Ken Medema encapsulated the pure essence of the theme of the 2010 AMTA conference in Cleveland¬† – Rock out of the Past, Roll into the Future – by lighting fires in the hearts of music therapy clinicians, educators, researchers, interns, and students at the inaugural Carol Hampton Bitcon Lecture Series. Listen as Ken shares his music, his experience as a music therapist clinician and advocate, and his extraordinary gift for improvising songs based on stories shared by music therapists across the past 6 decades. The finale of Ken Medema’s lively musical event features the voices, hand-clapping, and toe-tapping of many hundreds of music therapists rockin’ and rollin’ into the future.


From the time Ken Medema was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1942, he has been unable to see with his physical eyes. “As a kid I was not widely accepted, ” Ken explains, “and I spent a lot of time by myself. Because I have lived with some degree of being different all my life, I have some sympathy for people who have been disenfranchised.”

On November 19, 2010, Ken joined his friend and colleague, Alan Solomon, in celebrating 60 years of growth and development in the field of music therapy in the inaugural edition of the Carol Hampton Bitcon Lecture Series at the conference of the American Music Therapy Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Ken and Alan, Honorary Life members of AMTA, collaborated in word and song to present “Pioneers, Generations, and Memories: Music Therapy’s Diamond Anniversary.”

“I started banging on the piano when I was five years old,” Ken says, “making up crazy little fantasies on my mom’s piano. When I was eight years old my parents got me a wonderful teacher who taught me the classics with Braille music and taught me to play by ear. And every time I learned a piece my teacher would tell me, ‘Now you improvise.’ So music became a second language.”

Medema earned a master’s degree in music therapy from Michigan State University and worked for several years as a music therapist. While thus employed, he began writing songs about his clients lives, and they responded enthusiastically. In 1973 Ken began a career as a performing and recording artist, recording albums for Word and Shawnee Press. Today Ken shares his gifts with audiences around the world. He performed at the 1996 Joint Music Therapy Conference, celebrating the signing of the Unification Agreement between NAMT and AAMT. He also played the Coda for “Forever Young: Music and Aging,” a hearing in 1991 before the United States Senate’s Special Subcommittee on Aging – a landmark event in the history of music therapy as a profession.