Friday, December 18, 2009

Season's Greetings!

It's that time of year again! I love the smell of the fresh trees for sale on Astor Place, and all the anticipation of the holiday season. And what would the season be without music? For me, hearing the holiday songs brings back memories of childhood: bundling up to go sledding, walking down to the lake for ice skating and hot chocolate, making the yearly trip into Manhattan to see the Saks Fifth Avenue windows and the tree at Rockefeller Center. It's another example of the power of music, and how music is intricately woven into the fabric of our lives.

We have had two exciting fund raising events this past fall. On November 16, Richard Kogan, pianist and psychiatrist, gave a lecture/recital on George Gershwin. The setting was the magnificent Steinway Hall in midtown Manhattan. Guests were treated to a fascinating program that tied in the life of Gershwin to his music. Kogan's dynamic presentation and playing brought it all alive. He, in turn, was moved seeing video excerpts of work from the Center.

On December 13, Nordoff-Robbins therapist Mikako Hirota organized a concert through her company Journey to Music. People contributed money to play at the concert, and the funds went to support the Center. Staff member David Marcus hosted the event, and Clive Robbins showed video examples of clinical work. Staff member Kaoru Robbins helped out, along with therapists Sunyoung Park, Jenny Fu, and Reika Yoshihara. All agreed the day was a resounding success. The positive energy was shared by performers and the audience alike.

We appreciate your continued support as we strive to bring music into the lives of individuals with special needs. Best wishes to you for a peaceful and relaxing holiday, and a happy and healthy new year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Winding Down the Year

It's hard to believe that we have only 2 more weeks left to the clinical year! June 27 is our last day of sessions. We will be saying goodbye to some of our clients who are completing their courses of therapy, as well as to many of our students. It's a time of mixed emotions, sad endings but also new beginnings.

Now our thoughts are turning to the summer and to the 2009-2010 clinical year--our 20th. While we do not generally hold sessions during the summer, it is a very busy time for us. In addition to writing all our treatment summaries, we have intake sessions with potential new clients, meeting them in the music. Piecing together the clinical schedule and staff/student schedules is a mind-boggling puzzle. We do our best to accomodate the varying schedules of our clients, students, and staff, well over 100 people. We anticipate having a record number of students next year, including interns, Level 1 and Level 2 Certification candidates. Plus we try to find some time for vacation!

This summer we are once again offering a course to music therapy students and professionals, entitled Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy: Foundations, Improvisational Resources and Clinical Applications. This four-day course will take place July 13-16 and will cover 1) historical and philosophical foundations of the Nordoff-Robbins approach, 2) musical resources & techniques for improvising, playing and composing, 3) clinical application with a range of clients, and 4) supervisory feedback on participants’ current work. The course is currently full, but we are still accepting applications for a waiting list. For more detailed information, please visit our homepage.

In August we will be hosting a group of Japanese music therapists for 4 days of workshops and lectures. In the past we have had groups from Korea, Scandinavia and other parts of the world come to learn more about our work and expand their own skills, while enjoying the "hot town, summer in the city."

Please let me know if you have any ideas about how we might celebrate our 20th anniversary. It is also the 50th anniversary of Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins's collaboration, and the 100th anniversary of Paul's birth. There's much to celebrate this year!

Peace and Harmony,

Monday, March 30, 2009

Providing Services to Those in Need

From March 19 through April 5, there is a special theatrical event going on in New York City: the Red Fern Theatre Company, established in 2006 and dedicated to producing positive change in the community by producing socially conscious plays, is partnering with the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation. The current production is the play Miss Evers' Boys, written by David Feldshuh, which relates the story of the infamous 1932 Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Poor African-American men who tested positive for syphilis were promised treatment by the US government, while in fact they were denied treatment even when penicillin became available. Music and dance played an enormous role in these men's lives, providing escape, comfort, and a source of pride and personal expression. It is this recognition of the power of music that led the Red Fern Theatre Company to partner with the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation. The Foundation receives a portion of the proceeds.

The acting was electrifying as the actors pulled the audience into this fascinating story. The moral issues that Nurse Evers wrestled with were complex, as arguments were put forth at the time weighing the fate of the men in the study against the greater good to society at large. Questions were raised regarding the ethics of denying people services that were known to be beneficial, or at the very least allowing individuals to decide for themselves what risks they were willing to take. What price are we as a society willing to pay for scientific research?

