Awards and Celebrations

Aaron Copeland Partnership Award

This award is given to an individual or individuals who are not music therapists; but support and advocate for the profession of music therapy in New Jersey. Known originally as the Partnerships in Music Therapy Award, it was renamed The Aaron Copeland Partnership Award in memory of a veteran who was an outspoken advocate of music therapy and is presented to individuals who embody his support and advocacy of music therapy.

Aaron Copeland received music therapy services at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in East Orange, New Jersey. He accepted an invitation to attend a Music Therapy Day at the New Jersey State House in Trenton March 26, 1998 where he spoke to legislators about his experiences with music therapy and sang from the Senate chambers floor.

If you know of someone who should be nominated for this award contact



2020 – Gerard Costa, Ph.D., DIR-C, IMH-E- IV- Clinical Mentor and New
Jersey Licensed Psychologist received the award on October 27, 2020
preceding a virtual New Jersey Music Therapy Association continuing
education workshop. Dr. Costa’s career positions include Director for the
Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, and Professor of Early
Childhood Elementary and Literacy Education at Montclair State University in
addition to Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at
Rutgers University – New Jersey Medical School and graduate school faculty
for the DIR Institute and Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and
Learning (ICDL), founded by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena
Wieder among his many other titles and responsibilities.
Dr. Costa’s advocacy included testimony in legislative hearing to support
licensing for music therapists in New Jersey, and serving on the New Jersey
Autism Executive Stakeholder Planning Work Group for the Department of
Children and Families/Children’s System of Care which resulted in
amendments to the New Jersey Medicaid State Plan for services for children
with autism that provide expanded funding to include a multidisciplinary array
of services beyond narrow focused treatments which have typically been a
behavioral paradigm. Dr. Costa stated he did this because “he wanted New
Jersey to be a national leader in bringing the developmental and multidisciplinary
sciences to support full and inclusive human development, individual differences,
and quality of life.


2008 - Robyn Wramage-Caporoso, OTL/R, NCC, Director of Rehabilitation Services, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital (went on to accept the position of Director of Psychiatric Services) received the award December 15, 2008 in a ceremony at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey.


2005 - Governor Richard J. Codey received the award in 2005; but the ceremony was postponed until March 6, 2006 to accommodate his schedule. The event was held at the Department of Veterans Affairs, New Jersey Health Care System in East Orange, New Jersey. Governor Richard J. Codey a long-time advocate for music therapy created the Governor's Task Force on Mental Health which included recommendations for the use of music therapy and as a Senator and Senate President sponsored several proclamations designating Music Therapy Days in the state.

Governor Richard J. Codey pictured with music therapists Judy Belland, Sheila Riley-Massa, Carol Ann Blank, Roia Rafieyan, and Donna Faraone, music therapist and Performance Improvement Coordinator at VA NJHCS.

2002 - Thomas and Lucy Ott received the award December 2, 2002 at a Montclair State University dinner for recipients of David's Fund scholarships hosted off-campus. David's Fund is a philanthropic endowment fund established in 1996 by Tom and Lucy Ott in loving memory of their son, David. It is devoted exclusively to the support and advancement of the field of music therapy with funding provided for research, education, clinical services and other related activities.


2001 - Matheny Home and Hospital received the award March 8, 2001 at the Creative Arts Therapies Capitol Day in Trenton. The award was given for Matheny's long-standing commitment to music therapy. Indeed, Matheny remains the only New Jersey internship on the AMTA National Roster (renamed Matheny Medical and Educational Center).


2000 - New Jersey Assemblywoman Mary T. Previte, Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, and Senator John H. Adler received awards in a ceremony at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey.

Performance given by the HDC Singers (Hunterdon Developmental Center) in the awards ceremony.

Assemblywoman Mary T. Previte and Roia Rafieyan, music therapist.

1999 - Veteran Aaron Copeland, who was an outspoken advocate of music therapy, received the award posthumously and the Partnerships in Music Therapy Award was renamed the Aaron Copeland Partnership Award in his memory.

Recognition of Music Therapy in New Jersey

Several legislators have sponsored resolutions recognizing the music therapy profession and designating a Music Therapy Day through the years. Typically these are held in Trenton, New Jersey at the State Capitol and are organized and implemented by NJAMT to educate legislators about the profession of music therapy. Legislators are given opportunities to meet one on one with music therapists and to view educational and musical presentations to provide a basis for understanding of the music therapy profession in New Jersey. In addition to Music Therapy Day events, New Jersey music therapists have participated in other special events that bring the profession to the attention of legislators such as Special Education Day and Creative Arts Therapies Week.

