Student: Ella Chapman

East Carolina University senior Ella Chapman loves to sing and perform, so majoring in music made sense when choosing a career. She grew up in a musical family: Her mother is an ECU School of Music alumna, her father sang in church, and, in addition to singing, Chapman plays piano and guitar, and played flute and tuba in grade school.

She thought she would pursue a degree in performance, and probably go to college somewhere closer to home in Tennessee like her three siblings. But after visiting Greenville and auditioning to attend the School of Music, Chapman knew ECU was her top choice.

Chapman is majoring in music with concentrations in voice performance and music therapy. Initially, in addition to performance, she planned to add a major in music education but switched to music therapy after going with her roommate to sing at a community outreach event for the Pitt County Council on Aging.

Ella Chapman, far left, joins members of the East Carolina University Music Therapy Organization for a service project last year to sing carols for Pitt County Council on Aging participants.

Ella Chapman, far left, joins members of the East Carolina University Music Therapy Organization for a service project last year to sing carols for Pitt County Council on Aging participants. (Contributed photo)

“I loved it. At the end of the event, we were all saying goodbye to all the people who were there, and one of the ladies stood up and gave me a hug, and really, something changed in my heart,” Chapman said. A faculty member, Dr. Adrienne Steiner-Brett, noticed Chapman’s reaction, and asked if she had considered music therapy as a major. “She could tell that it had emotionally impacted me,” Chapman said.

Above all, spending time with her grandmother the past several years influenced her desire to work with older adults after graduation.

When Chapman was a freshman, the pandemic forced ECU to pivot from in-person to virtual classrooms. Instead of returning to Tennessee, she moved in with her grandparents in Wilson, where Chapman’s mom grew up, about 35 miles from campus. Her grandfather died that same year, and Chapman was able to be there through it all. “Being so close to that, I had never experienced anything like that. And it highly impacted my need to work with older adults. I realized that this is why I need to do music therapy,” she said.

Music therapists use clinical and evidence-based music interventions designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication or promote physical rehabilitation.

While Chapman is still learning how to work with people of different ages and abilities, the older population is special to her. “I think I’m very blessed to have been surrounded by older adults who I love and trust from a young age. And I think that has impacted my desire to work with that population,” Chapman said. “I also just think by the time you get to that age you know what you’re about and you’re pretty honest about those things, and I think that’s kind of refreshing.”

This semester, Chapman has been participating in and observing music therapy clinic sessions led by ECU faculty member Dr. Virginia Driscoll. As Chapman progresses through the program, she will lead sessions in her final year in preparation for a required six-month internship and the certification exam to become a licensed therapist. “What I look forward to the most is getting to know clients, and being able to watch them grow,” Chapman said.

Another profound moment was observing a session with Heart and Soul, a group for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Watching them communicate with each other and socialize and being able to engage with them was really important in my journey to figure out if this is what I wanted to do,” she said.

By the end of her undergraduate education, she will have worked with four different populations, which is important because music therapists work with everyone from infants to older adults. “I think the preparation we get through those four practicum placements is really invaluable, and by the end of it you’re planning your own sessions,” she said.

“Sometimes music therapy isn’t seen as clinical as it is because it looks easy from the outside, playing instruments with people or singing or playing guitar, but every action and every choice that’s made by a music therapist has a purpose,” she said. “It’s very meticulous and very detail oriented.”

With voice performance this semester, Chapman will share the lead role of Laurie Moss with fellow student Ella Green in ECU’s production of the “The Tender Land” by Aaron Copland. ECU students will present the coming-of-age story of the ambitious, Midwestern farm girl Nov. 17-19 at the Turnage Theatre in Washington, North Carolina.

The process of learning the music and how to develop the character is another way that ECU is preparing Chapman for real-life, live performances, she said.

Chapman is also in ECU’s concert choir, which has performances scheduled in October and a combined holiday event with other ECU musical groups in December. “The experience of making music with others is impactful, especially when everyone involved is working toward the same goal and focusing on that end goal. Ultimately that is to communicate with the audience and to impact them somehow with the music you’re sharing,” she said.

This Pirate aims to help people through music therapy.


Name: Ella Chapman

College: School of Music

Major: Music with concentrations in music therapy and voice performance

Age: 22

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Franklin, Tennessee

Hobbies/interests: Watching cult documentaries, thrift shopping, singing with my roommates and spending time with my grandmother

Clubs and Organizations: Sigma Alpha Iota, Student Forum for Musical Organizations, Music Therapy Organization, Music Ambassador


Favorite hangout: Coastal Fog or my house

Favorite place on campus: Fletcher School of Music courtyard

Favorite place to eat: La Rancherita

Favorite class: Voice Pedagogy (MUSC 3637)

Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. Catherine Gardner

Favorite TV show: “Project Runway”

Favorite band/musician: Kacey Musgraves

Favorite movie: “You’ve Got Mail”

Favorite app: Instagram


Dream job: To be a certified music therapist, working specifically with older adults.

Role model: My parents and three siblings — they inspire me daily!

Your words to live by: “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

What advice do you have for other students? Surround yourself with people who are working hard like you, genuinely care and want you to succeed. Community is so important right now!

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? There are so many student organizations as well as on-campus activities and events to attend. Take advantage of these opportunities to get involved while you can.