Professor Susan Hadley

1984 Collegian

Professor Susan Hadley in 1973

Two films helped open my eyes to music's impact. In Children of a Lesser God, the lead woman hates organ music because it reminds her of unpleasant experiences in church. In Stepping Out, a man does music and drama with adults with intellectual disabilities. He was great and I wanted to be like him.

I wanted to use music with people who were outcast by society in some way, so I decided I would combine music and social work.

I couldn't believe it when a friend told me about music therapy. I graduated from Melbourne University with a bachelor's degree in the subject.

I returned to pioneer music therapy in Western Australia, working at retirement villages, in private practice and at Princess Margaret Hospital.

I also taught cello at MLC and completed a graduate diploma in special education. I then left Perth to study at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the US.

To my knowledge, I was one of the first Australians to receive the PhD in music therapy.

In 1998 I accepted a position teaching music therapy at Slippery Rock University, in Pennsylvania, obtaining the rank of full professor after 12 years.

In 2011 I was one of four finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The letters I received from students about the ways in which I had impacted their lives really brought home the important role that educators can play in a person's life.

I have published four books and am currently working on another, exploring issues of race in music therapy.

My teachings and my writings centre on issues relating to groups that have been disadvantaged in society. I am passionate about challenging a system that is in favour of certain groups.

I hope I am instilling in my four sons concern for the greater good.

My advice to others is that it is really important to feel a passion for what you do. Be open to having your worldview shifted.

On MLC: I have fond memories of students who pushed boundaries and broke rules, who challenged long-held traditions and questioned misuse of authority. I knew one day they would make a name for themselves and I have enjoyed discovering that they indeed have.