MT MY STORY
My Story: I became interested in Music Therapy (MT) before I knew it even existed as a profession, at the age of 18, while volunteering at a track and field event for mentally and physically handicapped teens. I happened to have brought along a cheap little guitar, and when I pulled it out to play a song the response was overwhelming, so much so that I soon forgot my own insecurity regarding my poor playing and singing and enjoyed it all as much as they did! Later that summer, while studying double bass at the Banff School of Fine Arts I met a few older bassists I admired, both of whom had practicing Music Therapists as girlfriends, whom I briefly met, and from then on I knew I would enter the field. And I did- beginning by volunteering here and there, and hoping to run into a Music therapist somewhere along the line.
I moved to Montreal to try out musical life, and ended up attending McGill University, but before I did I volunteered for 6 months at the Alexander Institute where Debra Carrol was the Music Therapist. I was able to see her in action and speak a bit about MT, but otherwise I basically hung out with the residents, some of whom had lived since birth in the almost gothic institution, which was hard enough to visit, so much as live in. I attended McGill for two years studying classical and jazz, then decided to focus on Music Therapy,which in Canada in 1985 meant Capilano College, North Vancouver, not far from where I spent most of my highschool years- and off I went.
I spent the first year of studies, which were excellent and intensive, living in a psychiatric boarding home where I also played some music with the residents, my room mates, some of whom had actually undergone repeated shock therapy and other horror stories. That year I also had practicums at the North Shore Association for the Physically Handicapped, and Riverview Psychiatric Hospital, Vancouver's largest psychiatric institute, where all of my housemates had spent time. That and the following summer were spent bringing music to residents of Senior's Car Facilities, Extended Care Units, Psychiatric Boarding Homes and everything in between, at least two per day, about 30 places in total. My partner was John Charles, who one year after myself went on to study MT, and was director of MT and Activities at Riverview Hospital for years. The next year I had practicums at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital EC Unit, and the Berwick Preschool at UBC, after which I completed my Diploma, taking one extra year of studies, a sort of Post Graduate monitored year of practicums ( jobs actually), and worked in whatever aspect of the field I could. My MT practice was suspended for a year while I toured full time with an ethno fusion band, and when I returned I made my primary residence Victoria.
In Victoria I began working at the Garth Homer Institute for the mentally and physically handicapped, beginning a Music Therapy program, and organising the first two talent shows bringing hundreds of family, workers, even press and government bigwigs together to be thoroughly entertained by the unabashed residents. I also began giving MT workshops and seminars in various hospitals and care homes, and was a keynote speaker at the BC Activity Worker’s Conference. I then founded the Music Therapy program at Rest Haven Lodge, where I worked for 6 years with a great group of very supportive people, and the program is running to this day! I also had a remarkable weekly session at Sandringham Hospital, and a few private clients, along with the highly praised Namaste Friday Music. Namaste’s director, Terry Flatt, and I figured that if we could get a large venue we would put on a very fun musical bash which should attract enough of the people in the ever growing number of day programs, and it worked. Friday Music at Namaste is also still running, and receives media attention every few years for rocking the house, and being so important to so many people. Also during this time I went back to university, converting my three years of music and three years of MT studies into an official Bacheloriate, which took another few years of part time studies in Biology, Statistics, Psychology of Aging, Orff and Kodaly, and more. At last I finished my degree, I had a host of fantastic MT jobs, a few great bands to play in, the Gulf Islands, a garden, two cats… but I secretly wanted to try living in Europe, and then I received a phone call from an old ethno fusion buddy, Calvin Cairns….
Next thing I know my wife and I are living in Hamburg, Germany, and I am band leader/musical director for a Cirque du Soleil production, and after living in five cities in Germany and many sojourns around Europe we are semi settled here in Berlin. I have recently ceased being a bandleader, and am returning to Music Therapy, and original musical projects. I have begun giving improvisation workshops in Europe for experienced and non experienced musicians alike, focusing on the expressive powers of music, accepting it as an essential part of our nature, and helping to repair some of our cultural musical mishandling. I’m also formulating some future MT projects involving combining composition and improvisation in community based music, involving varied community musical groups of all ilks, from as many population groups as possible, into a Music Therapy performance mosaic