Keynote Presentation: Fragile and silenced spiritualities in music therapy

Presented By: 

Dr. Giorgos Tsiris
Music therapy has had a deep, yet uneasy (and often unspoken) relationship to spirituality throughout its development as a Western, evidence-based profession to date. Despite the spiritual roots of many contemporary music therapy approaches, most empirical research started emerging only after 2002 and has largely been based on student-led projects since then. Similarly, our engagement with spirituality in music therapy education and contemporary issues around equality and anti-oppressive practices has been limited. Why is this? Is spirituality, or perhaps our ways of engaging with spirituality, not useful or relevant to our work and the growth of our profession?

In this keynote presentation, I focus on fragile and silenced spiritualities in music therapy. Drawing on ethnographic accounts from my research, I explore the intimate dance of spirituality in everyday music therapy practice, its plurality, and its complexities. I also outline conceptual and methodological assumptions that have shaped the spiritual discourse in the field alongside different professional agendas. These critical perspectives seek to question dominant narratives and point toward future directions in music therapy practice, research, and theory development.

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Presenter Bio: 

Giorgos Tsiris is Director of Education, Research and Creative Arts at St Columba’s Hospice Care, and Senior Lecturer in Music Therapy at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. As a music therapy practitioner-researcher, he has worked in diverse palliative care contexts and led award-winning arts-based death education initiatives. Giorgos is the founding editor of Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music Therapy and co-chaired the 12th European Music Therapy Congress. Spirituality is a key area of his research work seeking to explore how spirituality is being performed in everyday music therapy contexts. In 2019, he co-edited the special edition on “Exploring the spiritual in music: Interdisciplinary dialogues in music, wellbeing and education”.