A Musical Revolution In Healthcare

Reuben Raj
An Introduction To Music Therapy

With a week’s worth of events, Music Therapy New Zealand’s annual awareness campaign will run from October 20-28 to draw attention to the life-changing affect of music therapy and the support services available in New Zealand. Practitioners and clients will participate in performances, social gatherings, and public workshops in a celebration of this growing practice across Aotearoa, centered on the theme of ‘Spring Into Music Therapy’.

A relatively new style of therapy in New Zealand, music therapy has proven to have significant benefits for clients who struggle with communication, particularly those on the autistic spectrum and others with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, Aphasia, and Stroke. Music therapy can be beneficial to all people, but it has had particularly measurable results for the elderly who struggle with Alzheimers and Dementia, along with assisting young people with cognitive and learning functions. Due to the wide-ranging benefits of the practice, music therapy has found a place in both the health and education sectors, and is increasingly being used to assist in mindfulness and stress relief, as well as providing support for those suffering the consequences of trauma, separation, abuse, and grief.

Timed for spring as a season of change, the intention of Music Therapy Week 2018 is to entice passionate people who want to make an active difference in people’s lives to train as music therapists, as well as encourage people who may benefit from music therapy to give it a go. Music therapists use the extraordinary qualities of music in a shared relationship with their clients, to meet personal needs, support learning, and promote healing and change.

Megan Berentson-Glass, a registered music therapist in Wellington, is looking forward to the 2018 campaign and being able to share more widely what they do. “We work with such a diverse range of people, using music as our tool to facilitate health and well-being,” she said. “We really hope Music Therapy Week 2018 enables us to reach even more people across our local communities, and to share some of the exciting and inspiring stories from music therapy.”

A growing field in academia internationally, a new global study led by the University of Melbourne is examining the potential in music as medicine to treat people with dementia and depression. The study is currently underway and is finding that music therapy may be a revolution for health treatments: “From alleviating the symptoms of depression to enabling genuine reconnection with community - music therapy is giving some a chance to rediscover what has been taken; the person behind the dementia.”

Despite its known benefits, music therapy is still a developing practice, with a lack of awareness being a big obstacle facing the industry in Aotearoa. New Zealand Registered Music Therapists (NZ RMTh) are highly trained and hold current practicing certificates, ensuring best practice and safety for their clients. Music Therapy Week opens this specialised practice up to the public, with the 2018 programme offering a selection of free performances and events to raise the profile of this innovative type of treatment. Therapists and clients in the main centres will offer performances – the CeleBRation Choir and the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre will be in action in Auckland, while Wellington’s SoundsWell Singers Neurological Choir present a fundraising concert and Christchurch’s Cantabrainers Choir host an Open Day. Workshops across the country will also be open, such as therapist Sidharth Pagad demonstrating West African drumming rhythms, and discussing how they can be used in groups. More events will be added to the calendar.

Music Therapy New Zealand presents
October 20 – 28
Made possible with the support of the Hugo Charitable Trust


Cantabrainers Choir  open day
Wednesday 24 October – 10-11.45am – FREE EVENT
Mary Potter Community Centre: 22 Durham Street North, St Albans, Christchurch
The Cantabrainers Choir open day will showcase the choir to encourage new members and welcome potential funders to support the initiatives, featuring a performance and short presentation on music therapy from Registered Therapist Kimberley Wade.
The Cantabrainers Choir is a therapeutic choir for people with neurological disorders.
For more about the Cantabrainers Choir, visit

Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre Performance
Wednesday 24 October – 8pm – FREE EVENT
Freida Margolis Bar: 440 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland
The therapists and friends from the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre will be performing an evening of smooth tunes, accompanied by craft beers, fine wines, tasty bar food and good company.
The Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre provides music therapy for special needs, with six locations around Auckland and the Hawke’s Bay.
For more about the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre, visit

Life in the Music Therapy Profession: Stories from New Zealand based Music Therapists
Thursday 25 October – 10.30am-4pm – FREE EVENT
Kelburn Campus, Victoria University, Wellington
The New Zealand School of Music offers a window into the lives of professional registered Music Therapists in New Zealand. Speakers share their stories from their work in fields including early intervention, neurology and dementia care, with keynote speaker Kimberley Wade, the founder of Southern Music Therapy, a private music therapy practice based in Christchurch. A light lunch and afternoon tea will be provided.

Drumming Workshop by therapist Sidharth Pagad
Thursday 25 October – 6.30-7.30pm – FREE EVENT
Orakei Community Centre, Auckland.
An interactive workshop aiming to share knowledge about using drums and percussion as part of music therapy. Explore West African rhythms illustrating the use of the djembe and associated instruments in their cultural context.
Sidharth Pagad is a Music Therapist based in Auckland, using of music of all kinds to promote wellbeing and achieving needs-based goals for clients, primarily using community-based music therapy outside of a clinical setting.

CeleBRation Choir performance
Friday 26 October – 11am – FREE EVENT
The Grand Millennium Hotel: 71 Mayoral Dr, Auckland
The CeleBRation Choir perform as part of the Alzheimers 2018 Conference, led by music therapy student Jenny Gordon.
The CeleBRation Choir is a social singing group for people living with neurological conditions, based at the University of Auckland's Centre for Brain Research.
For more about the CeleBRation Choir, visit

SoundsWell Singers neurological choir performance
Sunday 28 October – 2pm – Adults: $12, Children: $5
St Andrews on the Terrace: 30 The Terrace, Wellington
A fundraising concert to support the choir, led by Registered Therapists Megan Berentson-Glass and Penny Warren
SoundsWell Singers is a Wellington based choir for people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Aphasia, early Dementia, and Stroke.
For more about the SoundsWell Singers, visit

More events are to come – Follow the Music Therapy New Zealand website and Facebook page for updates: or

Music Therapy Week is proudly supported by the Hugo Charitable Trust

Written By: Reuben Raj Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. Often seen lurking behind a camera inside the pit of a concert or wandering the streets of China with a blond, Reuben harbours intimate feelings for vinyl records and his Hasselblad SW/C from 1965. He is also the founder of Radio 13.