View of Multicultural Music Therapy as an Instrument for Leadership: Listening – Vision – Process

Multicultural Music Therapy as an Instrument for Leadership: Listening – Vision – Process

By Guylaine Vaillancourt

Guylaine Vaillancourt


For more than fifteen years, I have worked as a music therapist, usually engaging with a diverse clientele. My profession is a practice of leadership, yet there are very few studies relating music therapy to leadership. This paper explores music therapy as a creative approach to leadership. Moreover, it focuses on music therapy leadership in a multicultural context that represents an opportunity for leading a social justice movement. This essay is certainly not exhaustive and does not have the pretension to cover all aspects of the cultural issues in the leadership, therapeutic and music arenas. This is a revised version of a paper I wrote for one of my professors in my doctoral program in Leadership and Change. The literature I have used from Leadership Studies is considered to be core in this program and I realize that there is leadership literature in other languages. But much of it has not been translated into English or French. I am also reflecting upon my own experience which is influenced by my Western music and music therapy trainings. This represents both strengths and limitations when it comes to leadership in the multicultural area.

One of the goals of this paper is to "inform" the reader, as the concept instrument implies. Instrument is derived from the Greek and Latin roots instrumentum and instruere which means "to inform", "to equip with tools" (Robert, 2000). In that sense, multicultural music therapy and leadership practices can benefit from "teaching" each other.

This paper looks at the constituent parts of multicultural music therapy and leadership which I will argue share the basic concepts of Listening, Vision and Process. These concepts emerged from making a parallel between my experience as a music therapist and the leadership literature.

Music as Metaphor for Leadership

Key thinkers and practitioners in leadership drew the following conclusion from the world of music: Music is more intimately connected to leadership than one might expect on the surface.

As a musician, I bring several metaphors from music to the study of leadership. Music teaches that dissonance is an integral part of harmony. Without conflict and tension, music lacks dynamism and movement. The composer and the improvisational musician alike must contain the dissonance within a frame that holds the audience’s attention until resolution is found. Music also teaches (us) to distinguish the varieties of silence: restless, energized, bored, tranquil, and sublime. With silence one creates moments so that something new can be heard; one holds the tension in an audience or working group, or punctuates important phrases, allowing time for the message to settle (Heiftez, 1994, p. 6).

Music is undeniably a great metaphor for leadership. For instance, in a Western orchestra, the conductor as leader and musicians as "co-leaders", have to bring in their sensibilities, and their senses of music, love and passion in the expression of a musical piece. It is a constant work of listening, playing and synchronizing. There is no possibility for solitary play. Everybody depends on others for the suitable result. The conductor, as we all know, can do nothing without musicians’ involvement. While every person has a specific role, nobody is more important than the other. That is where I see an orchestra as a metaphor for a collaborative leadership.

Those who have used music metaphors to describe working together, especially jazz metaphors, are sensing the nature of this quantum world. This world demands that we be present together, and be willing to improvise. We agree on the melody, tempo, and key, and then we play. We listen carefully; we communicate constantly; and suddenly, there is music, possibilities beyond anything we imagined. The music comes from somewhere else, from a unified whole we have accessed among ourselves, a relationship that transcends our false sense of separateness. When the music appears, we can’t help but be amazed and grateful (Wheatley, 1999, p. 45).

The three dimensions of listening, vision and process are leading threads that reflect my view some of the common ground between leadership and therapy. We go back to the Western orchestra as a demonstration of leadership . Obviously, diverse forms of leadership metaphors could be found in any culture and in less conventional music examples.


When you think of a musical ensemble, the most important quality for a music conductor is "listening", both analytically and semantically. The conductor listens to how the musical elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, and instruments. connect . She/he listens to the musicians’ interpretation of emotions, images, colors, and intentions . While playing, the musicians also listen carefully to the ensemble and adjust their musical play with each other in perfect synchrony.


