This qualitative study explores the experiences of creative improvisation in music therapy sessions of a group of 12 first-year international students. The students took part in a group music therapy process which consisted of eight sessions. Music therapy is explored as a possible approach for offering first-year international students valuable social, emotional and psychological support in light of literature findings that note the continuous struggles faced by international students in their transition to university. Data collection was in the form of a focus group interview, which was conducted after the final session, and two video excerpts from different sessions within the process. I drew on these data sources to explore how music is used as a medium for expressing and sharing first-year experiences, and how the group music therapy sessions afford students opportunities for the development of mutually supportive relationships. Data were coded, then categorised and in this process, themes emerged. The emergent themes suggest that creative improvisation in group music therapy sessions facilitates moving from disconnection to building more friendships and deeper relationships; creates a platform for increasing openness towards exploring, expressing and sharing experiences and emotions concerning being a first-year international student; and how music as an alternative medium to verbal and/or other expression for expressing and interacting, allows for this expression of emotions and experiences, and connection in the group. The findings indicate that it was in expressing and sharing their experiences with one another through musicking that students were able to develop mutually supportive relationships. Copyright
Dissertation (MMus)--University of Pretoria, 2012.