with SANATA hosted a symposium for music therapy students on 25 and 26 July 2023. The symposium was offered in a hybrid format and was attended by arts therapy students and professionals alike. We were joined in person by the University of the Witwatersrand’s Drama Therapy students and one Art Therapy student from the University of Johannesburg, as well as prospective music therapy students from the fourth year BMus and BMus (Hons) groups respectively.

The symposium aimed to expose students primarily to South African Music Therapy research and practice, but we were very pleased that presentations from other Arts Therapy modalities, plus an international presentation were included.

  • Karen de Kock
  • Kobie Swart
  • Katrina McFerran

“Just do it”.

Karen de Kock opened the symposium with her powerful ethnographic journey of ‘Music as Therapy’ and ‘Music in Therapy’ in the field of mental health. Kobie Swart shared her deeply personal account of spiritual, social and Ecosophical transformation through transpersonal Guided Imagery and Music. Both days included a feature presentation just before the lunch-time break. The first day featured Katrina McFerran from Melbourne University, who shared her 30-year journey as a researcher in the field of music therapy. Katrina has published widely and across a range of topics in music therapy. Her presentation highlighted the stages of development from her early career research work to her current research endeavours. The takeaway from this presentation was “Just do it”.

  • Graeme Sacks
  • Naadiya Shaik Omar
  • Jodi Batty
  • Lulu Negota
  • Kamal Naran 

The second day featured a presentation by Graeme Sacks (Music Therapy) and Naadiya Shaik Omar (Drama Therapy). The title of their presentation was ‘Superheroes United: Expressive arts therapy workshops at a children’s home’. Their collaboration is exemplary and we were inspired by the creativity and power of the techniques they use in the workshops they conduct with various groups of children and adolescents.

The symposium program additionally comprised presentations covering various clinical and community contexts, and we are grateful that many colleagues agreed to share their work. Two of our soon-to-be graduating students shared work that was conducted during their training: Jodi Batty presented her work at a refugee centre in the Netherlands, and Lulu Negota on her work with teenage girls in a safe house. Kamal Naran, through a visual diary, shared his personal journey of training as an Art Therapy student.

  • Kate Farquharson
  • Sunelle Fouche
  • Danni McKinnon
  • Nsamu Moonga

Colleagues at different stages of their Ph.D. journeys provided a synopsis of their research. Kate Farquharson is exploring music therapy in a South African public adolescent mental health service; Sunelle Fouche, whose research is also based in public health, is investigating care relationships between nurses and people with intellectual disabilities in long-term care; and Danni McKinnon presented her research focus which is exploring anti-oppressive practice in music therapy in South Africa. Nsamu Moonga, also a Ph.D. candidate, shared his thoughts on a recent book chapter he wrote entitled ‘Embracing the third space in music therapy’.

  • Kerryn Torrance
  • Mark Williams
  • Kerryn Tracey 

Two presentations focused specifically on Community Music Therapy: Kerryn Torrance and Mark Williams shared the ‘MusicWorks Early Child Development (ECD) Programme’ that focuses on nurturing creativity and the music-child within practitioners working in the South African ECD sector. Kerryn Tracey presented on another MusicWorks initiative based at Friends Day Centre in Cape Town.

  • Mari Stevens
  • Kate Dodd
  • Carol Lotter
  • James Paradza

Three presentations focused specifically on clinical work: Mari Stevens presented her work in paediatric palliative care, a presentation that powerfully demonstrates the meaningful role that music therapy can play within a multi-disciplinary team, and Kate Dodd shared a case study entitled ‘Drawing Memories: Art Therapy with a woman diagnosed with Posterior Cortical Atrophy’. Carol Lotter shared on the affordances of individual music therapy in a psychiatric public health facility.

The symposium concluded with a fascinating non-Arts Therapy presentation by James Paradza (University of Pretoria music department), who shared part of his Ph.D.’ research looking at South African perceptions of Beyonce’s visual album ‘Lemonade’ as a medium for intersectionality. 

Overall, the symposium was a meaningful time of listening, sharing, and engaging with the diversity of work taking place in South Africa. While the symposium was primarily aimed at providing music therapy students exposure to local research and practice, the inclusion of other arts therapy presentations brought such richness. Thank you to all presenters and attendees for your contribution and presence.



Dr. Carol Lotter: PhD, University of Pretoria; BMGIM fellow (AMI) and registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Carol is the Arts Therapies co-ordinator and co-directs the Music Therapy programme at the University of Pretoria. Her teaching focus is in clinical studies and primary research interest is in adult mental health.