The vision is transmitted through the musical interpretation. The objective is to be as faithful as possible to the composer' work, epoch, personal and historical context in order to render her/his intention to the audience. There is a need for a "musical vision": "How should this musical work sound?" for example. The musicians’ role is to render honor to the music.

Music itself is a demonstration of leadership when elements move from one part to the other. Being the musical leader does not mean that one has to "speak" or play louder. At some point, the leadership is assured by the double-bass line which sustains the whole orchestra with a regular pulsation that serves as the foundation for the musical structure. Later in the piece, the leader is the line of violins that plays a crescendo reaching a climax. The musical theme throughout the piece also imposes itself in a different register, instruments, tempo, dynamics; the percussion section can also be imposing.


Listening and vision are parts of the process. To render a musical interpretation, the conductor must be able to transmit the intention to the musicians. Every musician is responsible for his/her own interpretation that must "melt" into the ensemble. Without every musician’s willful collaboration, the conductor is helpless. The goal is for the conductor and the orchestra to perform a "final product" for an audience that will bring a unique aesthetic experience to each individual.

The music conductor and musicians are responsible for listening, fostering the vision and supporting the process. This leadership music metaphor helps us project how human beings could work together in order to develop "harmonious" relationships.

Let us remember that space is never empty. If it is filled with harmonious voices, a song arises that is strong and potent. If it is filled with conflict, the dissonance drives us away and we don’t want to be there. Where we pretend that it doesn’t matter whether there is harmony, when we believe we don’t have to "walk our talk," we lose far more than personal integrity. We lose the partnership of a field-rich space that can help bring order to our lives (Wheatley, p. 57)


It is difficult not to think of the conductor of an orchestra as "active"...the conductor is primarily a listener who tunes in on different wavelengths to pick up the specific emissions of different parts of the ensemble...The therapeutic leader listens actively with his "third ear" (Anthony, 1991, p. 73).

There are interesting similarities between the fields of therapy and leadership such as quality of presence, guiding and mentoring, conditions such as environment, participation, and creativity, for instance. Therapy as an instrument for leadership brings us to a broader conception of therapy where listening, vision and process are key elements as well. Therapists have a quality of listening that supports the therapeutic process. On the other hand, unlike musical or leadership contexts, the therapist does not "impose" a vision onto clients. Together, they co-create a vision from the client’s perspective.

Some psychology approaches such as the humanistic approach elaborated by Rogers (1961) seem to inspire leadership vision. Based on empathy, congruence, and transparency, the humanistic orientation helps develop a safe and trusting environment necessary to enhance the therapeutic process. Rogers was one of the first therapists to tap into the clients’ creative potential. He believed in the capacities of clients to explore and use their inner creative resources as a means to growth and change. One way to engage clients in this approach is to validate resources that already exist.

The transpersonal approach also represents a psychological orientation that can be applied to today’s leadership. Transpersonal psychology " concerned with the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" (Lajoie & Shapiro, 1992, p. 91). Qualities such as empathy, compassion, altruism, unselfishness, and unconditional love are parts of such an approach.

In the article The Dilemma of Therapeutic Leadership: The Leader who Does not Lead, Anthony (1991) presents us with a junction between therapy and leadership. Therapy represents a "...positive philosophy that values involvement as expressed in caring, helping, sharing, enabling and supporting. Basic to his work, the group therapist should provide a group climate of support...the leader must me able to connect, discern, attract, facilitate, and fascinate..." (p. 72). The therapeutic leader creates an environment that subtly allows individual potential to emerge which seems to have inspired leadership theorists.


Leadership is about change and moving forward. Leadership theories demonstrate the complexity of defining what is needed to bring changes in "complex systems" inhabited by human beings. Several of these theories rooted in humanistic and transpersonal approaches have inspired leadership theorists such as Greenleaf (2002), Heifetz (1994), Bennis (2003), Burns (1978), Vaill (1996), Wheatley (1999) and Rost (1991).

