Blog Category: Music Therapy

Karaoke and Open Mic Night

Karaoke and Open Mic Night!

Do you frequent karaoke nights around town or have you ever dreamed of signing on stage but haven’t found the right venue? Well, Roman Music Therapy Services has your answer for a night of fun, community and music!

Join us on October 13th from 6:30pm – 8:00pm at Onset School of Music in Wakefield. There you will be able to perform your favorite songs on stage, with a professional sound system and lighting! Invite your friends and family to cheer you on. Not ready to perform solo? You’ll still have a great time listening to our karaoke line up, trying your hand at one of our raffles, and enjoying a light refreshment.

Committed to providing quality, fun, integrated music experiences for our clients and community, we hope you join us on Friday, October 13th for what is sure to be a great night!

Register now to save your spot!

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Women in Recovery and Music Therapy

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and one of Roman Music Therapy Services lead therapists, Laetitia Brundage, has pulled up in front of the home where she will be seeing her next clients. 

Inside, ten to twelve women ranging in ages from nineteen to forty-five wait in the living room for Laetitia’s arrival. With couches moved around to form the shape of a ‘U’, participants in the upcoming music therapy session are asked to pick their instruments. Once everyone is outfitted, Laetitia opens the session with a check in, finding out where each member of the group is at, emotionally, that day. Then she leads the group with a song to gather everyone together, breaking the ice and setting the tone. A rhythm everyone can play is picked, something that offers a beat for participants to land on as they drum. Sometimes it’s ‘Boston, Massachusetts’, other times Laetitia asks if the women would like to offer the mantras they say to themselves to get through a tough challenge or a rough day.

This home is the residence of an inpatient substance use disorders treatment facility specifically for women. The women in recovery are typically there for six to twelve months and engaged in various therapies and life building sessions.

While many people are familiar with music therapy in after school programs or within the setting  of nursing homes, they are less familiar with music therapy playing a  role in the treatment of mental illness, such as PTSD, anxiety and substance use disorder, to name only a few. Laetitia helps the women in this group identify, process and develop coping mechanisms surrounding their emotions, as well as build resiliency and gratitude. By sharing their emotions with the group, displaying respect for one another and listening to each other, as well as a willingness to explore their personal experience with treatment, the goal is to increase a participant’s potential success in sobriety after leaving the supportive and contained environment of the house.

Much of the feedback Laetitia has received after her sessions is positive. One woman revealed that “music really turned my attitude around”. Another shared that it was “really cool to take all these emotions and put them into song” after a session of songwriting with her peers.”

Laetitia is honored to be part of the progress these women are making.“It’s such different work…it’s very rewarding to go into this amount of depth with people.” The women have been extremely open and Laetitia says working with them has been “really beautiful…I feel like I’m making a real difference in their treatment and giving them another tool.”

After 45 minutes of music, the session comes to a close. Typically, the group ends with a mandela, an exercise that has one person begin a beat, followed by the next person, followed by the next and so on until everyone in the circle is contributing their own music. It shows the women that while they maintain their group cohesion, they still retain their individuality. And just as they started, they finish one by one, until there is a lone drummer, before they too fall silent and the group session concludes until next week.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for more information and help.

If you would like more info on music therapy and it’s use during treatment and recovery, please contact us.

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Music Therapy for Early Childhood

Music Therapy For Early Childhood

Everyone can make music! It’s true! Whether singing along to your favorite song, tapping a beat on a bongo or experimenting on GarageBand©, everyone has the ability to create music. And you’re never too young to be involved with, or respond to, the benefits of music making. Watch any child, especially babies and toddlers, and you’ll see for yourself. They bang, they strum, they sing and dance without any care as to how ‘good’ they might be or if they are hitting the right note.

Music isn’t only fun for our little ones, it plays a critical role in overall development, helping to build neural pathways and unlock hidden potential. Before language skills are even developed, music can serve as a vehicle for communication with babies and toddlers.

Who can benefit?

Children of all ages and backgrounds are especially receptive to music! For those receiving early intervention services, music therapy can be a creative strategy to successfully reach children with identified developmental delays or other unique needs.

Children without delays, and those in daycare centers or preschools, also have fun engaging in music making that supports their emotional, social, cognitive and language development. Music making also provides young children a great opportunity to bond with caregivers and peers!

Program Offerings

  • Sprouting Melodies: Created for children, ages 0-5, and their caregivers, Sprouting Melodies is an award winning early childhood music program. Offering age-specific classes for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and sibling pairs, Sprouting Melodies classes are facilitated by Board Certified Music Therapists who have additional training in early childhood development.
  • Clinical Music Therapy: Music therapy sessions can be provided in conjunction with other early intervention therapies or pediatric therapies in both individual and group settings.
  • Music Therapy Club: Targeted for children ages 3-7 with special needs, the Music Therapy Club offers a supportive music making environment that facilitates engagement, joy, and success for all.

Does your little one light up when you sing to him or her? Are you looking for an activity that stimulates your child’s development while also fostering the bond between the two of you? If so, demo one of our Sprouting Melodies classes! Or call to find out more about our individual music therapy sessions.

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Music Therapy, AMTA and Belonging

-by Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC

AMTA as a community

As with most allied health professions, music therapy has a professional organization, the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).  The purpose of AMTA “is to advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world” (AMTA, 2017).  This advocacy of AMTA includes educating government officials (including national senators and representatives, governors, and state legislators), organizations (including Veteran’s Affairs Administration, National Institute of Health,  and Remo Drums), and the general public.

I have been a member of AMTA since I was a music therapy student, maintaining my membership throughout my career because of the many benefits it has given me. The organization not only works on a therapist’s behalf to increase our visibility, it also increases client access to our services.

Here are some of the other great things about AMTA membership:

  •  Two high quality journals created to keep therapists informed of the latest research and clinical practices within music therapy
  • A forum for music therapists to come together and share knowledge, experience, questions, and music
  • A way for music therapists to share their voices and ideas, as well as an opportunity to shape the field of music therapy as it grows and develops
  • Volunteer members and staff who are working to protect the field of music therapy through countless hours of dedicated service
  • National and regional groups that create and support the growth of music therapy in underdeveloped and new areas
  • Resources, documents, and knowledge that deepen my practices as a music therapist, a music therapist supervisor, and a music therapy educator
  • Opportunities to develop skills outside of clinical music therapy, by taking on leadership roles, conducting research and writing scholarly materials

AMTA as an advocate

For our stakeholders, those who receive our services and those who hire us to provide music therapy services, AMTA works on your behalf as well.  AMTA has been involved in developing and modifying legislation and regulations to make music therapy more readily available to those who need our services.  AMTA works to educate the public about music therapy. Finally, AMTA serves to connect those interested in music therapy services with music therapists in their area.

If you are a music therapist or music therapy student, you can learn more about joining AMTA here!


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Turn up the Heat with Summer Music Events!

Summer is  (almost) here!

If you are a parent you might be wondering, as I find myself doing right now, which is a busier month, December or June?! Between end of school year events, field days, graduations, dance recitals, gymnastics meets, last day of school parties, etc it can feel as though there is a commitment every day!

When life gets especially hectic with obligations, it always helps to have a little fun, either scheduled or spontaneous! Roman Music Therapy Services has some great things planned, some of which are free!

Dancing and Singing all summer long!

Happy Sprouting Melodies Student

BABY/TODDLER FLASH MOB, Friday, June 16th at 11:30am (near the Gazebo)

A few years ago we held a very successful Sprouting Melodies flash mob near the lake in Melrose. Now we are taking the music, and the dancing, to Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield! Join us for some fun tunes, fresh air and feisty baby dancing! Pack some food and a blanket and feel free to stay after the music ends for a picnic!


