BACKGROUND: The literature supporting the use of music therapy in palliative care is growing. However, the number of quantitative research studies investigating the use of music therapy in palliative care, and specifically anxiety, is limited. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this research project was to examine the effectiveness of a single music therapy session in reducing anxiety for terminally ill patients. DESIGN: A randomized-controlled design was implemented and the following hypotheses tested. There will be a significant difference between the experimental and control groups on anxiety levels as demonstrated by the anxiety measurement of the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), and heart rate. The experimental group received a single music therapy intervention and the control group received a volunteer visit. SETTING/SUBJECTS: Twenty-five participants with end-stage terminal disease receiving inpatient hospice services were recruited. RESULTS: The first hypothesis was supported. Results demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety for the experimental group on the anxiety measurement of the ESAS (p = 0.005). A post hoc analysis found significant reductions in other measurements on the ESAS in the experimental group, specifically pain (p = 0.019), tiredness (p = 0.024) and drowsiness (p = 0.018). The second hypothesis was not supported. CONCLUSIONS: The study supports the use of music therapy to manage anxiety in terminally ill patients. Further studies are required to examine the effect of music therapy over a longer time period, as well as addressing other symptom issues.