Heifetz (1994) shares his view on how leadership develops in childhood using a bio-socio-cultural model. Children have a great ability to capture verbal and non-verbal cues about their surroundings. "Our genetic heritage has given us a biological foundation upon which many behaviors are readily, almost inevitably learned. Yet though children may be predisposed to learn about dominance and deference, what they learn about these relationships is largely a matter of culture and upbringing, as the great diversity of human societies attests" (p. 37).

Greenleaf (2002) adheres to a humanistic view when he talks about awareness and the need for individuals to develop their unique creative potential. "Awareness, below the level of the conscious intellect, I see as infinite and therefore equal in every human being, perhaps in every creature...remove the blinders from your awareness by losing what must be lost, the key to which no one can give you, but which your own inward resources rightly cultivated will supply" (p. 340).

Heifetz (1994) brings in his Adaptive Leadership, the concept of the holding environment. This environment creates a sense of safety to undertake the leadership "journey". It allows containing and managing stresses of adaptive effort/work (p.103). Heifetz extends the term beyond parental and therapeutic relationship. "A holding environment consists of any relationship in which one party has the power to hold the attention of another party and facilitate adaptive work" (p. 104).

The holding environment is an important aspect in a therapeutic relationship. As a child, we experience a containing space to develop and grow within parent’s protection and guidance. The term holding environment originated in psychoanalysis to describe the relationship between therapists and patients. It is especially valued in therapy to allow clients to feel safe and enter transformation.

This safe "container" makes room for Bennis’ (2003) optimal conditions which are "... Listening to the inner voice – trusting the inner voice – is one of the most important lessons of leadership" (p. 28). Bennis pulls from humanistic leading qualities as well: Guiding vision; Passion; Integrity; Trust; Curiosity; Daring. (p.31)

Bennis was inspired by Lear, who himself was influenced by Emerson (Bennis, 2003, p. 28) to define the necessary steps to become a leader. Bennis’ approach to leadership is very similar to the therapist’s own journey in becoming a therapist and reciprocally the therapist "teaching" clients to take a similar journey and to become their own "master". He lists the main elements on becoming a leader: 1) Becoming self-expressive; 2) Listening to the inner voice; 3) Learning from the right mentors; and 4) Giving oneself over to a guiding vision.

For Burns (1978), leadership is transformation. Transformational leadership implies change. This type of leadership "...occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality" (p. 20). The "followers" are very much inspired and motivated to changes due to the strong values that resonate with their "true" needs. (p. 36) Values cannot be imposed from the outside. Experience demonstrates that values cannot be taught or integrated without "reaching internalization" (p. 76). Values give specific intonation and color to leadership as if speaking in musical terms.

As leadership values and needs evolve, innovative approaches are explored such as quantum physics which represents the constant movement and interactions between atoms. For Wheatley (1999), quantum leadership reaches beyond any Western concept. For example, she sees creativity as a way to expand awareness. "Any process works that encourages nonlinear thinking and intuition, and uses alternative forms of expression such as drama, art, stories, and pictures...We learn to dwell in multilevel phenomena simultaneously and let our senses lead us to new ways of comprehending" (p.143).

Recently, the quantum leadership model developed by the Kellogg Leadership Study Group (Couto, 2005) has been offering even more of a comprehensive analytical framework. The quantum model is non static, dynamic and moving. Its "distinguishing elements" are Values, Initiative, Inclusiveness and Creativity in relationship to Change, Conflict and Collaboration (p.2). "Influence" and transformation emerge from interactions between elements. You can imagine a three dimensional dynamic graphic that unfortunately cannot be demonstrated here.

When we transpose some of the "distinguishing elements" to therapy, values and creativity are especially important ones. In therapy, individuals try to define their own values: What is important for them? What is their definition of happiness? What are the main values in their life? Individuals do not live in a vacuum. They react to self and others. They are in constant evolution. A "creative tension" is necessary to motivate changes. (Anthony, 1991, p. 76) and creativity comes to nourish and expand vision, reflection and individual potential. Again, music images creativity.

