Laurel Young - Image
Laurel Young '90
Dr. Laurel Young (BMus ’90) has followed her lifelong passion for performance into a career in music therapy. Now an associate professor of music therapy at Concordia University, Young says the most fulfilling part of her busy teaching and research career is the human connection.

“There are profound moments of connection made through music where you can witness authentic humanity and moments of transformation in people’s lives,” she says. “When things might seem hopeless, music therapy can offer something.”

Working in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies at Concordia University in Montreal, her current research interests are focused on understanding optimal uses of music and music therapy for people with dementia. She is also looking at the benefits of singing in various support group contexts, including those for people with cancer, autistic adults, and end of life care and bereavement.  

Young began her university music education at Mount Allison and says it was the perfect place for her. "It offered cultural and musical experiences that I wasn't necessarily exposed to in Cape Breton, but in a safe environment that felt a lot like home."

She completed a second bachelor’s degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in music therapy, and was part of the first class to receive a master’s degree in music therapy from the same institution in 2003. It was there she met fellow Mount Allison Music graduate Adrienne Pringle (‘97), with whom she still collaborates.

By that time, Young had worked as a professional music therapist for eight years.

“I offered music experiences to support people on their life journey, to discover their potential, to cope with pain and loss. I had to learn the cultural and personal roles that music played in their lives,” she says. “There is a constant evolving artistic component that one must commit to in order to be an effective clinician.”

Just before coming to Mount Allison to study music, Young worked in the activity department at a nursing home in Cape Breton playing piano and singing for the residents. She continued this work during her summers in Sackville at the Drew Nursing Home. It was through those experiences that she discovered the concept that music could be used as therapy.

“Therapy is a kind of performance, but who you are doing it for and why are key considerations,” she says.