Music therapy and me
Alison Hornblower shares her experience as a teacher who turned her passion for music therapy into a career, with the help of UK charity Nordoff Robbins. My interest in music therapy began when I was just 16 years old. Following a degree in music, however, my love of teaching led me to train as a secondary school teacher. In 2002 I started my first job as a music and drama teacher in a school in Essex, while still keeping up my instrumental teaching work.
After three years I had developed an interest in the pastoral side of teaching – working with students to ensure that they achieved their full potential. I had also acquired a wider knowledge of what might prevent this. This motivated me to look towards music therapy again and how music can be used to promote change and growth within individuals.
A change of direction
In 2005, I made a career shift and gravitated towards a music therapy course where I could marry my teaching skills with a love of helping others through being creative together. I had always worried about the performance aspect of auditioning for music therapy courses but realised it was only my lack of confidence that was holding me back. I was drawn to the music-centred emphasis that Nordoff Robbins offered but also felt that the course was well-rounded and suited my aspirations. So, I applied, auditioned and got through to a panel interview which ultimately led to a place on the course. I have now been practising as a music therapist for more than five years.
About music therapy
Music therapy uses music in a creative way to help engage people with the world around them. It can be hugely effective in assisting people who are isolated or limited by their condition as a result of cognitive, emotional, physiological or social difficulties. When music reaches these people, it can be tremendously powerful. It can literally transform lives. Music therapy helps people in so many different ways. For some it has physical benefits, for others emotional or social ones. It encourages people to be more motivated, social and self-confident and gives them the opportunity to enter into a shared and creative relationship.
I work with children and adults in a range of settings, which provides a wonderfully varied work pattern. Music therapy work often involves playing different instruments, but it can also incorporate singing, listening and movement. As a therapist, it is my responsibility to give meaning and purpose to the music created – often through improvisation. Experiences can range from traditional one-to-one sessions, to groups, and performances. All newly-qualified Nordoff Robbins music therapists are trained, to Masters degree level, to become skilled in using music to help all kinds of people, in all kinds of places. The profession is regulated in the UK by the Health Professions Council and is represented by the British Association for Music Therapy.
An incredible journey
Personally, music therapy allows me to take the aspects of teaching that I love – the making and sharing of music – and marry them up with therapeutic insight into the way we as individuals develop throughout our lives. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this field to consider applying for a course – and to have a go. I never thought I would have the privilege to train with Nordoff Robbins, but here I am. Recently, I have been able to continue my academic interests as a tutor on the Nordoff Robbins Master of Music Therapy course. I have come full circle, from student back to teacher. It’s been such an incredible journey of self-discovery, allowing me to merge all the things that I love most. Music is my life and music therapy is the ideal career combination.
Nordoff Robbins courses
In September 2011, 21 students joined a new Nordoff Robbins national training programme – the Master of Music Therapy (Nordoff Robbins): Music, Health, Society – validated by City University London. This two-year course was designed to make music therapy training as accessible and flexible as possible. Now, up to 12 students each year can train at sites in London (the Nordoff Robbins Centre) and Manchester (the Royal Northern College of Music). The programme gives students a practical and academic training that provides up-to-date preparation for today’s music therapy profession in health, education and social care contexts. Nordoff Robbins also runs a PhD programme and a range of short courses and practical workshops.
Alison Hornblower is a Senior Music Therapist for Nordoff Robbins South West.
This article was originally featured in the September 2012 edition of Libretto, ABRSM's magazine.