An Alum's Journey to a Career in Music Therapy


After Juilliard, Holly Mentzer (B.M. ’87, M.M. ’88, flute) was a music editor in the New York office of Boosey & Hawkes, where she worked with leading contemporary music composers for nearly 20 years before deciding it was time for a change. She was among a number of alums who have pursued nonperforming career paths who shared their stories with The Journal. Please send your nontraditional alumni news to journal@juilliard.edu.

Music therapist Holly Mentzer works part-time with children with multiple handicaps and developmental delays through the HeartSong program in Westchester County.


Having always had an interest in medicine and psychology, music therapy seemed like the perfect field to combine those interests with my passion for music (I still perform, with a concentration in early music). I obtained a master’s degree in music therapy from N.Y.U. in 2009, and am now working as a music therapist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where we provide bedside music therapy services for inpatients with cancer as well as leading music therapy groups and environmental music in post-surgical units. The work is very challenging but extremely gratifying and powerful. 

I feel privileged to be working in this hospital because of the immediate response we receive from playing and improvising music with our patients, or helping them to clear their mind from the anxiety of their diagnosis and treatment by listening to live music, which some say is “more powerful than any medicine.” I also work part-time with children with developmental delays and multiply-handicapped children at a Saturday program in Westchester County called HeartSong, where music therapy groups are used to increase socialization, develop fine and gross motor skills, improve ability to attend, increase range of expression, as well as to have fun.

When I was a student at Juilliard, music therapy was still a relatively new field, but today, it has gained widespread acceptance from medical clinicians, educators, hospital and nursing home administrators, and most of all, the clients and families whose lives are affected by cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, mental illness, and physical and neurological impairments. I am frequently approached by people of all ages and points in their music careers who are interested in entering the field, and I am now a clinical internship and fieldwork supervisor through N.Y.U. It’s been a great journey!

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