13th April 2023
It’s World Music Therapy Week (April 10-15, 2023) so we’re focusing on the great work of Registered Music Therapists and the incredible discipline they have developed, harnessing the benefits of music in a very particular way. This is the second Music Therapy feature, following our interview with Bridgit Hogan. We asked Registered Music Therapist Winifred Beevers five questions about what this work means to her and the people she works with.
Winifred provides music therapy services to individuals and groups. She specialises in working with older adults, in their home, in day centres, residential facilities and in hospital settings. Winifred’s expertise includes all forms of cognition loss and dementia, neurological disorders, palliative care and mental health.
What do you love about making music?
Making music is inherently active, I love the physicality of playing the piano, strumming strings, tapping on drums and singing. I love that music is an expression of self, without having to speak and overthinking what words you use. I love that music is never the same, each time you play a piece of music it is different to the last time.
How has becoming a Music Therapist and working as an allied health professional changed how you feel about making music?
For me, therapeutic music is all about the interaction with the client. It is a conversation with music, where the interaction between client and therapist changes the music and creates the possibility of change for the client too. The interaction can be solemn, demanding, emotional and potentially a lot of fun.
Therapy work is very different to performing. I never took to solo performing, but always enjoyed playing in ensembles with other musicians. I continue to play with other musicians whenever I can. I enjoy learning new piano music that is unrelated to my work. After many years of playing melodies and creating accompaniments I find playing exactly what is written quite tricky. When I do play my favourite composers I have to really concentrate and remember what it was to be a classical pianist again. I am a lot more relaxed about the music I play now.
Finally, I really enjoy learning new instruments. About 10 years ago I bought a ukulele, so that I could use it in sessions. My next instrument will be the bagpipes. Not for use in sessions, they will be all for me.
Can you tell us about the impact you have seen music therapy make on your clients/patients?
I work mostly with older Australians. I see people’s posture change from slumped to sitting upright. At the start of a session they are disengaged and separate from other people. The live music brings them out of themselves and facilitates their interactions with everyone around them. Older couples sing, reminisce and joke with each other. I see grandchildren coming to sessions and joining in with their grandparents.
What instrument/s do you play and how do you use them in your work?
My primary instrument is piano, I use it or the keyboard for both groups and individual sessions. I use my ukulele for individual sessions. I love drums like the timbau and djembe and I use every small percussion you can imagine, for all sessions. On very special occasions the accordion comes out.
What resources would you love to see in your community to bring the benefits of music making to more people?
I would like to see more community groups for people to play in. I would love to see music embedded in all levels of school education at much greater levels. I would like to see all schools giving it the same attention that they give other subject areas so that people are empowered to make music, not simply passively receive it from others.
I would like to see mandated contact hours for RMT’s in all health facilities – just like other health professions. I would like to see other health professions getting formal education about music therapy and what it can do.
For more information about Music Therapy in Australia, see www.austmta.org.au