Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take classes before the training starts and transfer credits? 

No. The training is an infused curriculum. Every aspect is interwoven with all the other elements.

I’m a registered nurse/physician/acupuncturist, etc. Can I “opt out” or “test out” of Anatomy & Physiology?

All elements of the curriculum stem from a music-thanatology perspective. Given this, we don’t provide an opportunity for students to ‘opt out’ or ‘test out’ of any subject matter.

In previous cohorts there have been massage therapists, nurses, and other professionals. We have heard, universally, that they appreciated taking these classes because they learned to apply familiar material in many new ways. The same is true for professional musicians. The methods we teach for voice and harp are unique to music-thanatology.

What is the cost for the training?

We are currently developing a new opportunity for training, and expect the total cost (including harp and voice lessongs) to be between $20,000 and $25,000 – plus the purchase of a harp.

Is there any financial aid for this training?

Music-thanatology training is not yet accredited by one of the “recognized accrediting agencies,” and so is not eligible for Federal Student Aid.

What should I do to prepare for the training?

It is helpful for students to begin with at least a basic proficiency on the harp and with voice. You should also be able to read and notate musical score. A basic understanding of music theory is essential. We recommend that applicants without harp and voice experience start taking lessons.

Accorda’s harp and voice teachers can help assess your skills in these areas and recommend resources for study prior to entering the training. See further information below. 

Do I have to have a degree to apply for the program?


Can the program be completed on-line through distance learning?

Many of the didactic weekends, assignments, and some music lessons are completed on-line. We also place a high value on building a learning community and this happens more readily when everyone is present for all the classes whether on-line or in person.

How many hours should I expect to spend on this program each week?

It varies from individual to individual. The fixed commitments are:

  • One didactic weekend a month (two full days) except August & December.
  • On-line assignments related to classroom study, both as follow-up to didactic sessions and in preparation for upcoming classes and discussions are assigned every month; the amount varies from month to month. Each student will need different amounts of time to complete the assignments.
  • 45-minute harp and 45-minute voice lessons each week; either on-line or in person. Recommended practice time is at least 20-30 minutes a day. 
  • Mentored clinical internship 4 – 5 hours per week with additional time for reflection and clinical narrative writing.
  • A contemplative component is integrated into all aspects of the training and students will need to commit time and attention to their own inner development throughout the course of the training.

Is there any way to be on an extended program – for those of us that must work? Could I start and take at least a class or two or do you require students to complete the whole program in two years?

At this time, there is no way to provide an extended program. All aspects of the program – didactic sessions, harp and voice lessons, and clinical internships are integrated. Student cohorts form a community which supports the overall learning process. This can only happen when all students are on the same timeline throughout the training.

Prior to applying, is it possible to observe a real vigil to see what is involved? It would be very helpful to confirm my decision to this new direction/calling.

Because of healthcare privacy law (HIPAA) it is not possible for us to invite others into a live vigil. 

In actuality, it is rare that a student has had the opportunity to observe a live harp vigil before entering the training. The interview weekend is designed to provide potential students with a sense of the work.

The website: www.mtai.org has a link to ‘Press’. These videos are helpful in offering insight to the music vigil.

Harps, Harp and Voice lessons

What if I do not play the harp? Can I apply for music-thanatology training?

If you do not already play the harp and/or need more experience with basic music theory, we recommend that applicants begin lessons right away. Though it is not absolutely required, having basic harp skills prior to beginning the training will prepare students to absorb the infused learning curriculum from the start. Harp lessons for prospective students are available, in person or online, with our faculty.

How do I choose a harp?

Harps recommended for music-thanatology training and professional practice have specific requirements due to the nature of bedside work. We ask prospective students to consult with one of our harp teachers prior to purchasing a harp, to assure that the harp you plan to use is appropriate. Renting a harp prior to purchasing one is a good option for beginners. Even if you already own a harp, faculty will need to approve every harp prior to entering the program.

What else do I need to know?

We use lever harps, generally ranging from 26 to 35 strings with the following qualities:

  • Warm, mellow tone, which may differ from a harp used for performance;
  • Size and weight manageable for transporting to patients’ homes, hospice or hospital rooms, including ease of lifting and getting in and out of vehicles.
  • Right-or left shoulder playing position (see below).

Are there other considerations?

  • Nylon or monofilament strings are recommended for beginning harp players. 
  • We ask that students have a lever on every string – for the maximum flexibility with prescriptive choices. 

Right- vs. left-shouldered playing

Music-thanatologists traditionally have followed an earlier model of harp playing using the left shoulder to rest the harp. In this position, the treble (melody) is played with the left hand, and bass (typically accompaniment) with the right hand. This position gradually went out of style when keyboards, with a more left-to-right linear alignment, came into fashion. Most contemporary performing harpists outside our field use the right shoulder position. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

Bedside music is enhanced by deep integration of whole-brain function. Some believe that engaging the left hand with musical melody activates right-brain processes more readily than the more contemporary method (somewhat like the idea of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”). 

Potential students will need to decide whether they are going to play the harp right- or left- shouldered before purchasing a harp, as they are not interchangeable once built. With a rental harp, you can try it both ways before deciding. A faculty harp teacher can help with this decision.

How do I find a harp teacher?

Working at the bedside of the terminally ill or dying requires a nuanced approach to playing the harp. Therefore, we recommend that all applicants learn this approach from the beginning. Lessons can be arranged with our harp faculty either in person or on-line. Though it is possible to learn beginning skills from most harp teachers or even from a book, it will be most helpful for the applicant to learn the music-thanatology approach from the beginning.

To be contacted by a member of the harp faculty, please Contact Us.

How do I find a voice teacher? 

As with the harp, music-thanatologists use a unique approach to singing. One of the principles of the technique is the knowledge that everyone’s authentic, or real, voice is inherently beautiful. While many of us may not like our singing voices, the vocal training works with each student to find their authentic voice.

Having the basic vocal technique prior to beginning the training will prepare students to absorb the infused learning curriculum from the start. Voice lessons for prospective students are available, in person and on-line.

To be contacted by a member of the voice faculty, go to our Contact page.

What if I am an experienced harpist or singer? Can I “opt out” of harp and/or voice lessons?

No. The methods we teach for voice and harp are unique to music-thanatology.