Music Therapy Week: November 19-23, 2020
New Jersey Governor Phillip D. Murphy issued a proclamation in which the music therapy profession, credentialed music therapists, and healthcare work done by music therapists was recognized.  The proclamation was issued in conjunction with the American Music Therapy Association’s 2020 annual national conference which was hosted by New Jersey music therapists.  The 2020 conference coincided with the first year of the COVID-19 global pandemic.  As a result, the planned in-person conference to have been held in Atlantic City, was changed to a first ever virtual national conference.  New Jersey music therapists were also celebrating their 2020 New Jersey music therapist license, signed into law January 21, 2020, thus becoming the first state in the Mid-Atlantic Region to have license law.  In addition, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to have a state board created for their license, the Board of Creative Arts and Activities Therapies.  Members of the Board include music, art, dance/movement, drama and recreational therapists.

State of New Jersey

Executive Department


WHEREAS, music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship; and

WHEREAS, interventions are developed and provided by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program; and

WHEREAS, music therapists work with individuals of all ages, spanning diverse cultural traditions who require special services because of behavior, social learning, or disabilities; and

WHEREAS, music therapy interventions are designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities recognizes music therapy as one of the creative arts therapies; and

WHEREAS, the American Music Therapy Association's national conference is to be held virtually November 19-22, 2020, and is committed to the advancement of education, training, professional standards, credentials, and research in support of the music therapy profession; and

WHEREAS, the State recognizes the contributions of music therapists and their efforts to improve the well-being of the individuals they serve;

NOW THEREFORE, I, Phillip D. Murphy, Governor of the State of New Jersey, do hereby proclaim:


GIVEN, under my hand and the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey, this twentieth day of November in the year two thousand twenty, The two hundred forty-fifth year of the Independence of the United States.

Signed by

Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver and Governor Philip D. Murphy

Music Therapy Day December 15, 2008
This event featured the presentation of the Aaron Copeland Partnership Award, a performance by students of Jersey City Public Schools who were receiving music therapy services, and the presentation of a Joint Legislative Resolution honoring the New Jersey Association for Music Therapy (NJAMT) and acknowledging the contributions of music therapy in the field of health care.

Jersey City student choir led by Erika Svolos and Mechelle Chestnut, music therapists.

Joint Legislative Resolution

By Senate President CODEY, Assemblyman MCKEON and Assemblywoman JASEY

Whereas, The Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey are pleased to recognize December 15, 2008, as Music Therapy Day in the Garden State, an appropriate occasion to acknowledge and affirm the significance and importance of music in the field of health care; and,

Whereas, Music therapy, which had been mentioned in the writings of Aristotle and Plato, began as a discipline after World War II when musicians were asked to play at numerous veterans' hospitals throughout the nation and, since that time, music therapy has been used to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of children, adolescents, adults, and senior citizens with a variety of medical difficulties; and,

Whereas, There are more than one hundred and twenty health care and educational institutions that employ in excess of one hundred fifty music therapists in this State to provide services to people with special needs, and today there are more than four thousand music therapists in the nation who offer the promise of more rewarding, fulfilling, and less painful lives for millions of people; and,

Whereas, Montclair State University has offered Music Therapy as an academic major since 1969, making it one of the oldest educational programs in the country; and,

Whereas, New Jersey is home to more than twenty-five clinical training sites for providing the necessary clinical training to those desiring to become music therapists; and,

Whereas, It is altogether proper and fitting for this Legislature to note Music Therapy Day on December 15, 2008, and to commend the members of the New Jersey Association for Music Therapy for their significant contributions to the field of music therapy; now, therefore,

Be it resolved by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

That this Legislature hereby honors and salutes the New Jersey Association for Music Therapy, pays tribute to the meritorious record of its leaders and members, and extends sincere best wishes for a successful and enjoyable Music Therapy Day on December 15, 2008;and,

Be It Further Resolved, That a duly authenticated copy of this resolution be signed by the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker and attested by the Senate Secretary and the Assembly Clerk. 

Kathy Murphy, music therapist, receiving Joint Resolution from Senate President, Richard J. Codey.


Signed - Richard J. Codey
President of the Senate

Joseph J. Roberts, Jr.
Speaker of the General Assembly

Special Education Day September 2005
The Matheny Medical and Educational Center choir led by music therapists performed for legislators.

Creative Arts Therapies Week March 7 - 13, 2004
Resolution sponsored by Senator Bob Smith, Assemblymen Upendra J. Chivukula, and Joseph V. Egan designated the week and a framed Proclamation was presented to Karen Litecky Melendez, Chair of the newly formed New Jersey State Task Force and Government Relations liaison for NJAMT, in a ceremony later in the year in recognition of the contributions of music therapy in New Jersey.

