Music unlocks abilities

Music therapy is relatively unknown in New Zealand, but two dedicated therapists are using it to help physically and intellectually disabled children. Candice Reed reports.
When Marie Bagley flew from London to Auckland for a 20-minute job interview, she hoped it would show her true commitment to the job.
It did - and four months later the University of Manchester and London Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduate is living in Titirangi and working as one of two music therapists at Auckland's Raukatauri Music Therapy Trust.
Her colleague is Alison Cooper, originally from Cornwall, but an Auckland resident of nine years. Together, they are helping develop music therapy in this country.
``Music therapy is one of the hardest things to describe,'' says Ms Bagley. ``It's the clinical use of music within a therapeutic relationship to meet a variety of physical, emotional and intellectual needs.''
Based on the internationally acclaimed Nordoff-Robbins approach, music therapy emphasises improvisation and creative techniques to develop communication skills in physically and intellectually disabled children.
The trust, in Newton, is the first music therapy centre in the country and the brainchild of a dedicated group of local musicians that includes Hinewehi Mohi and Bic Runga.
One-on-one and group sessions operate from the centre, while Ms Cooper heads an outreach programme in schools. Both women say the job is challenging, but comes with huge rewards.
``The basis of music therapy is that anybody can respond to music in a variety of ways regardless of intellect or disability,'' says Ms Bagley. ``It is extremely rewarding as a profession, but it is very slow.''
Easily missed by the untrained eye, breakthroughs range from a non-verbal child vocalising for the first time, to a child with limited physical ability reaching for an instrument, or a child with delays in social and emotional development making eye contact.
``Every day is different and I've enjoyed improving my engagement skills and learning to be flexible to whatever is the response from the student,'' adds Ms Cooper.
For details on Raukatauri Music Therapy Trust phone 369 1839 or email info@rmtc.org.nz.

- THE AUCKLANDER

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