This is a very popular series that the library puts on, and Roman Music Therapy Services is happy to be a part of it on the 27th. Held on the lawn near the library, families often bring a picnic dinner and come a little early before the music begins.


If you, or someone you know, is a new mom or dad, this is a great, FREE monthly meet up. Get out of the house with your new little one and meet other parents and caregivers!

LUNCH AND CRAFTS, Friday, July 7, 11:00am-noon

Join us for another fun craft and pizza lunch! We will make tambourines to take home and then have pizza! Sign up today to reserve your spot! We need at least 5 kiddos signed up to run this event so sign up early. Cost will be $10 per child or $15 for a family. (there are no Sprouting Melodies classes this week due to July 4th)


Both sessions are 4 weeks long to accommodate for people’s fluctuating schedules during the summer, but if you know you are going to be around, then enrolling in both at the same time will save you money! (use coupon code summer2017) And the first 8 enrollments for any summer session will receive a free Sprouting Melodies T-shirt!


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I Have a Drum! Now What?

Why Music?

A music therapist’s voice can be so important, especially when reaching out to populations that are not always able to respond and communicate by conventional means. Music has an impact on all areas of growth and development, making it a particularly valuable therapy in early interventionMeredith Pizzi, music therapist for various populations including early intervention work work. Bonding and attachment are just some of the areas that can be enhanced through moving together in music.

On May 9th, our founder, Meredith Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC and Laetitia Brundage, MT-BC, one of our music therapists, presented at the Massachusetts Early Intervention Consortium’s annual conference. Their presentation, entitled I Have a Drum and Maracas! Now What? provided guidance for music therapists working with children and families participating in early intervention work. Intended to offer colleagues some tried and true strategies and tools for behavior management, the training included large and small group experiences, song sharing and writing, as well as a prepared lecture.

Developmental Framework

Elizabeth Schwartz, LCAT, MT-BC, Meredith’s co-founder of Raising Harmony and Sprouting Melodies, created a developmental framework that breaks down skill development into five categories or areas: awareness, trust, independence, control and responsibility. Music therapists can stylize their sessions to target specific traits exhibited in these five categories. For example, if a music therapist is working on control with a group or individual, he or she may use a song that allows for instrument choice.

Learning ObjectivesLaetitia Brundage, music therapist for various populations including early intervention work

Key learning objectives established the goal of the session. The first objective involved participants being able to identify ways that music can be used to facilitate skill development in the areas of gross and fine motor skills, language, communication and social interaction.

The next objective was learning songs that targeted these specific developmental skills in addition to songs that do not require instruments or musical materials. Songs that were shared included:

  • Row It Faster by Elizabeth Schwartz, LCAT,MT-BC (skill development – Awareness)
  • Dancing Kids by Laetitia Brundage, MT-BC (skill development – Independence)
  • Train Ride, by Alison Albino (skill development – Trust)

At the end of the two hour presentation, participants left with the ability to list three ways to support and encourage positive behavior through music, create solutions to challenges with behavior and sing three new songs and suggest functional uses for the songs.

Music therapy can have a profoundly positive effect with early intervention populations. If you are a parent or early intervention provider looking to incorporate music therapy, please contact us!


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Music Therapy and Military Populations

The History of Music Therapy in Military Populations

The history of using music therapy to help post-combat veterans dates back to the days after World War I, when community musicians performed in military hospitals for wounded servicemen. Doctors and nurses noticed that their patients responded positively to the music. During the last years of World War II, it became evident that these hospital musicians needemilitary and flagd special training, thus the first music therapy degree was created.

In 1945, the U.S. War Department developed a program using music to recondition service members recuperating in Army hospitals. In this program, music was used in several therapeutic settings, including recreation, education, occupational therapy and physical reconditioning. This early use of music as a support of multiple therapies for military populations helped the music therapy profession grow. It developed further with research endorsed by the Army.

How Can Music Therapy Help Veterans and Their Families?

Veterans of recent wars face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, major depression and polytrauma, not to mention substance abuse, family conflict and suicide. Music therapy can be a valuable part of a treatment plan for post-combat veterans and their families, offering another tool in supporting a service member’s recovery. Interventions can include improving coping skills, offering relief from pain perception and reducing stress associated with traumatic experiences.

Music is used with military populations in various ways, including drum circles, writing original music and engaging with a music therapists individually or in a group setting. Music therapy interventions often address multiple goals, such as awareness of mind/body connections, identifying feelings and emotions, physical discomfort/pain, attention, executive functioning and non-verbal means of expressing thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Interactive music experiences, music-based workshops, or incorporating music therapy into established support groups are just a number of ways music therapy can support veterans or active service members’ families. Shared music making between family members and their service members also allows everyone to engage in an activity that can be fun and positive.

One of our music therapists, Laetitia Brundage, had the invaluable experience of working with the veteran population for a few months last summer as a part of the Home Base program, a two week intensive clinical program run by MGH. Laetitia incorporated a drum circle to the opening night, kicking off the program every two weeks for new participants.

If you or a family member is a veteran or active service member interested in music therapy, please contact us.

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Autism Awareness Month

autism awareness ribbonApril is Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness month was launched by activists and individuals with autism, to counter the negative language and imagery associated with the disorder. Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, with the severity of symptoms varying by individual. For some on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, these symptoms may result in relatively mild challenges. For others with more severe symptoms, repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language can interfere with everyday life.

The focus during Autism Awareness Month is on sharing positive, respectful and accurate information.

Exactly what is Autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a bio-neurological developmental disability that typically appears before the age of three in children. It affects the areas of language, communication, sensory processing, social interaction and motor skills. Some characteristics of ASD are social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. Often other medical conditions and challenges accompany the basic symptoms of autism.

While there is no single cause or “cure” for autism, increased awareness and access to early intervention and other support services often lead to significantly improved outcomes. In some cases, the diverse symptoms of autism can be completely overcome.

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the prevalence of autism had increased to one in every 68 births –  nearly twice the 2004 rate. Although autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, it is also the most underfunded.

Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Individuals with ASD often respond positively to music. Considered to be a “universal language,” music can provide a bridge for those who have trouble expressing themselves or communicating. Due to the multisensory stimulation (auditory, visual, and tactile) of a music therapy session, music therapists can address a multitude of symptoms and behaviors.

Music stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, allowing a music therapist to use songs or instruments to support cognitive activity, building self-awareness and improving relationships with others. For individuals dealing with autism, personal interactions are often difficult, but by introducing an instrument into their therapy, they may first connect with the object and then open up to the therapist or group. Music serves as an alternative form of communication and expression.

Rock Out For Autism on April 29

Erin Savage is the frontwoman in the rock band SeaKing Heir, as well as an educator in the autism program of a private special education collaborative. SeaKing Heir is one of five bands playing at O’Brien’s in Lynn on Saturday, April 29th. Door funds from the concert will be donated to Roman Music Therapy Services to be used for music therapy scholarships for children with autism and other special needs. For more information about the event, see the SeaKing Heir Facebook page.

If you are a parent with questions about how music therapy could help your child, or an educator or program looking for more information, please contact us today!

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Hospice and Palliative Care: How Can Music Therapy Help?

What is hospice care?

Hospice care is a model for quality, compassionate care for people with a life-limiting illness or injury. It involves a team-oriented approach and includes expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support. The patient’s family and loved ones also often receive additional support as they confront their own feelings of anticipatory grief and bereavement.Music Therapy in a Hospice setting

Music therapy can be beneficial to patients in hospice or palliative care in a variety of circumstances and scenarios. Some ways in which music therapy can help include: pain management, enhanced communication, reality orientation, exploration of spiritual concerns, etc.