Creating music takes place in relation to structures and audiences. Structural limits provide scaffolding for creativity... Music teaches what it means to think and learn with the heart. In part, it means having access to emotions and viewing them as a resource rather than a liability. It also means having the patience to find meanings left implicit (Heiftez, 1994, p. 6)

Quantum physics has been applied to the field of music therapy especially by Guided and Imagery and Music (GIM) practitioners. GIM training requires reading some quantum physics literature. Many practitioners use the metatheory of The Field of Play (Kenny, 1989). Perhaps the best way of knowing that these materials are "useful" in practice is the fact that these works have been translated into several languages and are used effectively by music therapists around the world to help them in their practice. Quantum physics and its application to the multicultural domain are not addressed in this paper and certainly can greatly contribute to the field.

Meanwhile, Vaill’s (1996) approach to leadership is closely linked to System Thinking. In Learning as a Way of Being, System Thinking is applied to the whole person and the consciousness in relation to self and others is elevated. Systems thinkers have always insisted that "...the learner’s own reflections (reflexive learning) must be the primary source of general knowledge about systems per se (p. 119).

Learning systems thinking, therefore, is learning about oneself in interaction with the surrounding world (p. 110). Vaill (1996) lists seven qualities or modes of learning that he uses as musical metaphors , for example, "chords and intricate melodies... seven notes that can interweave and enrich each other..." (p. 56)

Vaill seems to be the author that succeeds the most in integrating human dimensions into the field of leadership. His learning modes of self-directed, creative, expressive, feeling, reflexive learning are core elements in therapy as well. He also sees exploration in creativity (p. 62). Creators face unknown, uncertain, unconscious zones with confidence, trusting the process, knowing that there is something to discover that is inherent. As music therapists, we are well aware that part of our role is to foster optimal conditions for the creative process to happen.

What transpired from these leadership theorists is compassion and sensitivity for human beings and their well being. The moral intelligence seems to resume it well. Moral intelligence is a concept that seems to be more holistic. "Moral intelligence is our mental capacity to determine how universal human principals (such as integrity, responsibility, compassion, and forgiveness – universal human principals that cut across the globe and are not gender, ethnic, culture, or religion specific) should be applied to our personal values, goals, and actions" (Lennick & Kiel, 2006, p. 13). Table 1 is a synthesis of some of leadership theorists’ key elements that relate to therapy.

Table 1. Leadership theorists’ key elements and therapy

Bennis Guiding vision, Passion, Integrity, Trust, Curiosity, Daring. (Transformative)
Burns Values, Engagement. (Transformative)
Greenleaf Acceptance, Empathy, Awareness. (Servant-Leadership)
Heiftez Holding environment. (Adaptive)
Kellogg Group Values, Initiative, Inclusiveness, Creativity. (Quantum leadership)
Vaill Coaching, Self-learning, Self-directing, Self-creating. (Learning as a way of being)
Wheatley Holistic, Organic process. (Quantum leadership)

It seems that the difference between leaders and therapists is becoming increasingly thin. Both share some approaches and attitudes. For example, in a certain way they both act as "coach" in Vaill’s leadership terminology which in a broad sense represents a type of guidance. In this section, we have paralleled some of these aspects. The following section will attempt to link the cultural element.

Leadership, Therapy and Culture

As we have seen, some leadership and therapy approaches use humanistic and transpersonal psychology principles. When we add a multicultural context, it complicates and enriches our conceptions of leadership and therapy. For Connerly and Pedersen (2005): "All leadership takes place in a multicultural context, given the complexity of ethnographic, demographic, status, and affiliation variables in every leader-other interaction." (p. xii)

The complexity of human beings and the culture they belong to require us to nuance our conception of therapy and leadership. "A cultural intentionality requires the integration of individual and multicultural awareness – personal uniqueness and group and cultural norms in interaction one with the other" (Ivey in Toppozada, 1995, p. 84). We go back to music to illustrate multicultural leadership.

Learning to become an effective leader is like learning to play music: Besides talent, it demands persistence and the opportunity to practice. Effective monocultural leaders have learned to play one instrument; they often have proven themselves by a strong drive and quick and firm opinions. Leading in a multicultural and diverse environment is like playing several instruments. It partly calls for different attitudes and skills: restraint in passing judgment and the ability to recognize that familiar tunes may have to be played differently (Hofstede in Connerly & Pedersen, 2005, p. ix).

Gardner (1995) adopts a similar point of view. "Human beings are cultural creatures, growing up in societies formed over the centuries by other human beings, and participating more or less energetically in institutions that have evolved over equally long periods. ...I view leadership as a process that occurs within the minds of individuals who live in a culture – a process that entails the capacities to create stories, to understand and evaluate these stories, and to appreciate the struggle among stories." (p. 22)

Leadership has different meanings for different cultures. "The Eurocentric position, however, values competition, individualization and mastery over nature. " (Todisco & Salomone in Bradt, 1997, p. 138) Western leadership values individual risk underestimating cultures that value collectivity first, for instance, in Eastern cultures (Bradt, 1997, p. 138).

From the rapid spreading of Western values comes the need to redefine leadership. "On the basis of cultural imperatives from Western societies and the particular organizations to which people belong, as well as influences based on race, gender, religion, family, and professional education, people develop an idea of what leadership is. They then do what they think is leadership, and later make assessments as to whether what they did, and what they thought leadership was, actually worked." (Rost, 1991, p. 16)

Vaill (1996) proposes "Cultural Unlearning" (p. 158) to work cultural issues. He has found that "...misunderstanding, prejudices, factual errors, and remarkably insensitive statements... go in all directions when unlearners are asked to respond to cultural difference..." (p. 168). He uses the terms "cultural keys" to bring understanding of a particular cultural context: "It is knowledge of self-in-relation-to-other" (p.158).

To "unlearn" as Vaill proposes some cultural preconceptions, on both Western and Eastern sides, is a starting point to work in multicultural context. Maybe this increasing multicultural world we live in is transforming our own identity. Some might find it threatening, others challenging in a positive way. Nevertheless the multicultural actuating forces are an opportunity to loosen our own obsolete frames of reference and to adapt new creative leadership. It is particularly important in multicultural music therapy where we have a unique approach to offer.

Multicultural Music Therapy

Essed (2001) offers us an interesting point of view on "multiculturalism" that can inform our music therapy practice. She reaches beyond racial and ethnic reductionisms and talks about transculturalism that refers "... to ‘encompassing or extending across’ cultures, as well ‘going through’ cultures. ‘Trans" in relation to cultures refers also to acknowledging common values and purposes that ‘transcend’ the margins of particular cultures" (p. 500).

The music therapy field is especially appropriate to address multicultural perspectives. Music therapy, like music itself, is a multicultural phenomenon (Moreno, 1988, p. 17). Nevertheless the multicultural music therapy literature is still limited. Most of the articles are literature review or examples of clinical applications although there is an increased interest in cultural perspectives in music therapy (Kenny & Stige, 2002). We also have to keep in mind that the very idea of therapy is a Western concept (Toppozada, 1995).

Moreno (1995), one of the first and most important music therapy figures in the field of multicultural music therapy has played an important role in educating music therapists on multicultural issues. He uses the terminology Ethnomusic therapy that he defines as an interdisciplinary approach to music and healing. Music is part of religious traditions and healing practices in most tribal and indigenous cultures that is used by the shaman or healer. "When dealing with clients from non-Western backgrounds, the use of their ethnic music in therapy may therefore elicit more than the ordinary musical and extramusical associations" (1988, p. 27).

Kenny (2006), also a music therapy pioneer, has been involved in multicultural music therapy practices for many years. She furthers the reflection by asking our field: "Do we have an awareness and knowledge of our own culture of music therapy and how it is related to other professional cultures? Have we identified our "cultural music therapies?" In other words, how does the sphere of influence of "culture" affect the way we construct music therapy philosophy, theory, and practice in each of our regions and countries?" (p. 213).

