Music department receives $1 million gift, growth on the horizon

Matt Peters

Herman Fine Arts Center. Photo by Matt Peters.

Two weeks ago, the Marietta College music department received a $1 million donation from alumni Donald G. and Leslie Straub Ritter, to help start a Music Therapy program.

According to the American Music Therapy Association website, Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

As mentioned in an article published January 25 on the Marietta College website, the Ritters’ gift prompted an immediate search for someone to oversee the program, which is set to be in place by fall of 2018.

“This donation will completely change the face, the offerings and the musical opportunities for all students at Marietta College,” music department chairmen Marshall Kimball told The Marcolian.

Kimball says the program will benefit not only the music department, but also the college as a whole. With only four colleges in Ohio currently offering a Music Therapy major, the program will provide a destination for students looking to pursue a career in music therapy.

“The employment level of persons with this degree borders on 100%.  With well paying positions, the offering of this major will have major impacts on Marietta College as these students learn to deal with clients with all types of health issues that can be dealt with music therapy,” Kimball said.

He added that the program is going to provide greater opportunities for current students as well, especially those pursuing music and psychology degrees. Kimball also believes the program will benefit the community, as music therapists are scarce in southeastern Ohio.

“We receive calls from the hospitals and nursing homes in need of music therapy services but as of right now we have no one with the qualifications to do that.  This program will change that completely,” Kimball said.

In addition to creating the music therapy program, the department also has plans to transform the building known as the ‘Gathering Place’ into a full-scale recording studio. Kimball says this project has tentatively been in the works for a while.

“For the last several years we have been acquiring multiple drum sets, amplifiers and guitars for use by the general student body.  The recording studio will be open to the general student body, probably through a reservation process,” he said.

Kimball says the studio will be equipped with drum sets, amplifiers and guitars, as well as computers with recording software. The renovated building would also serve as the new band hall (a welcomed change from it’s present off-campus location). Kimball added, however, that the project is still in its planning phase, and there is much to be worked out before beginning the renovation.

The Gathering Place. Photo courtesy of Matt Peters.

“With the inauguration of President Ruud, he has definitely made the arts a big emphasis in his platform,” Farmer said. “I think it was very important to the community before, but I think the college now has definitely taken interest in our department.”

Junior music education major Jonah Litman shares these sentiments, and expects significant growth in the coming years.

“It’s going to expand the [department] a lot,” Litman said. “That’s going to bring in a lot of protential students for us, which is really going to blow up the music department.”

Students like Farmer and Litman are confident the donation will go a long way in helping the department achieve these goals. The department has big plans and high hopes.

“We’re all very thankful for the donation that Don Ritter made for us… He has done so much for the program and we can’t thank him enough,” Litman added.

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