Many times patients in hospice are unresponsive or have very limited awareness of self or others. However, even patients in the later stages of illness have responded to the inclusion of music therapy, whether it be by a decrease in heart rate, more controlled respiration or moments of cognition.

The goals for patients in hospice care vary by case but often include addressing the five tasks of dying, music assisted life review, and decreasing the perception of pain, to name only a few.

Supporting caregivers of hospice patients

Music therapy also offers caregivers and family an alternative method of coping with their loved one’s illness or injury, as well as a forum to share common experiences. During this difficult time, music can help soothe grief while also providing a respite for the stresses of care giving for a terminally ill loved one. If a patient is cognizant and able to participate, music therapy sessions can provide them and their care givers a way to engage in meaningful time together. Music therapy is also an effective way to engage children who may be experiencing complex and big emotions that they cannot quite articulate.

A legacy project can provide a way for hospice patients and families to express their emotions. These projects can include audio/visual recordings, tangible gift giving or recording of original songwriting done in a music therapy session. These legacy projects offer patients a means to highlight their contributions to the world to share with future generations and are a treasured remembrance for families.

If you would like more information about hospice or palliative care, please contact us. If you work with an organization that provides hospice service and wish to explore adding music therapy services, please review this information sheet and contact us to discuss your needs.


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Music Therapy Group Services for Children and Young Adults

New group services that we are excited about!

Many of our clients are school aged children and young adults, ages 3-22. For them, music therapy can increase self-confidence and foster development through exploratory activitiesMaking Music Creates Joy, among other benefits. While many children and young adults receive services at school or during a supported program, our music therapists have been developing group programs that can be done in our center and that can supplement those other group or individual sessions they may be a part of. With the intent of increasing engagement, developing community and fostering leadership skills, we have three new groups to offer families.

Music Therapy Club (3-7yrs)

Music Therapy Club, which meets on Tuesdays at 4PM, is designed to be a supportive music making environment that facilitates engagement, joy and success for all. Children can participate in music experiences that take full advantage of their individual strengths while minimizing the impact of difficulties. A family-based group for parents and children, siblings are also welcome to join the fun! 

Pre-teen Music Therapy Group (9-13 years)

This group, which meets on Mondays at 4:30PM, offers a supportive environment where pre-teens with special needs can improve social skills, build bonds and engage in peer-to-peer interactions. Opportunities for leadership and creative expression, all with the help of music, help children achieve their goals. 

Teen Music Therapy Group (14-22 years)

Specially designed for teens and young adults with special needs, this group uses structured music making improvisation, songwriting or lyric analysis to engage with clients and foster creativity. Skill building and LeadershipAll within a safe space, clients can explore potential and develop satisfying relationships with others. This group meets on Mondays at 5:30PM.

While the Music Therapy Club requires parent or caregiver participation, the pre-teen and teen groups are for building independence. For this purpose, students will participate in group. Parents and caregivers are invited to spend the time in our reception area, enjoying a cup of coffee and building communities of their own. All three groups run on four week intervals and cost $115.

Special demo day Monday, March 20th.

To give families an idea of the group dynamic before committing to signing up we will be holding a demo day on Monday, March 20th of the pre-teen and teen groups. If you are interested in attending, please call the office at 781-224-3300.

Sign up for the Music Therapy Club  online or by calling the office.

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Federation for Children with Special Needs Convention

A resource for children with special needs and their families

The Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN), located in Boston with a satellite office Federation for Children with Special Needsin Western Massachusetts, is recognized state and nationwide as a leader in child advocacy, especially for those children with special needs. Committed to listening to and learning from families, FCSN provides information, support and assistance to parents, their professional partners, and their communities.

Working in the areas of children’s health, parental involvement, early intervention, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Elementary and Secondary Education, the Federation oversees over 15 programs statewide related to supporting families whose children have either special education or healthcare needs. These supports can include training, workshops on Individual Education Plan (IEP) development, assisting a child as he/she phases out of the school system, finding support groups, promoting family involvement in school, advocating for a child’s inclusion in a school setting and so much more. An invaluable source for families, the Federation also works to reach out to financially and culturally diverse families who are also in need of support and services.

Visions of Community

On March 4th, Roman Music Therapy Services will again be participating in the Federation’s annual conference, entitled Visions of Community for 2017. An excellent resource for families of children with special needs and the professionals who serve them, people come from all over the state to convene at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston for a day of information gathering, sharing and work-shopping. Topics of discussion are to include Demystifying Dyslexia: Essential Information about Assessment, Intervention and Support at Home, Physical & Communication Access: Isn’t that the Law?, and Finding and Establishing an Independent Living Facility for your Child, to name only a few.

Keynotes will be delivered by Dr Paula Kluth, author, advocate and scholar working with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities, as well as creating a more responsive and engaging school experience for all learners; and Brennan Srisirikul, singer and actor diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth.

As music therapists who have worked with children of all abilities, including those with special needs, our staff will be on hand at the conference to speak to parents, professionals and government agencies about the application of music therapy in conjunction with other services.

Stop by our table for more
information, or if you cannot make the conference but have questions about the whether music therapy is right for your child, contact our office!

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Here We Grow Again with Two New Team Members!

Helping new music therapists grow!

Alison Albino

Alison Albino

At Roman Music Therapy Services, we have been particularly passionate about doing all we can to grow the talent pool of the next generation of music therapists.

Last year, Alison Albino joined Roman Music Therapy Services as an intern, wowing all of us with her compassion, determination and talent! Watching her confidence grow and her skills expand has been such a rewarding experience!

It’s no wonder that we happily made her a permanent part of our team once she completed her program at Berklee College of Music this past November.

Alison sees a wide spectrum of patients, from folks in hospice care, children and adults with special needs, and older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Outside of work, Alison loves to travel and has been to over 15 different countries! She also has a passion for business and hopes to assist Roman Music Therapy Services grow in the future. We look forward to seeing what she does!

Growth brings new opportunities 

Amadee Castenell III

Amadee Castenell III

Amadee Castenell is a recent graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. He discovered his calling in high school when he learned of music therapy as a career, which combined his love of music, his interest in psychology and his desire to help people.

While Amadee has experience working with many different populations, his real passion lies in hospice work. Following in the footsteps of family who work in the hospice field, Amadee hopes to someday teach and/or advocate for music therapy in hospice settings nationwide.

Amadee is excited to begin his career in music therapy at Roman Music Therapy Services! Proficient in a number of instruments, Amadee often tries to incorporate the use of woodwinds in his sessions when appropriate, so you may see him with a saxophone or a clarinet.

At Roman Music Therapy Services, we really are a team and we are incredibly excited by the energy and passion both Alison and Amadee bring to our office, our clients and the field of music therapy!

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A Message From Our Founder

Founder’s Message

Meredith PizziI have always loved living in New England. I love seeing the snow coated trees glisten in the sun and the excitement the kids have when they hear those beloved New England words, “Snow Day.”  I also love the first warm mornings of springtime when you can go outside with a light jacket, or even the thrill of no jacket at all, after being bundled up for what seemed like an eternity! Then the warmth of the summer blankets us for a few months and I soak in all the Vitamin D I can! And then all of a sudden, the cool, crisp air of fall moves in and I take in the familiar smell of the autumn leaves. I really do love it all!


Reflecting On The Past 10 Years

Celebrating our 10th Anniversary this past year provided me with a similar opportunity to reflect back on the seasons of change in the journey of Roman Music Therapy Services. It really did start out with me and my car, driving from session to session. I began with services for two agencies when I moved to Massachusetts in 2006. Eventually I added Saturday morning sessions for individuals in my basement and an increasing number of clients and contracts.  Over time, the work load grew, and as I am not one to turn down a request for help, I began to expand our services by bringing on additional music therapists, first as contractors and then as employees.

Growing Roman Music Therapy Services to the organization that we are today has truly been one of the greatest joys of my life! The children and adults I have met and had the pleasure of working with, the music therapists I have trained and supervised, and the administrative support staff who have provided their skills and energies to our mission and vision have all played a part in the story of Roman Music Therapy Services. To everyone who has given me the opportunity over these past 10 years to be a better music therapist and a better person, I offer you my sincere thanks! I am honored and delighted to work with an incredible team of professionals, amazing families, service providers and clients to fulfill our mission every day!

10 year timeline

Making Music, Transforming Lives

As I walk into our new Music Therapy Center in Wakefield and I see our mission on the wall, I am filled with a sense of purpose and commitment each and every day! I know that music and my involvement in making music with others had a tremendous impact on my life’s course and my development as a person. I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t been the only girl trumpet player in school. I don’t remember the name of all of my childhood teachers, but I do remember the names of each and every music teacher I had, and I remember the hours I spent practicing to perfect my craft – to be the very best trumpet player I could be!  All State auditions and performances, playing in orchestras, jazz bands, marching bands and chamber ensembles gave me a voice, a community, a sense of belonging. Yes, I was that tall redhead in the back of the jazz band, dancing as I counted my rests or played my part, and taking my shoes off in rehearsals and performances to really feel the music!

With my parents’ support and encouragement, I followed my heart into a field that I knew had the capacity to change lives. I had no idea what it would look like, and believe me, neither did my parents! But that didn’t stop me from following my convictions and my call to making music part of everyone’s life.

Forging Connections Through Music

Today, our team of 12 employees at Roman Music Therapy Services is making this vision a reality each and every day. In our next 10 years, our dream is to expand opportunities for music making even further. We want ALL people to have the experience of community and belonging that comes with music making. It seems that too often, our daily lives pull us apart from the people around us. And even the way that we consume music with our headphones, we are missing the chance to come together as common people. At the end of the day, we are all humans – Human beings with beautiful and unique differences. And we are all humans who can share in the joy, fun, and community of music making.

I hope that you will continue to join us in this mission of bringing music to everyone!

If you are the new parent who feels isolated and stressed, or just feel like you have a lot to learn as a new parent, please come join us for a Sprouting Melodies class! For families with children with special needs, we are committed to providing community programming and specialized services to help build bridges and bring families together. We are here for you! For adults living and working in our communities who experience the challenges of physical or developmental disabilities, or struggles with pain, depression or isolation, we are here to open up new doors to communication, friendships, and learning, all through the joy of music making! And for our aging adults, we offer a way to communicate, reflect on the past, and participate with others in a way that brings meaning, joy and purpose to our daily lives.

As we expand our community offerings to bring people together to make music, we hope that you will look for and take advantage of our intergenerational music making events. We truly believe that by focusing on the goals of shared joy and experiencing community through music making, we can help transform lives and communities to be the very best that we can be!



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2016 Changes And A Special Welcome To Annette!

2016 – A Year of Change!

Reflecting back, 2016 brought change and excitement for Roman Music Therapy Services! We reached the truly awe-inspiring and gratifying milestone of being in business for ten years. Our in-studio program offerings expanded with the addition of Sprouting Sibs and drop-off class, Sprouting Melodies 5. Additionally, our outside contracts grew! Growth was really the theme for us as we took on more clients, hired an Operations Manager and moved into a larger space.

Another wonderful change included the addition of a Senior Clinical Supervisor for our music therapy team, Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC. Annette comes to Roman Music Therapy Services with an impressive and diverse background in music therapy. With over twenty years in the field, Annette’s clinical experience includes outpatient care for victims of domestic violence, psychiatric hospitals, hospice, special education classrooms and working in the Boston Shriners Hospital pediatric burn unit where Annette and her team were featured on WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

Annette Whitehead-Pleaux is Shriners’ first music therapist. (George Hicks/WBUR)

While providing music therapy to a variety of populations, Annette is also an adjunct faculty member at three colleges/universities where she teaches masters and undergraduate coursework.

Involved in several music therapy research programs throughout her career, Annette is also a prolific writer and has a number of peer-reviewed articles as well as published book contributions. In early 2017, the book she co-edited with Dr. Xueli Tan, “Cultural Intersections in Music Therapy: Music, Health and the Individual”, will be published by Barcelona Publishing.

Annette is an incredibly accomplished member of the music therapy community and on the Board of Directors for the American Music Therapy Association.

“For many years, a translated quote has hung above my computer on my desk, which says

‘ A human being becomes human through other human beings.’  

To me, this is the essence of music therapy, being human with other humans through music.”

– Annette Whitehead-Pleaux

Supervising our multi-faceted, multi-talented team!

As Senior Clinical Supervisor, Annette will be facilitating weekly, biweekly and monthly supervision with our therapists. Additionally, she will lead “Supervising the Supervisors,” a program that mentors our music therapy leads. In addition, she will lend her unique expertise in program development, outreach and skill set enrichment.

In her “spare time” (!), Annette is also leading our new program, Meeting of the Musical Minds Supervision, which offers one-on-one supervision to music therapists across the country. Stay tuned or contact us for more details.

To say we are excited to have her on our team — as a colleague, a mentor and an innovator — is an understatement! Please help us welcome Annette with a quick note via Facebook or a smile next time you’re here for a visit.

Stay warm and see you soon!

Musically Yours,



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Holiday Happenings

Home for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again when everything gets a little added ‘sparkle’ and the soundSanta at holiday celebrations you hear are a little merrier. The Melrose Chamber of Commerce hosts its own ode to the holidays with its Home for the Holidays weekend celebration, happening this year from December 2nd through December 3rd.

The fun starts Friday night around 6pm at City Hall on Main Street. There, Roman Music Therapy Services’ team of music therapists will help herald in the holidays with a repertoire of carols. The lights on the Christmas Tree at City Hall and those decorating Main Street will be turned on as Santa arrives in Melrose, riding through the center of town on a firetruck! Many businesses along the route take part with cookie and hot chocolate offerings and a chance to a get a photo with the big man himself!

On Saturday, December 3rd, the citcarollers at holidays celebrationy will be full of fairs, performances, sales, specials and tastings that last throughout the weekend. Be sure to take advantage of the special holiday trolley that runs on Saturday, taking shoppers through the shopping districts for free. The trolley will run from 10AM-2PM.

Check The Chamber’s website for more details such as trolley route and map of participating businesses.

Spread the Cheer

This year, Roman Music Therapy Services is pleased to partner with The Community Outreach Coordinator at Hallmark Health to provide holiday gifts to some of their Emarc families in need. As an agency that works closely with Emarc in our own capacity, this opportunity is dear to our hearts.

You can donate to a needy young adult or child by picking an ornament fromholiday gift the ‘giving tree’ in our front office. The ornament will provide details on the holiday wish list for someone in the community relying on the generosity of others this holiday season.

Gifts may be wrapped, must be new, and should have the ornament attached on to it so we know who it is for. Hallmark Health will be collecting all presents the week of December 12th for distribution.

Let’s make someone’s holiday, together!

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Community, Camaraderie, Confidence and Competence

music notes - programs for music therapistsAre you a music therapy business owner looking to grow your music therapy business, or a music therapist who works independently? It’s common to feel isolated or unsure. We are excited to share two great learning opportunities for music therapists and music therapy business owners.

