Dr. Marisol Norris is a music therapist, educator, scholar-activist, and cultural worker, whose work centers on musical placemaking and health in Black communities. She is the founder and CEO of the Black Music Therapy Network, Inc., owner of Aesthetic Healing, LLC, and Director of the Music Therapy and Counseling Masters Program at Drexel University. A leading scholar of Black aesthetics in music therapy, Dr. Norris has taught internationally on the liberatory function of artistic processes, expanding the applied practice of radical healing frameworks within music and health spaces, and has been featured in Rolling Stone and Vogue for her work with artists and community based arts and health initiatives and for centering minoritized voices across music and health professions.
After receiving bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Historically Black College and University, Oakwood College, she relocated to Philadelphia, PA, and obtained master's and doctoral degrees in Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. Her professional and supervisory experience has spanned medical and community health settings, including work in acute psychiatric care, trauma and loss, addictions, familial ruptures and repairs, and organizational systems, profoundly deepening her commitment to healing justice and dismantling relational and structural violence through community-based advocacy, education, healing, and action.
As a healthcare practitioner and organizer not bound by university walls, Dr. Norris co-labors with communities to facilitate justice-oriented arts and health initiatives and community-based care including the Philadelphia-based project, Lyric & Flow: Songwriting through Trauma, and esperanza spalding’s Grammy Award winning project, Songwrights Apothecary Lab. Additionally, she is a core organizing member of the Critical Pedagogies in Arts Therapies Alliance (a transdisciplinary BIPOC initiative that works to transform education and research across arts therapies disciplines), co-founder of the BIPOC Student Fund by Black Arts Therapies Educators providing immediate need-based assistance for BIPOC arts therapy students, and co-founder of the Music Therapy Justice and Equity Research Mentorship Program supporting emerging researchers’ critical scholarship. Dr. Norris has contributed to extensive anti-racist work in the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), holding regional and national office, and is currently a member of AMTA’s Commission on the Education and Training of 21st Century Music Therapists, tasked to vision equitable future for music therapy education and the profession in the US.
Over the past thirteen years, Dr. Norris has developed diverse research and community partnerships centering on the health, well-being, and safety of Black and Brown communities. She utilizes qualitative and arts-based research approaches to explore the discursive construction of race, gender, sexuality, and class in education and clinical practice settings and emancipatory research that support agented portrayals of Black service recipients' health practices across chronic illness and mental health, and eliminates inequities within Black communities. She has contributed to federally-funded qualitative and mixed methods studies on therapeutic programming and technology-based health literacy within low-resourced, Black communities and developed fiscal strategies to support organizational funding initiatives. These activities have fostered long-term professional relationships with content experts and arts and health organizations, facilitating multi-site research and institutional partnerships.
Her current scholarship centers on aesthetics as an embodied meaning-making process within Black life, exploring the effects of societal trauma on Black workers and service users' across multiple domains, culturally sustaining practices to support community needs, and radical healing frameworks evident through the discursive analysis of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Dr. Norris' recent co-edited publication, "Black Aesthetics & the Arts Therapies," demonstrates this work as "theory in the flesh" and the deliberate care in bringing margins to the center.
For upcoming projects, get involved in the work of the Black Music Therapy Network, Inc. Also, stay tuned for Dr. Norris' forthcoming book chapter, "...& the Fields: Remembering the Hinterlands in Music & Health," co-written with esperanza spalding in Renee Flemings' Anthology of Music and Health, and her collaborative book project, Watering Our Gardens: Black Women and Femmes' Musical Placemaking Practices, and the traveling multi-medium artistic exhibit of the same title.