This has led me to think about the children and adults who would benefit from music therapy, but who either do not know about our services or have limited access. The answer lies in education and outreach: how can we deliver our services to those who need them? We rely on all those who understand the value and effectiveness of music therapy to act as ambassadors, educating others so that no one who might benefit from music therapy is denied this unique form of treatment.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Music Therapy and Dementia

Last week Alan Turry, our Managing Director, appeared on live radio on WNYC's "Soundcheck" to discuss the role of music therapy in treatment for adults with dementia. In a conversation with host John Schaefer and Dr. Petr Janata, the author of a recent study examining the neural connections between music and memory, Dr. Turry discussed the many positive effects of music therapy. While the Nordoff-Robbins approach was originally developed with children, it is easily adapted to helping people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia maintain their functioning and improve their quality of life. In past years we have done outreach projects at local community centers for seniors with dementia, and this year a group from Chinatown traveled to the Center for music therapy. The afternoon of the broadcast we received several phone calls from people seeking services for their family members. Clearly there is a tremendous need for services for this population. Here at the Nordoff-Robbins Center we have experience working with people with dementia and are here to help.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On the Road

Tomorrow I leave for San Antonio, TX for my first meeting as a member of the Board of the CBMT (Certification Board for Music Therapists). It is an honor to serve the field of music therapy in this capacity, as the CBMT is the body that administers and maintains our national credential. I have recently been sent hundreds of pages of reports and other documents to read by tomorrow! It's always eye-opening to see all the work that goes on behind-the-scenes of an organization such as this. It is so important that music therapists possess the skills and competencies necessary to be effective clinicians, since we have such a profound impact on the lives that we touch.


As an alumna of Cornell University, each January I participate in the Extern Program, in which students spend a few days during their winter break shadowing a professional in a field of interest. This year I hosted a young woman who is a jazz singer. She later wrote the following to me:

I wanted to thank you for such a great experience at the Center. It helped me realize the importance of doing good for others, a friendly and dynamic work environment, and music in a career choice. I had a wonderful time learning, meeting, taping, watching, indexing, and talking with you and everyone at the Center.

Perhaps we inspired a potential new music therapist!


Yesterday the Center for the second time hosted a class from the School of Visual Arts. Dr. Rebecca Di Sunno, who teaches in the Art Therapy Department here at NYU, also teaches a class in Expressive Arts Therapies at SVA. David Marcus and I presented an introductory lecture, with many video examples of clinical work, to over 20 students. Afterwards, one student approached us to say that her younger brother had come to the Center back in the mid-90s, as a preschooler, for music therapy! He is now graduating from high school and looking into both work possibilities and college. Where does the time go?

Enjoy our reprieve from the winter cold.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reaching Out

The live radio broadcast last Friday morning went well. My colleague Nina Guerrero and I were questioned at length by Dr. Alexandra Barzvi and Dr. Jerome Bubrick of the NYU Child Study Center on a number of topics: the Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy; how music therapy helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorders communicate; the Center's current research, and more. We played three brief audio excerpts of Clive and Paul's work with a young boy back in the 1960s, which dramatically illustrated how music therapy can engage children and elicit beginning speech. I shared several anecdotes of clinical work to help make the work accessible to listeners. We have received much positive feedback from the program, and one listener, who is considering studying music therapy, has already visited the Center to learn more about our work.

Yesterday we received a letter in the mail from a sixth grader in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Here are some of her comments:

I believe you are a wonderful foundation... Helping disabled people is wonderful, and music is the best way to do this. It is fun, entertaining, and helpful, all at the same time...It is amazing that you can make these people so happy and excited. Just being able to teach people who may have a hard time with other things, how to play an instrument is great...I'm sure people love coming to you. Continue with this it is the best thing you could possibly do.

After working at the Center for 19 years (and in the field for many years before that), I find it refreshing to see the work anew through someone else's eyes. It reminds me of the power and uniqueness of music therapy, and of music itself. It is gratifying to know that we have touched this young girl's life. She ends her letter saying, When I am eighteen I might try to acquire the skills to work for your organization. I love helping people any way possible. Thank you for doing what you do to make these peoples lives so much better...

Peace and Harmony,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's great to be back at work after the winter break! Already there have been some exciting developments. On Friday morning (January 9) I have been invited to participate in a live radio program: Sirius XM Radio's Doctor Radio show, "About Our Kids." Doctor Radio broadcasts on Sirius 114 & XM 119. The hosts, Dr. Lori Evans, Ph.D. & Dr. Jess Shatkin, MD, from the NYU Child Study Center, will be hosting a show about Music Therapy through Song and Sound. We will be talking about how music therapy is used to help children on the autism spectrum communicate. My colleague from the Center, Nina Guererro, will be joining me for the hour-long segment. The show runs from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM; there will be other discussions between 8 and 9, and our segment runs from 9 to 10. This is a wonderful opportunity to educate the public about music therapy in general, and specifically the potential of music therapy to enhance communication and social interaction in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Please tune in!!!

I had another bit of good news: I have been nominated to the Board of Directors of the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). The CBMT administers and maintains a national certification and recertification program for the profession of music therapy. In the past I have served on the Exam Committee, which writes the certification exam, and on the Practice Analysis Committee, which identifies the tasks necessary for the practice of music therapy. I am honored to be asked to serve on this committee, which has done so much for the profession.

I have also been invited to submit a proposal for the Fourth International Forum of the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs in Doha, Qatar in April. I presented at last year's Forum, and I am looking forward to returning for a most stimulating conference. The theme this year is Achieving Independence. I am planning to cull from the Center's vast video library to illustrate how children and adolescents with a variety of disabilities can move towards freedom and independence through music therapy.

I welcome you to contribute your ideas, and send best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year!