Business coaching and clinical supervision programs for music therapists

MTBO Mastermind, conducted by Meredith Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC and founder of Roman Music Therapy Services, is for music therapy business owners. This program will help you overcome growing pains and provide strategies to elevate to a more strategic level. Coaching is a wonderful way to actively build your business with the support of other like-minded music therapy business owners who have had similar experiences.

Through coaching, you can set the vision for your organization while also deciding the next direction you wish your business to grow in or develop. Coaching is goal driven, and your coach will help motivate you and hold you accountable to attain the goals you set. Be inspired, motivated and energized by transforming yourself from a business owner to a business leader!

Meeting of the Musical Minds Supervision will be conducted by Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC, who has joined Roman Music Therapy Services as our clinical supervisor. This individual and group supervision will help to reduce isolation, increase self-confidence and gain ideas and inspiration. As music therapists, we invest so much time and energy into our sessions with our clients, while neglecting to invest in ourselves with the same dedication.

Supervision is a key component to being a music therapist. Engaging in regular supervision has helped me personally as I worked in a pediatric burn unit, mental health hospitals and in school settings. I could not have done that work, or come up with the solutions to tricky situations, without that supervision. -Annette Whitehead-Pleaux

Annette will be facilitating two music therapy clinical supervision groups starting at the end of January/beginning of February, a standard group and one for LGBTQAI+ MTs. There is still time to check out MT clinical supervision through a free consultation and to sign up for one of the groups. Invest in yourself this new year!

Are you ready to take the next step?

If you are interested in learning more about our coaching or supervision services, you can get more info by watching the webinar that Meredith and Annette conducted last month, which dives deeper into what is offered through both programs.

Once you’ve determined that coaching or supervision are right for you, you can request an appointment time with either Meredith or Annette.

Please feel free to call our office, 781-224-3300, for more information.


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Fall Happenings & Sprouting Melodies Schedule

Fall 2 Session began this week!

Schedule updates: Last week saw the end of our Sprouting Melodies Fall 1 Session. Fall 2 session kicks off this week so there are no breaks in the music! These will be our last classes in the Melrose center before we move to Wakefield on October 31st. We anticipate Sprouting Melodies will begin in Wakefield starting Tuesday, November 1st.

This session will run through December 17th, with a break for the week of Thanksgiving. This will be the final session of 2016, as we take a two week hiatus for the winter holidays. I can’t believe there are only two more months until a new year. How does it go by so quickly?!

There are still spots available in some of our classes, so make sure you reserve your space today!


We look forward to introducing all of our families to the new space! And watching as the kids make it their own!

Halloween is coming and we’ll say BOO!


Melrose Trick or Treat 2015, from Melrose Chamber website

Join us, and the rest of the businesses on Main Street, at the annual Trick or Treat at Melrose Businesses. This event is sponsored by the Melrose Chamber of Commerce and will be held on Friday, October 28th from 3:30 to 5:00 PM.

Melrose Trick or Treat 2015, from Melrose Chamber website

Melrose Trick or Treat 2015, from Melrose Chamber website

Main Street will be shut down for the duration of the event and trick or treaters will be able to roam around, getting Halloween loot from area businesses.


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Drumming With Heart

As many of you know, we celebrated our 10th anniversary last Saturday at Melrose Memorial Hall. It truly was an event to honor not only the work we do in providing individual and group music therapy services, but also to express appreciation for the community connections we have made and partners we have gained along the way. Continuing our mission of uniting the generations, bringing music to everyone, and transforming lives through music making, the celebration offered an opportunity to bring our entire music-making community together in a party atmosphere.

Meredith Meredith singing with guitaropened the event with a few words of acknowledgement and thanks to clients, supporters, community partners and employees who have been part of the 10 year journey. She also sampled for the crowd one of the opening songs often used by the music therapists, Today Is A Beautiful Day, kicking off the event and setting an upbeat and inclusive tone for the day’s events. Later in the afternoon Meredith shared the news Roman Music Therapy Services’ growth and success have created the need to expand into a bigger space, and that our new home is right down the road in Wakefield, MA. (Stay tuned or follow us on Facebook for up-to-the minute details).  Continue reading

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My Own Voice Choir Group At Our 10/1/16 Anniversary Celebration

Our 10th Anniversary Celebration is only a few days away!

Our lunch menu is ordered, our drums and maracas are packed up and our voices are ready!

Be sure you’ve registered to reserve your spot.   

We are so pleased to announce some special guests who will be joining us on Saturday to perform for you!

My Own Voice

Part of the Treble Chorus New England, My Own Voice was launched in 2011 as a pilot program. Its intent was to provide choral opportunities to children and young adults with special needs. My Own Voice participants receive mentoring during their rehearsals from performers of other area choirs.

The program, targeted for individuals with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities or impairments, started with four members and has grown to over 50 members! Performers from the choir are from Methuen, Haverhill, North Andover, Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Peabody and Middleton.

Photo credit: Tim Jean, The Andover Townsman Staff From left Angelina, 16, William and twin sister Francesca, 14

Their unique model has proven overwhelmingly successful. My Own Voice is unique; there are no other after-school music programs for children with special needs like this one! The group founder, Bernadette Lionetta, envisions sustained growth over the coming months and years. Please contact Bernadette if you know anyone who enjoys singing choral music and might be interested in joining the group.

Make sure to register for the event so that you too can enjoy My Own Voice’s performance! We look forward to seeing you on October 1st. And to making music with you into the future!

If you have any questions about the event or ambassadorship, please contact the office at 781-665-0700.

Continue reading

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Music Therapy Ambassadors: Champions in the Community


Are you a champion?

If you have experienced the power of music therapy, you are probably already a believer. Each day, growing numbers of people are learning how music therapy can facilitate connections and meaningful engagement for individuals with a wide variety of needs. Music therapists use music therapy to unlock closed doors, exposing potential, possibilities and opportunities.

Become a music therapy ambassador.

Help us to spread the power of music therapy by becoming a music therapy ambassador. You can serve as a champion to help us grow awareness and advocate for music therapy and the clients who benefit from it.

Drumming to the BeatAmbassadors may host as universal music-making event (such as a community drum circle or open mic night), publicize our services or events (like our upcoming 10th anniversary!), advocate for music therapy as a viable clinical service or as a rewarding and powerful career choice, or provide a sponsorship or donation to provide funding for an individual with specific needs.

Are you ready to be a champion?

Learn more online about becoming an ambassador and ambassador opportunities!

And make sure to reserve your spot at our 10th Anniversary Celebration on October 1st!



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A Musical Milestone!

A Musical Milestone: Celebrating 10 years of Music Making

10 years of making music

This summer marks the 10th year that Roman Music Therapy Services has been making music in the community — a milestone we are excited to share with all of you!

Our Founder and Executive Director, Meredith Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC,  launched RMTS 10 years ago from her home office in Malden. Since those beginnings, we have experienced  tremendous growth! While based in Melrose, our therapists also see clients across New England.

Our team works with a variety of populations, spanning the spectrum from beginning to end of life care, and we also hold our very popular Sprouting Melodies classes in our Melrose office.

We couldn’t have gotten here without YOU!

To celebrate our musical milestone and to show appreciation to the clients, stakeholders, supporters and contributors to Roman Music Therapy Services, we will be hosting a 10 year anniversary celebration at Memorial Hall in Melrose on Saturday, October 1, 2016.

The event will take place from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm. The agenda will include recognition of community partners, success highlights,  music (of course!), lunch and a drum circle.

Join us – register now!  Continue reading

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Veterans and the Power of Music

by: Laetitia Brundage, MT-BC

A Time to Reflect

As we come closer to Memorial Day, I often think about those incredibly brave individuals who have lost their lives in order to help protect our freedom. They made the ultimate sacrifice to help us preserve the liberties we often take for granted. There are many men and women returning to civilian life burdened and battered by the trauma of war. Their families also feel the psychological effects of having a loved one on in battle.

