"As a conductor and music teacher, I became curious to learn more about the psychological, social and above all emotional attributes of both making and listening to music," says Dr Leslie Bunt. "I was attracted to music therapy because I noticed the incredible and powerful effects of music on people."
Today, he is director of MusicSpace Trust, a charity that provides music therapy via a network of community clinics, and runs the University of Bristol's postgraduate diploma in the subject.
He is also visiting professor in music therapy at the neighbouring University of the West of England and has written books including Music Therapy: An Art Beyond Words, since translated into German, Italian and Japanese.
It is now regarded as a serious career opportunity for musicians wanting to use their skill in a healing capacity, says Dr Bunt, who is keen to build up a body of recognised research.
"Traditionally, we see the relevance of music therapy where people have severe communication difficulties, such as children with autism. Yet we are increasingly seeing its use in music for health promotion and in more general medicine such as cancer care."
The most rewarding aspect of his work, he says, is watching people transformed by music therapy: "for example, when a group of cancer patients begin to explore the extremes of emotions from anger to calm through playing instruments."
Dr Gary Ansdell, 39, is head of research at the Nordoff-Robbins music therapy centre in London, and honorary research fellow at the University of Sheffield. His book Music for Life explores how therapy can help the seriously ill by focusing on healthy parts of the body. He hopes to set up a research base to support the work of practitioners.
"I try to encourage music therapists to remain musicians."
Nigel Hartley, 40, is chairman of the Association of Professional Music Therapists (APMT). He has worked at London Lighthouse, a centre for Aids and HIV patients, and Sir Michael Sobell House, a hospice within the John Radcliffe NHS Trust.
"One of the great surprises of improvised music is that it brings people together in a unique way."
Dr Alison Levinge, 52, set up the mas-ters degree course in music therapy at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. She specialises in work with children with communication and language problems.
"Communication and relating to others is about more than the use of words. It is also about the music in and behind our words, gestures and expressions."
Wendy Magee, 38, is head music therapist at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney, south London, which cares for people with damage to the brain or nervous system. A specialist in complex disabilities caused by trauma or illness, she is a widely published writer and lecturer on music therapy and neurology.
"Observing the smallest responses in the `unreachable' client never ceases to amaze me."
Helen Odell-Miller, 48, advises the Government on music therapy and specialises in mental illnesses afflicting the elderly, such as dementia. …