A Minute with Harry
Why did you choose to study music therapy?
After studying a Bachelor of Music performance (Jazz) in Adelaide, South Australia - I had to make the (not so hard) decision between being a professional Jazz musician, or looking at other ways I could have a career that paid the bills, and still utilised my love of music.
I came across music therapy in a handbook around the time when I was in this limbo. I was excited by the prospect of Creative Music Therapy and the Nordoff-Robbins approach, as it meant that I could utilise the improvisation skills I had learnt to work with a variety of populations.
During this time I began volunteering playing music at a Hospital and an Aged Care facility in Adelaide while studying film. Working at the Hospital I met with a music facilitator and was moved by the way she used music to shift people’s mood, distract from treatment and reduce perception of pain. So inspired by this, I made a short documentary ‘In the Moment’ on the effect of music on patients, staff, and families in the hospital setting. Shortly after this I then applied for the music therapy course in Sydney, NSW and made the move.
What is your favourite part about being an RMT?
I always say to everyone I meet that there is never a dull day as a music therapist because there are always things to learn, explore, and create. Also, being able to use musical improvisation, as a way to work with individuals with deficits, to help them as they strive to develop their functioning and wellbeing is pretty rewarding too!
Most challenging part of the job so far?
I think the most challenging part of the job is finding the right balance of the two hats we wear as music therapists. It’s about having great musicianship and that broad repertoire for varying populations to draw from, while also being the clinician and thinking about evidence, measurement, and tracking goals and progress. When you get a breakthrough with a particular client the hard work pays off, and it is a great feeling for everyone involved.
How many instruments do you play?
I can play guitar, piano, bass, drums, and the number one instrument I use is my voice. Other instruments you can pick up through knowing how to play a primary instrument like the ukulele, and tone drum. I’ve recently started to explore the world of audio technology and composing music on programs such as Ableton and Pro-tools. I am now utilising this music tech in sessions with older children and adolescents and they’re really enjoying it.
Is there a particular instrument you want to learn and why?
It’s hard to say just one! I’d like to learn the harp because it is an incredibly calming instrument and would be great for aged care, and also with clients who are sensory or have difficulties regulating their energy to settle them. I’d also like to learn the cornet because it has a nice round tone. Oh yeah… and I’d love to learn the bagpipes so I can play the riff to ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (if you wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)’ minus the kilt though (that’d be too much) *laughs*
Who is your favourite musician/band and why?
I have always had a soft spot for Jeff Buckley, as his ability to connect with the music and to his audience was incredible. Every time Jeff played he improvised within the framework of songs depending on the setting he was in, similarly as music therapists we need constantly adjust to what is presented to us in the moment.
It’s hard to pick one band. I love the Beatles songs, particularly the material from their 60’s psychedelic period. Some of my favourites include: POND, Tame Impala, KGATLW, Arctic Monkeys, and I’m also a big fan of rock, blues, and grunge music.