Stachyra, K. (2008) Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy: Clive Robbins interviewed by Krzysztof Stachyra. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy 8(3).

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1 Stachyra, K. (2008) Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy: Clive Robbins interviewed by Krzysztof Stachyra. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy 8(3). Krzysztof Stachyra: Are you a happy man? Clive Robbins: Oh yes, I have much to celebrate in my life. I have been given a lot of wonderful things to share and I love sharing them. K.S.: Where does your happiness come from? C.R.: I live with the awareness that life is the most marvelous gift. This is a full-blown feeling of appreciation for what we as human beings have been given, for what human beings can be, can attain, for the potential richness of existence that is available to us. And I know that the more I can align myself with this stance of gratitude it also carries a sense of wonder the stronger I feel my connection with being in existence, and the more energized I become for daily life. I also have the belief that our lives should be lived as adventures. K.S.: The model of Nordoff-Robbins creative music therapy has gone through some changes from the very beginning until now. You also had to face many difficulties. It was not always easy, especially at the beginning, but you made it through and now you are a man of success. Could you give some hints to the young music therapists who are just beginning their carriers? What can they do to overcome the critic of the environment and not to be easily discouraged? C.R.: What can I say to young music therapists beginning their careers? It would have to depend on who they were, on their individual circumstances, what countries they are living and working in, how they have been taught. But in general I would say keep your mind open with a wide interest in music. Get to know the various music therapy approaches, the different models of clinical practice. Avoid theories of music and human life that are reductive and that serve to diminish expectations and creative endeavor. For example, in my own life, naturally I am passionate about what has come to be called Creative Music Therapy. This is the central focus of my life and has been for forty-nine active years. But I am also interested in all aspects of music therapy and in what therapists in other areas of practice are doing and discovering. I would like to say to young colleagues that with regard to your music therapy careers: be adventurous, be creative, be caring, be loving, be professional, be musical. Now coping with the critics in the environment is another matter, and it is different in different parts of the world depending to what extent professionals in the health care fields or in special education and the general public are familiar with music therapy. For example, in the USA and Great Britain music therapy is relatively well known, and there is far less skepticism than there is in countries where it is still largely unknown. The advancement of music therapy as a profession in a country is reflected in the number of established training courses. For example, in the USA there are 70 universities and

2 colleges offering a baccalaureate degree in music therapy, 28 of them offering masters degrees and at least 3 providing training to a PhD level. There are eight training course in the UK, five leading to a masters degree. Maybe it would be a source of support in Poland, and I m thinking of the language barrier, if instructive articles from music therapy journals, whether in print or on line, could be partially quoted or summarized in Polish for members of your music therapy association. But fighting off skeptics and battling for recognition seem to be part of the challenge in establishing a new profession. Certainly, I ve seen this in the early stages in many countries. K.S.: Let s come back to your biographical facts for a minute. From 1960 s you have been traveling, coaching young music therapy adepts, showing them examples from your own clinical work, teaching about love and respect for all children. Did your travels help you in your self-development and did they influence Nordoff- Robbins model of music therapy in any way? C.R.: I think it would be impossible to travel professionally as I have done and not learn continuously from one s experiences and be personally changed, hopefully in the direction of gaining some degree of wisdom. Looking back, I see these experiences of the diversities and complexities of the lives of individuals, and social norms in different cultures with their different expectations, and their different histories as fostering a sense of humility. And this certainly connects with the sense of wonder I mentioned earlier. But because of the nature of the work we do and here I am also speaking of Paul Nordoff and Carol Robbins and my colleagues at the New York Center we meet people on a certain level, for a certain purpose. Because the meetings are concerned with therapy, we are involved with the consideration of human values and human needs. We are talking about issues that concerns everyone we meet, so straightaway there is an essential humanistic quality to the purpose of our meeting, Our content is one of human care and healing development, And also because we are concerned with demonstrating therapy achieved through music particularly music used creatively, expressively, interactively we are communicating in a medium that is personably enjoyable or challenging maybe but certainly refreshing, interesting and pleasurable, even though we may not always agree. Now, as to your question, have our travels influenced the development of the Nordoff- Robbins model? Our travels served to confirm the rightness and universality of the original model, confirm it, fill it out more. We observed a few pioneers and were enriched by their work, but the original model which was actually a big model, multi faceted and experientially rich was fundamentally unchanged, only added too. Along the way Paul and I and later, Carol and I, worked with a number of children in different countries who all added, one might say, to the collective repertoire of the model. The reception the work received on our first travels in the sixties in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland was very encouraging, and we learned a lot from the ways we evolved of presenting the work, how to teach it in the lecture hall. I guess, through teaching, we defined the work more clearly for ourselves.