I think of this and I wonder, “What can I do to show my appreciation? How can I help?”


And then a new partnership presented itself, giving me the chance to give back! For the past several months, I have had the incredible opportunity to help out many post-combat veterans through what I know best, music! With a team of music therapists from Roman Music Therapy Services, I have been able to act in support of a new clinical program called “Home Base.”

Dedicated to Healing

Home Base is a program run through Massachusetts General Hospital (M.G.H.) and the Red Sox Foundation. It involves an intensive 2-week clinical program to help post-combat veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI(Traumatic Brain Injury) and other psychological disorders brought on by their experiences. The range and intensity of therapies and interventions in this program are vast. Music was brought on board to help transition the veterans and their families into the program.

By leading two group drumming experiences per clinical period, we have been able to help promote community by building trust and camaraderie among the veterans, families and staff members. Simultaneously, we are working to reduce the anxiety and stress related to being part of such a program. Since February of this year, we have served 30 veterans, 21 family members and 6 staff members.

Serving Veterans and Families

At the end of each drum circle, we invite the group members to provide us with their reflections on the experience by writing them down on index cards. The following quotes are from the veterans and their family members:

  • “Cohesive; Barrier crossing”
  • “Total transformation of everyone’s attitude. Everyone was closer and more open.”
  • “This was a powerful way to see how we (strangers) can work together.”
  • “This was a great way to bring the group together right off the bat. Perfect icebreaker. Also really nice to play some music again.”
  • “Fun! Great way to get to know each other. Fun to watch other people have fun.”
  • “Nice to be able to share a side with family that isn’t all gloom and doom.”

While our contribution to the overall treatment plan could be considered small, the feedback from those experiencing these musical moments shows that it provides an essential amount of balance and relief during their strenuous journeys. As far as I’m concerned, I am honored to provide a service that can bring smiles and laughter to people that are fighting and coping with a very real and difficult battle everyday.

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Music Therapy in Special Education

See music therapy in the schools in action!

We are often asked about how music therapy in the schools works. Under IDEA, music therapy can be included in special education through various types of delivery including programmatic services, individual or group direct services, and consultation.

In this video blog, our Board Certified Music Therapist, Kristina Rio sat down with special education teacher, Bonnie Albanese, to discuss how music therapy has impacted her students and paraprofessionals. Her students have had music therapy in the classroom since September of 2013 as a programmatic service, with sessions focusing on shared goals. They are currently working with another music therapist on our team, Mary Kerrigan, and you will get to see her making music with the students.

A very special thank you to the Lynnfield Public School administrators, teachers, students and parents for their help in creating this video!

Learn more about music therapy services in schools, or send us an email to find out how we can serve your program.

A special thank to Alisa Carbone who produced this video.

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Magical Musical Moments: Seniors

By: Laura Micheli, MA, MT-BC

 Music Touches People of All Ages

In my work I am fortunate to encounter many “magical musical moments” with so many different people.

Photo of Laura Micheli, MA, MT-BC

Laura Micheli, MA, MT-BC

I’d like to share one particular moment working with a group of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This particular group meets weekly for music therapy on the skilled nursing floor. There are 12 participants that join the group each week along with interchangeable staff members. The entire group, staff included, love the music therapy group! They sing the songs between sessions together, and have learned and utilized musical tools for specific individuals needs to support communication and positive behaviors. And it’s a mood booster for everyone!

One particular resident has had some great “magical musical moments” in the music therapy groups. She has later stage dementia and this has affected her communication abilities. She is generally very quiet, never initiates speech, and rarely answers questions verbally. Her peers notice her quiet nature. They say things like “Come on say something” or “She won’t tell you anything” and become frustrated by her lack of what they perceive as presence.

Music Can be Its Own Language

In our music therapy groups this woman is greeted by her peers in a supportive way because I, as the music therapist, model how we treat our peers of all abilities. Remarkably with music she can access her speech again. During one music therapy group I left a pause in the hello song I use every week where the lyric “beautiful” was supposed to be sung. She immediately sang music-for-seniors“beautiful” with just one pause. The other seniors smiled and cheered for her! From there she sang missing lyrics from all familiar songs and answered simple sung questions such as “How are you today?” Many of her peers commented after the session how wonderful it was that music could reach her in this way. Not only did she benefit from the musical stimuli but her peers saw her as a person again, something totally invaluable as a human being and especially as a human being with a disease such as dementia.

Her caregiver noticed such a difference in her when music was present that she purchased an iPod and asked me what music she should add to her playlists to help support and connect with her. Music is utilized throughout her day to connect with others and express herself. And this is just one reason why I love my job. I get to witness, experience, and create these amazing “magical music moments” that can change a life for the better.

If you are interested in learning more about how music therapy can benefit seniors, read more.

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Drum Circle+: Community Building in Action

Have you wondered what Drum Circle+ is all about?

Drum Circle+ is a drum circle facilitated by a Board Certified Music Therapist from Roman Music Therapy Services. In one of our events, you will get all of the benefits of drumming including reducing stress, improving physical health and wellness, increasing brain functioning and building community.

Drum Circle in ActionResearch suggests music can enhance brain functioning in the moment and over time. This is useful for a wide range of individuals and groups. Our music therapists are able to meet your group’s unique needs, whether it be for staff wellness or development, a professional workshop or an energizing community event.

Watching a Drum Circle+ in action.

To give you an idea of what happens at a Roman Music Therapy Services Drum Circle+ event, check out the video below from the Malden Access Television Open House Showcase.  In this interactive and engaging drum circles for all ages, we explore one of the oldest known instruments. The Music Therapists of Roman Music Therapy Services use the drum circle to engage everyone in fun-filled and purposeful music making that can leave a lasting impression!

Recorded May 16, 2015, at MATV’s 9th annual Open House Showcase.

Call us to learn more about how we can create a Drum Circle+ experience to meet your needs.

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Mother-Daughter Investment

An Investment in Quality Time

As parents and caregivers, we are always looking for activities to do with our children that are fun and enriching! With all of the demands facing today’s families, it can be difficult to take time out of our busy schedules for fun, but it truly is an investment that will pay off!

One mom, Christina LaRock, who has taken our Sprouting Melodies classes with her daughter, faced the same questions as many moms do. What can I do with my child that will be fun and rewarding for us both? Of her experience at Sprouting Melodies, Christina says “If Sprouting Melodies were a financial vehicle for investments, your ‘return on investment’ would be a sure thing, a true win!

Sprouting Melodies® is a unique program offered by Roman Music Therapists for children and their caregivers, ages 0-5. With Board Certified Music Therapists leading classes, Sprouting Melodies focuses to create child-centered musical experiences that integrate what they know about young children, development and music!

An Investment in ConnectionsHappy Sprouting Melodies Student

What makes Sprouting Melodies stand out is not only our focus on children and their expression through music, but the connections they are making with their caregivers and peers. Christina has seen the rewards of that connection. She says,

“When my daughter — who was 22 months old at the time — and I attended a Sprouting Melodies class, I thought it was going to be a fun way to engage my daughter in music and movement. More than enough reason to go! It sure was fun! What I hadn’t anticipated was that the benefits to her would be much, much more than that!”

Reaping the Rewards

Christina experienced firsthand how the classes stimulate and enhance musical, social, physical, and emotional growth and development. She says that her daughter “learned in more meaningful ways what cooperative play is, how to share and take turns more effectively, how to use music as a vehicle to express her emotions. She also gained confidence and self-esteem by being in and sharing the spotlight, exploring different instruments and building an authentic, caring relationship with our Sprouting Melodies leader, Laura!

What distinguishes our Sprouting Melodies Providers™ from others is their expertise in music therapy and special training in early childhood development. Our team is uniquely qualified to accommodate the needs of individual children within groups. They also strive to teach parents how music can strengthen bonds, engage cooperation and transform situations within the family

If that wasn’t enough, what was even more amazing was how I, and my whole family, benefited from what we learned organically through Sprouting Melodies. All the while having a lot of fun! I learned songs to help ease those times when frustration would get the better of me (or my daughter). I learned how that not just listening to music — but making music –sparked a curiosity in musical instruments, patterns and body awareness in my daughter that has provided hours of fun at home together! And, in making music alongside my daughter, I had fun and met other local parents. To this very day, I sing the songs with my daughter that not only are fun & silly but truly help me be a better parent!”

Lessons That Stick

The investment of music is one that lasts. Christina finishes, “I asked my daughter, who just turned 5 years old, what her favorite memory of Sprouting Melodies is. She gave me a huge smile and ran to get her ukulele. Without missing a beat, she started singing “oh gather round, come and sing with me”. The music and the lessons remain … we’re still reaping the benefits!”

Roman Music Therapy Services has been providing Sprouting Melodies® classes to area families for over six years. With a loyal following, some children who are now in pre-K have been with us since their early infant days! Many parents and families have made connections with one another through the classes they attended.

Our Winter II Sprouting Melodies Sessions have just started and run for six weeks. Register today to start making music and connections with your little one!

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Why We Love Repetition in Music

As music therapists,  we use music to help people with varying needs access their full potential and grow through the music. Some of the benefits of using music are that it is motivating and can help to stimulate and focus a person’s attention. This is in part due to the repetitious nature of music.

In this video, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis talks about the “exposure effect” and how repetition invites us in to participate in the music instead of just passively listening.

Thank you, Kristina Rio, for sharing this interesting and thought-provoking TED Talk!

We can share the benefits of music therapy with your team, group or organization. If you are interested in a participatory music event, review our website for ideas.

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The Virtues of Music Therapy and Finding Funding

Horace Mann Educational Associates, HMEA, in Franklin, MA supports children and adults with developmental disabilities to over 110 communities within Massachusetts, providing innovative services in school, at home, at work and in the community. Music therapy programs were included among the programs HMEA provided, and the programs had a great reception from the community. Unfortunately, when funding ran out, the program was stopped. 

Douglas MacPherson, the Vice President of Development and Public Relations for HMEA, knew that music therapy programs were needed by the community and he wanted to find a way to continue to offer music therapy programs. 

Funding search

And find a way he did. First, Mr MacPherson and his team applied to the Music Drives Us Foundation out of Dedham, founded by Ernie Boch Jr., a musician in his own right. They approved the funding on HMEA’s first request and awarded HMEA a check and plaque.

Next, Mr MacPherson applied to the Thomas Anthony Pappas Foundation in Massachusetts, where HMEA also found funding available to them. Continue reading

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Holiday Music Making

Tis the season to be musical!

At this year’s Home for the Holidays the music therapists from Roman Music Therapy Services joined the Melrose community in leading music before lighting the tree. This year BOARD CERTIFIED MUSIC THERAPIST Laura Micheli asked her Sprouting Melodies 4 class what songs they would like to singholidays start with music at the Tree Lighting.

Sprouting Melodies is Roman Music Therapy’s early childhood music program for children ages 0-6 years. Sprouting Melodies 4 is designed for children between the ages of two and a half to four years. All the children from class were able to attend the Tree Lighting and joined the music therapists on microphones to sing “Frosty the Snowman”. The children especially loved singing the “Thumpity Thump Thump” lyrics faster and faster as practiced in class.

All the families of Melrose sang together until the tree was lit like magic! Then the music continued as families made their way down Main Street to greet Santa! It was a Magical Musical Night to remember!

Make sure to have music be a part of your holiday tradition to create special memories to pass on between the generations!

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Sprouting Melodies Family Spotlight

Balancing Family with Work is a family timeChallenge for Many Families

Sprouting Melodies is thrilled to feature one of our very own moms Christy Dole who has been growing an at-home business while raising her beautiful daughter. Read her story…

“I have been enjoying the time I get to spend with Sienna at Sprouting Melodies. I’m so thankful to have started my own business with Rodan +Fields, the doctors that created Proactiv and now the fastest growing premium skincare brand. Before I started my business, extra classes like Sprouting Melodies weren’t an option.

I am a former recruiter of 10 years. I loved working with professionals helping them find their perfect and sometimes dream job! While I loved aspects of that career, the 9-5 lifestyle was not for me. I didn’t enjoy 2 weeks vacations a year, working for the weekend or having moody managers. And I always knew when I had children, I wanted to be home. I was introduced to Rodan + Fields through my husband’s colleague and once I learned I could be home with my soon to be daughter and earn an income I dove in!

In 1 year with Rodan+Fields, working part time hours around my daughters schedule I just about matched my 60 hour a week salary. I help people feel confident about their skin with osproutingMelodiesLogo300ur clinically proven products that address sensitive skin, sun damage, melasma, hormonal acne and anti aging or their money back. At the same time I help women and a few good men all over the country to start their very own businesses with the most famous dermatologists in the world to help reach their life goals!

First and foremost, I am home with my daughter, but not only am I able to contribute to my families bottom line, I am able to enjoy being a mother and all the fun activities that can come with it, like attending Sprouting Melodies since Sienna was 6 months old. The bonding and fun we have together is something that can’t be replaced and for that I thank my Rodan + Fields business!”

Christy has offered a free skin care consultation and free samples of top products to the families in our Roman Music Therapy Services community. She is also interested in talking with anyone who might be interested in learning more about the business opportunities of working with Rodan + Fields. She can be contacted directly at or 602-451-5318

Continue reading

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Early Childhood Mental Health: A Growing Concern

Early childhood mental health is a growing concern.

Often mimagesproutingmelodiesisunderstood, Early childhood mental health is also overlooked or underestimated. Research shows that exposure to ongoing toxic stress in early childhood can have significant impacts on development early in life, and may lead to long term consequences in education, health and financial prosperity. Continue reading

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Providing the Beat at the Provider’s Council Expo

Cultivating connections

Providers CouncilAs our organization has grown over the last 9 years, we have met wonderful people and had the opportunity to work with fabulous organizations along the way. This past year, through the LEND Fellowship, our professional network continued to grow. Through the process, we were introduced to The Provider’s Council. With member organizations throughout the state, The Provider’s Council is the largest association of community-based human service providers in Massachusetts. Continue reading

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Music Therapy and the Armed Forces

Music Therapy’s formal development as a profession is indeed linked with World War I and II efforts to heal and spur on the troops with music. Though not the only catalyst for formalizing the training and methodologies for administering music as a healing modality, the connection is important.

The white paper “Music Therapy and Military Populations” offers the history of this connection and the state of music therapy in the armed forces today.

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Music, Memories, and Story



This week in honor of the Memorial Day holiday, Music Therapist Katie Bagley asked her elder group on a memory care unit if any of them had served in the armed forces. Many raised their hands. A few had family members who had served. But, all of these individuals ranging in age 70-90 had experienced the atmosphere of WWII. Aside from being at war, the atmosphere of that time included songs that held the country together, kept the members of the armed forces going, and evoked national pride and belonging.

With this group, Katie sang songs representative of the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard: Anchors Aweigh, From The Halls of Montezuma, Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder, Anchors Aweigh, and Caisson Song. She also sang favorites like God Bless America, My Country Tis of Thee, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, and Boogie Woogie Bugel Boy.

