Music therapy hits the right note
A former rocker is using her musical talents to bring the gift of music to a very different audience.
Rebecca Travaglia is the newest member of a team of four music therapists at the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre in Newton, which helps children with special needs.
She says it wasn’t always the path she intended to take. But after finishing a degree in contemporary rock music at Otago University in Dunedin, Rebecca found herself wondering where to go next.
A friend introduced her to the idea of music therapy and four years later, she says she’s never looked back.
“It just kind of made sense to use music for social interaction,” she says.
She works with children with special needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy and down syndrome, playing piano, guitar and percussion and singing with them.
She says it is less about academic teaching and more focused on building relationships. She says the key to a successful interaction might be as simple as singing a “hello song” rather than saying “hi” directly to a child with autism.
“Music is a non-confrontational form of communication where sometimes words for them are very difficult. For some reason in a song, you can say whatever you want and it’s okay.”
Therapists also visit schools as part of the centre’s outreach programme and Rebecca says it’s very rewarding.
“There’s nothing quite like walking into the classroom and having their faces all light up.”
The non-profit centre, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on Wednesday, is full, with about 100 clients coming through the doors each week and a six-month waiting list.
Director Anne Bailey says the charity doesn’t advertise at all and depends on word-ofmouth from clients.
“It really shows there is a huge potential demand for music therapy out there.”
She says there are plans to grow so the centre can see children with a wider range of needs, including more common behavioural and mental issues. But before that they’ll need to find more funding.
The centre already needs $400,000 a year to keep operating at its current level.
The Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre is New Zealand’s only music therapy centre and was started in 2004 by singer-songwriter Hinewehi Mohi and her husband George after their daughter Hineraukatauri spent time at a music therapy centre in London.
Music to the ears: Rebecca Travaglia is the newest member of the team at the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre in Newton.