If you build it, they will hear the music
Teacher brings therapy program and lots of energy to Hamilton
I had a suspicion when I first met Rachael Finnerty, in 2010, soon after her arrival here, that she just might set this city on its ear and set the ears of this city (and beyond) on to music therapy.
She did both of those things, and now thanks to Rachael and a colleague of hers, Hamilton is home to Canada’s first music therapy academy.
It promises to draw people in from all over, for workshops, symposia, research and professional contact and development.
Rachael and her family arrived here in 2007 via ... you guessed it, Toronto ... (they’re among our best steals from that city) and I’m tempted to say, looking back, they seemed almost an advance party for the enormous influx that followed.
She and husband Drew Hauser, an architect, bought a building on King East, fixed it up beautifully and turned it into a music therapy treatment centre. I met her when it opened.
She got sold on Hamilton when she came through, doing music therapy contracts for places like St. Peter’s Long Term Care Centre and Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts.
The quickening cultural vibrancy here at the time was a powerful draw, she being a music therapist. Now she is adding, again, to that richness, starting (with Miya Adout) the Ontario Music Therapy Academy, the first of its kind in Canada.
“This really fills a gap,” says Rachael, of the Canadian music therapy scene.
Music therapy is a growing interdisciplinary field that recognizes the value of music — its structures, physicality, emotional associations and cognitive utility — as a way of helping client’s improve both physical, mental and emotional health.
Music therapy has been used with Alzheimer’s, autism, brain injury, substance abuse, depression, learning disability and much else. It’s taught at several Canadian universities.
The work of the new academy really begins in September when they hold the first of 12 workshops already planned out. The workshops will take place at the McMaster University Centre for Continuing Education, in Jackson Square, and in Toronto.
As it happens, the new continuing education centre — the one that accounts for Jackson Square now having a big McMaster University sign on top of it — was designed by Rachael’s husband Drew. A few years after moving to Hamilton he liked it so much he relocated his architecture career here and now works at McCallum Sather.
In a few short years the two of them — Rachael and Drew — have had a hand in much that’s contributed to the gathering momentum of this city. Astrid Hepner’s An Instrument For Every Child; the new Dundas Museum & Archives building (a Drew Hauser project); and 541 Eatery & Exchange on Barton East.
And now the new academy. Some of the impetus for it has been the success of Rachael’s music therapy course at McMaster University. She started the course in 2010, the year she got here, with spaces for 50, not knowing if it would fly.
“When Fermata opened, I had many inquiries from McMaster students about music therapy,” says Rachael. Offering a course seemed a natural next step.
She has since sold Fermata, but the course did fly, from the start — with an initial complement of 36 students in 2010 — and now it is soaring. There are spaces for 400, all filled; and there’s a wait list.
“Hamilton has been an amazing city to be in as a music therapist as both the health/research and arts scene are becoming the ‘face’ of Hamilton,” Rachael says.
In recognizing this, the Ontario Music Therapy Academy just had to be based in Hamilton, she says.
Miya Adout, the co-founder, took Rachael’s Introduction to Music Therapy course in 2012, went on to a Master of Music Therapy at Concordia University and has a successful practice of her own now.
They kept in touch and when Rachael offhandedly mentioned the idea of an academy, Miya was all over it. “This (such an academy) is my dream!” she told Rachael. And now it’s coming to pass.
Another spot of bright healthy plumage in Hamilton’s increasingly colourful cap. For more, musictherapyacademy.com.
Hamilton has been an amazing city to be in as a music therapist as both the health/research and arts scene are becoming the ‘face’ of Hamilton.
Rachael Finnerty, left, sees Hamilton as an ideal fit for the Ontario Music Therapy Academy.
Miya Adout, above, is the co-founder of the Ontario Music Therapy Academy.