Deanna Hanson-Abromeit

Headshot of Deanna Hanson-Abromeit


Department: School of Music, Music Education and Music Therapy 

Describe your work in a few sentences that we can all understand:  My research looks at the role of music to foster development for at-risk infants, specifically those who live in poverty and those born premature or with complex medical needs. A major component of my research is an active clinical practice in which I have first-hand experience with the population for whom I am developing interventions. 

Q: How did you first get interested in doing research?

A: I first became interested in research as an undergraduate. I had the opportunity to volunteer as a research assistant with the music therapy professor at the University of Iowa that gave me experience running research subjects in a study and providing literature reviews. As an undergraduate music therapy major, UI had the option to choose a senior capstone of a recital or research project. I chose to do a research project. My project tested the perceived effort of female high school swimmers when listening to music or the control condition (pink noise) during a lap swim. I loved every aspect of doing research and was completely hooked.


Q: What do students in your discipline learn by doing research that they wouldn’t learn by just taking classes?

A: When a student participates in research in music therapy they gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between the music, the therapist and the client in music therapy practice. They also learn how to think more critically about the work and to advance the discipline by being actively engaged in solutions to discipline-specific challenges. Another benefit of being involved in research guided by a mentor is that students begin to identify their own questions and how those questions could become a separate study.  


Q: What do you find to be the most exciting part of doing research or creative work? What makes this line of work meaningful and interesting to you?

A: I am a naturally curious individual, especially about human behavior, and love to learn. Doing research allows me to be curious about a lot of things and continue my own learning and development. I love brainstorming and problem solving with a collaborator (a colleague or student) about possibilities or emerging questions or understanding about the topic we are researching. It is very exciting how my development as a researcher and my experiences in research have changed how I think about the world, how I teach, and how I influence the discipline of music therapy. 


Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates interested in doing research in your field?

A: Be patient. Good research takes a long time. It is better to take a big idea and break it down into smaller parts so that it can be done in a strategic and intentional way that contributes meaningful information to the discipline and the existing literature. 


Q: For many students, doing research or a larger creative project is the first time they have done work that routinely involves setbacks and the need to troubleshoot problems.  Can you tell us about a time that your research didn’t go as expected?  Or about any tricks or habits that you’ve developed to help you stay resilient in the face of obstacles?

A: Everyday something happens that isn’t expected. Sometimes it creates a set back and it can be frustrating. But even the set backs teach us something that make the project better – or contribute to making the next project better. I am learning to break the projects down and “touch it” every couple of days, even if only for 15 minutes. A project gets done by steady action in tiny steps. One of my tricks is to walk away – when something happens I try not to react, but to pause, do something else (perhaps literally walk), and return to solving the obstacle when I am less emotional about it. Every obstacle has a solution – sometimes we have to be more creative in finding that solution, but that is one of things that makes research fun. 


Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?

A: I love to read. My husband and I also love to repurpose old stuff into new cool stuff.