Aspire! Conservatory brings music therapy to the Tri-State

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 17, 2021

Will be only facility in Tri-State area offering program

ASHLAND, Ky. — A public charity dedicated to the arts is has received a grant to support the launch of music therapy in the Tri-State.

The funding, in the amount of $4,994 from The Foundation For The Tri-State, will help Aspire! Conservatory, which has long envisioned serving the special needs population of the Tri-State community.

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As early as 2016, Aspire! offered summer music camps and classes for children with special needs. In March of 2020, Aspire! Conservatory offered art classes for children with special needs, but unfortunately, the class was interrupted just after it started due to COVID-19. Most recently, Aspire! Conservatory has piloted a music/art class for adults with special needs where in addition to experiencing the aesthetic values of music, participants explore music making and small art projects.

Aspire! Conservatory believes that the arts should be accessible for everyone and is working wholeheartedly to meet that goal in the Tri-State with the introduction of music therapy to its Inclusive Arts Program.

The funding from this grant will purchase musical instruments to be used for music therapy sessions and classes. The equipment funded includes hand drums, a variety of small rhythm instruments, Orff xylophones, a set of ukuleles and a set of roll-up pianos.

Many of the instruments requested are portable, because Aspire! Conservatory plans to offer music therapy sessions and group activities in residential facilities in addition to the offerings at its host church, First Baptist Church of Ashland.

The new music therapy program may eventually be expanded to Aspire! Conservatory’s second location in Louisa, Kentucky as well. Kathryn Lamp, president of The Foundation For The Tri-State said “The Foundation is thrilled to support this innovative new program in our community that will potentially impact so many people.”

Music therapy is an established clinical and evidence-based health profession using music interventions within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals.

Music therapists must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of the American Music Therapy Association’s 72 approved colleges and universities and 1,200 hours of clinical training. Music therapy degrees require knowledge in psychology, medicine and music. Clinical music therapy is the only professional, research-based discipline that actively applies supportive science to the creative, emotional and energizing experiences of music for health treatment and educational goals. Music can be a mood-altering experience for enjoyment, engagement and expression.

After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the music therapist provides treatment including creating, singing, moving to and/or listening to music. Through involvement in therapeutic music activities, clients’ abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives.

Music therapy also provides avenues of communication helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

Music therapy can benefit young children, adolescents and adults. Music therapy is effective for individuals struggling with behavioral health, individuals on the autism spectrum and individuals with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Music therapy is also used effectively in treating mental health (depression, anxiety, stress, bi-polar disorder, ADHD, etc.), in response to crisis and trauma, in stroke patients and in pain management. It has been particularly beneficial to adults with Alzheimer’s Disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and individuals recovering from substance use disorder.

One of the biggest advocates for this music therapy program is local pediatrician, Dr. Ann Craig.

“There were several nudges that led to the introduction of this program today,” DeNeil Hartley, Aspire’s administrative director, said.

Hartley said she had an inquiry which she followed up with an Internet search, and then she discussed the idea with Craig, who eagerly introduced the idea to some agencies in the local area.

The interest in and support for bringing music therapy to the Tri-State then led to a search for a music therapist, and that’s when Hartley found Carleigh Cazad. Cazad is a graduate of Belmont University with a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy.

“This team of proponents has made building a quality program that we’re proud to offer to the Tri-State a very worthwhile endeavor,” Hartley said.

“For many years I have read about the benefits of music therapy as a treatment modality in managing conditions from ADHD to nausea associated with chemotherapy,” Craig said. “I’ve read about its usefulness in pain management and as a tool in substance abuse recovery. I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to have a program like this in our community.”

“For a long time, our area has fallen behind in providing alternative and/or creative arts therapies, such as music therapy,” Cazad said. “My dream has always been to be able to come home to the Tri-State area and provide music therapy services for our community, and with help from Aspire! Conservatory, that dream is now a reality.”

With the introduction of this program, Aspire! Conservatory will be the only establishment offering music therapy in the Tri-State area. Until now, the closest locations where music therapy could be found were Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Athens, Columbus and Cincinnati; and Morgantown, West Virginia.

Aspire! Conservatory is now accepting clients for individual sessions and adapted music lessons, and scheduling group sessions for residential facilities. The official list of on-site small group sessions will be released in early June.

Those interested can watch for information on the Aspire! Conservatory- Ashland Facebook page, visit their website at or send an email to