Music Therapy Day 2004
The framed proclamation of Music Therapy Day sponsored by Senator Bob Smith was presented in March of 2004 to Karen Litecky, Government Relations Chair, who accepted it on behalf of NJAMT. The actual presentation event was held earlier and included a performance by the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital choir.

Special Education Day 2004
Music performance by the Matheny Medical and Educational Center choir led by music therapists to a standing ovation in General Assembly Chambers.

Creative Arts Therapies Capitol Day March 8, 2001
This year music therapists joined forces with art and dance therapists at the State House in Trenton, instead of hosting an individual music therapy day. CAT Capitol Day included displays set up in the Annex tunnel, presentations of awards by each therapy profession, and a ceremony that included performances by choirs of Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and Matheny Home and Hospital as well as dance and art presentations.


Music Therapy Day March 8, 2000
The day was planned to coincide with Creative Arts Therapy Week and included a Legislative Breakfast as a means to meet and share information with legislators. A display table with NJAMT materials was set up in a State House hallway and music was provided by music therapists Edy Toussaint pictured here and Amanda Applegate to gather legislators. The two music therapists were invited to play Irish music on the floor of the General Assembly Chambers. There was also an awards ceremony with a performance by the HDC Singers (Hunterdon Development Center) under direction of music therapists Kim Needham and Scott Albert.

Music Therapy Day March 16, 1999
Event held in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR) Conference at Long Branch, New Jersey.  Music performance by the Matheny Medical and Educational Center choir led by music therapists.  During the MAR conference the Partnerships in Music Therapy Award was renamed the Aaron Copeland Partnership Award in his memory.

Music Therapy Day March 26, 1998
Resolution sponsored by Assemblyman Leroy J. Jones, Jr. Opportunities to meet with legislators and displays to educate about the music therapy profession. Veteran Aaron Copeland attended, spoke to legislators and sang in the Senate session. Performance by the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital choir led by Fran Mead, music therapist.

Music Therapy Day, June 22, 1997
This event was in the State House Annex, Room 101 in Trenton, New Jersey. It was unfortunate that the Senate session was canceled on this day which limited attendance; however, some senators still came to the room.

Music Therapy Day, June 13, 1996
Senator Robert W. Singer was Co-Sponsor of the Music Therapy Day resolution. Veteran Aaron Copeland who received music therapy services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, New Jersey Health Care System in East Orange, New Jersey spoke to legislators in support of music therapy and opened the Senate session by singing God Bless the USA. The ceremonies and legislator meetings for this "Celebration for the Proclamation of Music Therapy Day" were held in the State House Annex, Room 101. School students led by music therapist Helen Patrosio provided entertainment. Music therapist Kathy Murphy became MAR Government Relations Representative leaving the state position.

Music Therapy Day June 22, 1995
Proclamation signed by Governor Christine Todd Whitman read in the State House Rotunda with performances by the Matheny Performance Choir led by music therapists Linda Lemmerman, Kristen Schlieben, Amy Clarkson, and Marie Fosket and the East Orange VA Medical Center Choir led by Donna Faraone, music therapist. NJ music therapists invited their workplace administrators, a Fact Sheet was prepared for talks with legislators and the group attended the senate voting session. At that time it was estimated that 50 music therapists were practicing in New Jersey.

Music Therapy Day 1994
This was the first year for this type of event. Julie McConnell served as Government Relations Representative for New Jersey.

Hill Day

Hill Days are organized by the New Jersey State Task Force (NJSTF) under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the American Music Therapy Association (MAR-AMTA) to educate legislators about the profession of music therapy and garner support for legislative efforts.  New Jersey music therapists and music therapy students join NJSTF in this effort by attending scheduled and impromptu meetings with legislators at the State House.  Displays are set up in the capitol hallways and meetings are conducted both in assigned committee rooms and public areas.


August 1, 2016

Focus for this Hill Day was New Jersey Senate legislators regarding sponsorship and support for the Music Therapist Licensing Act of the 2016-2017 legislative session S1601/A783.


June 11, 2015

An Advocacy Workshop was presented by NJSTF for music therapist and music therapy student participants of Hill Day to prepare them for meeting with legislators later that day.  Focus for this Hill Day was New Jersey General Assembly legislators regarding sponsorship and support for the Music Therapist Licensing Act of the 2014-2015 legislative session A4353/S2971.

Kimberly Seeds, music therapist, with Music Therapist Licensing Act Sponsor Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez