The nature of schooling in first world western countries has changed significantly in the past decade. The philosophy of inclusion has been embraced internationally and has led to school communities comprising of staff and students who have considerably diverse backgrounds and abilities. Pedagogical emphases are therefore slowly shifting from teaching universalized curricula to developing universal designs that can take account of the individual needs of students. While the tradition of withdrawing students from class in order to participate in individualized therapy does not fit well in these contexts, music therapists have a lot to offer contemporary schools. The music therapy literature suggests innovative practices are occurring in mainstream and special school contexts, yet they continue to be framed by traditional theories. In contrast community music therapy (CoMT) provides a congruent theoretical framework for current practice, with an emphasis on equality, resource-orientation, collaboration and acknowledgment of the systems that shape music therapists’ work. These theories can be translated into practice principles for music therapists working in schools to assist in the transition away from a sole focus on the pathology of individuals and towards the flourishing of musical cultures within whole school systems. In this article we outline the various forces of change that we perceive to be influencing schools, how they intersect with both traditional and innovative practices of music therapists, and suggest key principles that have been helpful in our own school-based projects in the past decade. Drawing on five key features of CoMT we present a framework for contemporary music therapy practice in schools.
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