Brown (2001) emphasizes that music therapists need to have a culturally-centered practice as they increasingly work in a multicultural environment. The statement music is a universal language, needs to be revisited as well. Music can certainly transcend cultural barriers but is not per se a universal language. Every culture has its own traditional music that has specific meanings and associations (Blacking in Brown, 2001, p. 18).

Music therapists need to explore their own cultural attitudes, experiences, biases and views when working in multicultural music therapy. (Chase, 2003; Toppozada, 1995) Multiculturalism courses should also be taught in music therapy training programs to increase students’ sensitivity to cultural issues (Kenny, 2006). Darrow and Molloy (1998) surveyed music therapists throughout United States and found that therapists who mostly learn on the task, feel the need for more multicultural trainings in order to better reach their clients. Fortunately, culture-centered music therapy (Stige, 2002a) and multiculturalism (Kenny & Stige, 2002) have been given more attention in the recent years which to me is expanding our social contribution.

Multicultural Music Therapy, Children and Social Justice

From a humanistic leadership perspective, social justice could be achieved through proactive multicultural music therapy. Obviously, social justice is not exclusively applied in multicultural contexts and trauma that are explored in this paper. As these following examples show, music therapists have made a difference in lives of immigrants, refugees and war victims. These examples focus on actions with children who are very vulnerable when faced with psychological and physical trauma and distress.

That is where Serving (Greenleaf, 2002) takes its meaning from the leadership literature. "The Servant-Leader is servant first... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first." The servant’s first "mission" is "that other people’s highest priority needs are being served...Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?" (p. 27)

Music therapists have the chance to use music to help healing. "One of the noblest and most exquisite aspects of our human character is our desire to alleviate suffering by expressing our compassion, to care about one another. The field of music therapy attracts exceptionally caring people who wish to serve those among us who are at risk and often in extreme states of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual distress." (Kenny, 2006, p.188)

The transcultural psychiatry team at Montreal Children’s Hospital (Rousseau et al., 2005) has implemented creative expression workshops in schools in order to address refugees' and immigrant children’s needs. They conclude that programs that intersect are keys to " exclusion and support a sense of agency." The non-traditional or unconventional means are may be keys to reach populations who have suffered traumas. This project demonstrates that in a multicultural context, the linear, rational, verbal approaches might be too threatening to allow free expression of issues and needs. It offers/provides a safe space where language is not an obstacle.

Music therapy has also been used with children who have been traumatized by war (Bergmann, 2002). In these contexts, children are treated with respect to their families’ cultural, religious, and personal belief systems (Loewy & Stewart, 2004).

The organization War Child also has several projects in the world. Their main offices are in Canada and Holland. War Child Canada provides timely, effective and sustainable support to thousands of children and their families in conflict and post-conflict communities. One of the projects uses music therapy to help children who were victims of the Bosnian war in the 1990’s. The Pavarotti Music Center in Mostar focuses on ‘peace building’ activities.

Music Therapists for Peace, Inc. (MTP) is also a great example of leadership for social justice. This movement originated in 1985 with Edith Boxill, an American music therapist pioneer. She believed that music therapists have "...resources that not only assist the healing of individuals and groups but can bring about health to our wounded planet Earth." One of this movement’s goals is to "...empower music therapists around the world to be "ambassadors of peace," Edith Boxill (1997) was already aware of the multicultural/cross-cultural dimension of music therapy. Music Therapists for Peace, Inc. is more than a worldwide network of like-minded music therapists: It is a Global Context for work through the conscious use of music to bring peace on all levels of existence" (p.1). This movement acknowledges and honors cultural differences as well as commonalities. "By embracing multicultural and cross-cultural perspectives and music, the music therapist brings a diversity of people together in significant and enriching ways" (p.1).

