Melanie Harms Espeland

Associate Professor of Music Therapy

More about Melanie Harms Espeland

Dr. Melanie Harms was hired as Assistant Professor of Music beginning Fall 2009. A graduate of Wartburg College, Harms completed her internship in the greater Los Angeles area with a private agency providing music therapy services to children with special needs, primarily autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in 2000. After attaining Board Certification in Music therapy, Harms took her work to the Bronx, New York and provided music therapy services to students with multiple handicaps, ages 4-21 at Lavelle School for the Blind. She then returned to the Midwest to work as a graduate teaching assistant for the University of Kansas while attaining her Masters in Music Education with Music Therapy. Experience supervising practicum students in a variety of settings as well as teaching Clinical Techniques enhanced Melanie’s abilities in communicating and delivering music therapy. Melanie also provided instruction for guitar and voice classes through her GTA position. Working as part of the clinical team elicited Melanie’s growing interest in the development of a music therapy practicum student, intern, and professional.

In 2003, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida where she became the Coordinator of Music Therapy for Big Bend Hospice. Here she was fortunate to supervise multiple interns and practicum students with the assistance of a strong staff of music therapists under an interdisciplinary team model. Melanie provided music therapy services to individual of all ages in homes, nursing and assisted living facilities, and a hospice house setting. Her position demanded diverse roles from direct music therapy, music therapy education (internal and external), marketing, supervision, service, and leadership. Perhaps one of her greatest assets came when she was selected to participate in Good to Great leadership training within the organization. Melanie has continued to build upon and share her leadership training in communication styles and strategic planning. While in Tallahassee, Melanie obtained certification as a Neurologic Music Therapist (NMT) in an effort to expand her research opportunities. Continued work with Quincy Public Schools facilitating music therapy groups of individuals with developmental disabilities allowed for her to expand upon her master’s thesis project as well as investigate NMT techniques within the Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Harms returned to the University of Kansas in 2005 to pursue a doctorate in special education specializing in autism spectrum disorders and emotional/behavioral disorders. While working at a graduate research assistant, Melanie was mentored by Dr. Richard Simpson in coordinating a collaborative consultation project in the greater Kansas City area. Melanie provided workshops for master’s level students within a partnership grant on autism spectrum disorders, emotional behavior disorders, and collaborative consultation. Melanie facilitated formal and informal assessments, formulated treatment plans based on these findings, and established evaluation systems for measuring not only the student’s progress but also the development of skills by the partnering teacher. Her work with Lee’s Summit schools as a autism and behavior consultant was a pivotal time in her career. A growing reputation with the schools led to collaborative consultation on autism and behavior with more than 8 school districts over the course of four years.

Melanie established a private music therapy contract with Gardner Public Schools in 2005. Her knowledge in autism and emotional behavior disorders, her NMT training, as well as her philosophies on collaborative consultation and interdisciplinary teaming was foundational to the success of this practice. The program continues to provide music therapy to approximated 10 individuals with neurologic disorders and related behaviors.

The legislative mandates and music therapy in special education, the effects of musical mnemonic training on the prosocial behaviors of students with ASD, observer effects in classrooms, interactive video conferencing, administrators and ASD, and collaborative consultation models in the field of autism were among the manuscripts and research projects conducted by Professor Harms.