3 K.S.: Do the jobs of Nordoff-Robbins music therapists in the United States, Australia, Asia and Europe differ in any way? Do music therapy sessions on those continents differ because of the cultural differences? C.R.: I would say any differences are more due to the nature of the facilities in which they work, and the client populations, than to cultural differences. Again, there is a universality to inborn musical sensitivity that for the most part transcends culture, at least the cultures that use our Western musical system. K.S.: During your last journey to Europe you visited Poland and the Czech Republic. Did you like it? C.R.: Very much indeed! I felt it was a privilege to be welcomed in Poland and the Czech Republic. This was my first visit to both countries, and I was very much aware of a sense of ongoing resurgence in both. I came knowing I had much to learn and, although I was there only for a few days, I left feeling that my vision of Europe was becoming just a little more complete and wholesome. K.S.: What were your expectations about Poland? Has anything surprised you there? C.R.: I had no expectation for my visit, so in a sense, everything surprised me and was of interest to me. My meeting with you in New York and our correspondence had partially prepared me for the state of music therapy practice and education in Poland, and I had some idea of the kinds of students I would meet. I enjoyed the ambience of Lublin, and of course, the history city of Krakow. I was an adolescent during World War II and was somewhat familiar through the British media with events of the Nazi occupation of Poland. So my frequent task while I was there was to throw off the old wartime associations I had formed. But it was the visit you planned to the Majdanek concentration camp at Lublin that brought home to me the horror of the occupation. That was a sobering experience, but a necessary one. I enjoyed the standard of living in Poland, and the friendliness of people. I was much impressed with the state-of-the-art auditorium we presented in at your Institute in Lublin. Oh yes, maybe the biggest surprise of my visit was seeing my colleague Simon Procter from the Nordoff-Robbins Centre in London teaching your students in fluent Polish! What a joy that was! I also enjoyed the seriousness and warm attention of the therapists and students who attended the presentations in Lublin and Krakow. I should also add, as a fringe benefit, that I enjoyed getting to experience Polish cuisine. K.S.: Let s concentrate on the Eastern European countries for a while, then. Have you noticed any problems, still present in those countries, which have already been solved in the USA and Great Britain? C.R.: Well, you have the underlying historical problem that it is not yet two decades since you became free of the Soviet occupation. In a sense you can say that is your

4 developmental base line. That s a problem that neither the USA nor the UK has had. I think that your main problem and it is the same in the Czech Republic is to get music therapy known, professionally, academically, and publicly known and respected. Realistically it s think it s more helpful to see this as more of a challenge than a problem. Naturally, as the profession expands, recognition will grow. It will be a slow process. How can you accelerate it? Find ways of getting the media interested, magazines particularly woman s magazines, professional journals, newspapers and for that you need pictures, good pictures. Keep a good camera handy. Get parental consent if you are working with children. Go for television, news releases maybe to start with, then a documentary. Norway is a model of how an enlightened state television corporation can influence public and professional opinion. NRK, the state television company made their first documentary on music therapy in It was about work that Paul Nordoff and I did in Oslo I think it was the world s first documentary on music therapy and since then, I just learned, they have made altogether thirteen programs about music therapy. The UK was lucky with the BBC s interest. I think their first documentary was in Others followed in the late seventies and eighties, and then in 1990, when the British music industry put on a big Rock and Roll outdoor concert at Knebworth near London to raise funds for the Nordoff-Robbins Centre, you suddenly had celebrities like Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and the rock group The Who going public with their support for music therapy. Music therapy suddenly became nationally known. Now obviously, you can t pull anything off like that in Poland, but explore your publicity resources, and be ambitious in going for it. Another, more basic, area of challenge is to mature and enrich your training programs. As far as I can see it, you need more contemporarily clinically based training courses, but for that you need to produce more clinicians. I think it would help to have more contemporary music therapy literature in Polish translation. It s going to take what we call growth time Currently, what are the main problems in the development of Nordoff-Robbins music therapy? Is it about money, people or cooperation between therapeutic and academic centers? C.R.: I would say the main problem is definitely about money. I don t think we have any problems of cooperation between therapy practice and academia. That seems nicely balanced in both Centers. Both the London and New York Centers were founded and run with the support the Silver Clef, an organization that raises money from the music industry, but in recent years there has been a real financial downturn in the music industry, mainly due to the consequences of digitalization. The London Centre is weathering the storm; they are well established as a national charity and have diversified their funding sources. But we in New York are fighting to survive as we restructure the foundation. But we are optimistic and all our treatment, training, research and publication programs are functioning. You may have heard of the tragic situation in Germany. Financial problems have forced the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany to shut

5 down its training program although a Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centrum has recently been opened nearby. The Golden Stave Centre in Australia is struggling but continues to offer its programs at the University of Western Sydney. It enjoys a lot of community support for its therapy services. K.S.: What can be done to improve the situation? C.R.: For us in New York the future depends on our success in finding new funding sources, not an easy task in the current world financial situation. We are also looking into the possibilities of using new technology to provide distance learning programs. K.S.: Your book Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children has again been translated into another language, this time Polish. Is it somehow different from the original version? C.R.: Yes, the Polish edition comes with the addition of a DVD that has about 55 minutes of historic footage showing Paul Nordoff and Carol Robbins at work, and 65 minutes of contemporary practice at the New York Center. I am very pleased with this new package, and with the quality of the book s production. K.S.: Are you planning to publish your book in any other countries in the near future? C.R.: Not at this moment, but the new revision of Creative Music Therapy is in translation in Japan. Thank you very much. C.R.: It s a pleasure.

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