Music therapists can be figures of leadership by leading multicultural projects. They also have a chance to identify potential leaders through music therapy and help develop leadership in children. Fine’s (1995) thesis is a good example on leadership promoting healing and peace through arts. Children of War becoming leaders for peace: A Study of Teenagers and Young Adults in the Children of War International Education Program. This multicultural study allowed a group of teenagers growing up in war zones to transform and make meaning of their own suffering and that of others, as well as developing their views on becoming leaders for peace.

Fine demonstrates the importance of inspiration, love, and recognition received in early relationships with family or other adults. "The multicultural young voices in this study offer compelling evidence that seeds of leadership for peace do exist and can be cultivated in children of war as in other children and teenagers." (Fine, 1995, p.1)

These examples represent a creative approach to leadership and social justice. It is inspiring that music therapists are offering their humanistic competencies for common good. Community music therapy is a renewed and also emerging approach (Pavlicevic & Ansdell, 2004; Stige, 2002b; Ansdell, 2002) that also has the potential to foster social justice.

I believe it is part of our duty to bring the field of music therapy in the service of human beings. The popular idea that it is not "our responsibility" or that "bad forces" are at play when we are face to face with no leadership, allows us to dissociate from our own social responsibility regarding the well being of our fellow human beings. Greenleaf (2002) examines the threat or "enemy" to a better society and suggests that "...the enemy is a strong natural servant who has the potential to lead but does not lead, or who chooses to follow a nonservant." (p.59). When we look at life as an opportunity to serve as Greenleaf expresses it, we offer the world a better chance to evolve in harmony.


Leadership and therapy share some similar qualities and conditions with the difference that therapy focuses on the process rather than the final product as in leadership. Leadership’s raison d’être seems to be to fulfill a vision. The third element to take in account when looking at leadership and therapy definitions is "coaching". Is coaching a form of leadership?

The three main dimensions of listening, vision and process that have emerged throughout this paper on leadership, therapy, music and culture still remain as a leading thread. They need to be further explored : the listener and the one listened to, the visionary and the vision recipient, and the reciprocal process of enactment.

This paper as an essay reflects my own perception and knowledge of multicultural music therapy and leadership. It is framed within my own French-Canadian culture, my North American music therapy training and practice and my encounter with people here and abroad. Thus it only represents a piece of the larger picture. Like in a musical ensemble, every note, every musician has her/his place. Maybe it is a utopian vision to believe that the world can tune itself in harmonious sounds but why not? I am certainly not the first one to dream of it. We find leadership examples in our own field: worldwide pioneers who we can consider leaders that helped music therapy to grow to where it is now and to reach populations in need.


Human beings are "creatures" in constant motion. They search for a better world for self and others. They look for meaning and purpose. Leadership and therapy are roads that one can take to find his/her unique and creative ways to better serve, as articulated by Greenleaf. Multicultural music therapy is one example of service among others. There are as many avenues as there are individuals to serve because of the individual contribution when one rises to a social consciousness.

Multicultural music therapy as an instrument for leadership iss an opportunity to further explore the relationship between the two fields of leadership and therapy. Essential qualities we find in therapy, such as quality of presence, relationships and human dimensions are equally important in leadership. I believe music therapists have a role in leading social change. Yet, I am not sure the actual leadership literature addresses fully this creative dimension. It is up to the music therapy community to use the leadership field to enrich its mission. And the leadership field must tap into creative means to expand its vision.

Could music serve? Are there some rather subtle and abstract sounds, a unifying order, which travels across each of our cultural musics with their highly explicit meanings? Maybe universal music is different from what we have described in the past. Maybe it is even yet to be discovered. Or perhaps, universal music is merely waiting to be softly sensed and trusted and believed in a new way. Could we dare to approach the United Nations and ask this body to create experimental communities – new tribes – which "take care of sound?" (Kenny, 2006, p. 247)


My acknowledgements go to Professor Philomena Essed, Netherlands Equal Treatment Commission Member and Professor Carolyn Kenny, both Professors in the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University (US) and to Professor Brynjulf Stige, University of Bergen ( Norway), for their advise and consultation.


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