Mu­sic ther­apy hits the right note

Central Leader - - News - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

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 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.”

The ther­a­pists also visit schools as part of the cen­tre’s out­reach pro­gramme and Re­becca says it’s a very re­ward­ing part of the job.

“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 cur­rently at full ca­pac­ity, with about 100 clients com­ing through the doors for mu­sic ther­apy each week and a six-month wait­ing list.

Di­rec­tor Anne Bai­ley says the char­ity doesn’t ad­ver­tise at all and de­pends on wordof-mouth from their clients.

“It re­ally shows there is a huge po­ten­tial de­mand for mu­sic ther­apy out there. We can’t quite keep up.”

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.

Raukatauri 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. Visit


Mu­sic to the ears: Re­becca Travaglia is the new­est mem­ber of the team at the Raukatauri Mu­si­cal Ther­apy Cen­tre in New­ton.

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