Unlike any other songs, these selections stir up a good feeling. “It’s a national pride and morale that takes over the room,” says Katie Bagley. And that good feeling is something that is important to tap into, for though the memory challenges prevail, the music connects them with their community. And it honors their story.

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Boston Parents Paper | Vote for YOUR Family Favorite

Many of you know about the Boston Parent’s Paper, a collection of articles, family event information, camp and school guides, family favorite contests, and more. The Family Favorites contest, an annual event, is here again.
Our Magazines | Boston Parents Paper

If you have experienced Sprouting Melodies (Melrose) and wish to offer us the VOTE for favorite “Music Class”, you can do so by following this link.

or clicking on this picture



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Music Therapy and the Brain

Music therapists know first-hand that music applied in the therapeutic context is a great catalyst for learning. Enjoy an interactive tool that shows you how and why that learning happens. Brought to you by Neurothym Music Therapy, this interactive map of the brain provides a clue as to just how music therapy might stimulate various regions of the brain.

NeuroRhythm Music Therapy Explains Music Therapy Science with a colorful interactive tool

A tool to help you understand how music therapy helps the brain. Click on a brain marker or the navigation buttons below to learn more about how the brain processes music and why music therapy works to optimize the brain and provide more efficient therapy.

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Supporting Healthy Sibling Development with Music

Meredith Pizzi offers hints on how to support sibling and family development with music in a podcast and article published by imagine.magazine. Imagine.magazine  is “an annual online magazine sharing evidence-based information and trends related to early childhood music therapy through various media.”
supporting healthy sibling development with music

Article excerpt

…Starting at the very beginning, we can look at how music and singing can be used to promote a healthy start before delivery. We know that babies recognize familiar music when they are born and introducing music that is repeated while in utero can help babies as they transition in their first few months. This priming of familiar music will make music an even more effective tool when the baby is born.

By encouraging siblings to talk to the baby prenatally and sing their favorite songs, you are also starting to develop a healthy shared connection between the siblings. The older child or children will already have an idea of what to “do” with the baby when the little one is born.

Recommended resources

  1. Leman, K., & Leman, K. (2009). The new birth order book: Why you are the way you are? Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell.
  2. Salmon, C., & Schumann, K. (2011). The secret power of middle children: How mid-dleborns can harness their unexpected and remarkable abilities. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
  3. Schwartz, E. (2012). You and Me Makes…We: A growing together songbook. Retrieved from


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Ways of Thinking about Music Therapy

Drum CircleMusic Therapy, like other forms of therapy, does not conform its practitioners to one model. Here at Roman Music Therapy Services, we use an integrated model. Clients to come to us with unique needs and we work together with them to create a success-oriented plan that helps them meet their personal goals drawing from multiple ways of thinking about music therapy.  There are many different models of music therapy that echo current research and evidence based practice. Our music therapist chooses a model of practice or uses a variety of music therapy strategies and interventions according to what benefits the client. It is also important that when seeking a music therapist, a client is well informed and can find a therapist that is right for them.

According to Meredith Pizzi, MT-BC,  the way of practicing at Roman Music Therapy Services is also closely aligned with the needs of the community.

Our work here at Roman Music Therapy Services is deeply rooted in the communities of the schools, agencies and families we serve. As a community music therapy agency, our clinical work tends to focus on the needs of the community or the individual within their community. Whether we are providing individual services, family-based afterschool groups, or group music therapy services in a school, nursing home, adult day health program, our team is always considering the needs of the individual in relationship to the world and environment around them. We believe that our work in music therapy sessions with our clients can create ripple effects in the home, schools, and in all of our communities. We also believe that by providing services in community settings, we can better support our clients in their own personal and interpersonal growth with opportunities for engagement and meaningful relationships within their communities. Our work is goal driven, focused on the needs of the individual or group members and uses all of the tools of music to help our clients reach their goals. We believe that the work that we do can best be defined as Community Music Therapy. -Meredith R. Pizzi, MT-BC

As our Mission Statement says,

Roman Music Therapy Services strives to meet the diverse needs of the community within schools, nursing homes, senior centers, and community health and service agencies through music therapy experiences, education, and resources.  Our team of music therapists use the power of music to support personal and interpersonal growth and enhance the life of the community.  Using musical tools, new possibilities and opportunities are created for our clients to reach their full potential.

Other models of Music Therapy

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy (NRMT)

Perhaps one of the most well research and well-documented models of music therapy, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy or NRMT was developed by Dr. Paul Nordoff and Dr. Clive Robbins in 1961. NRMT is centered on “the belief that everyone possesses a sensitivity to music that can be utilized for personal growth and development”. NRMT allows music therapists and clients to come together in an active music-making environment that fosters success through support and expression. NRMT is famous for its work with children with special needs, but is also suitable for use with individuals searching for creative personal development, and those in psychiatric settings.

For more information please head to their website:

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT)

Developed at Colorado State University by Michael Thaut PhD, NMT uses music therapeutically to stimulate patients with neurologic diseases that affect the nervous system. This research-based therapy is founded in the science of music effects on the “nonmusical brain”.  NMT’s four focus areas are as follows: Cognition, sensory, speech, and movement/coordination. NMT methods are used in many settings, some of the most common populations include: Alzheimer’s, Autism, Parkinson’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and many more.

For more information please visit their website:

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)

Developed by Helen Lindquist Bonny (1921-2010), the Bonny Method of Guided of Imagery and Music or GIM, is described as a “music-centered exploration of consciousness” using “specifically sequenced” music to stimulate imagery experiences.  There is openness in this practice established by the therapist and client. Goals and focus of the session are determined together in efforts to accomplish the meeting the needs of the individual. Sessions are one-to-one and can last up to two hours.  A client is lead through a guided relaxation, which leads into the exploration of “deeper state of consciousness” through the use of classical western music.  The experience is then discussed in an open format with the therapist to help further develop an understanding of the inner self.

For more information please head to their website:

Aside from the three listed above, there are many other methods of practicing music therapy, and most are individualized by the therapist adapted to fit the needs of their clients. Some other methods of music therapy include:

Click on the names above to find out more about what each method has to offer.

Written by: Channing Shippen MT-BC


Robbins, C., & Paul , N. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(n.d.). Retrieved from

Association of Guided Imagery. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Bruscia, K. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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Music Therapy and Mental Health

Meaning of LifeMusic therapy has been recognized and supported in the mental health field for many years. In the early history of music therapy, musicians worked with veterans from World War 2 playing songs in hospitals or rehabs. These musicians and surrounding staff saw noticeable changes in the veterans mood and affect. The field has grown largely since then, working with a range of demographics, disabilities, in such settings as; mental health, special education, hospice, nursing homes, and hospitals.

One study done in Finland, at the Music Therapy Clinic for Research and Training, was conducted with 79 adult participants ranging in age from 18 – 50. Each participant had been diagnosed with unipolar depression. The participants were given a baseline psychiatric assessment at the beginning of treatment and at a 3 month and 6 month follow up to assess progress. There were two groups of patients, one group received music therapy and standard care, and one group received standard care solely which consisted of 5-6 short term psychotherapy interventions, medications, and counseling.

The participants receiving individual music therapy treatment were encouraged to express themselves musically through improvisation and playing with a psychodynamic music therapy approach which involves using the exploration of instruments, to encourage self-expression. In this approach of music therapy, the therapist and participant create a relationship through the music to delve deeper into the relationship. Participants in this study received 20 bi-weekly individual music therapy sessions for 60 minutes each. Participants were offered various choices of percussive instruments, and encouraged to improvise by themselves and with the music therapist.

In this study, participants receiving music therapy showed greater improvements in all of the areas assessed; depression symptoms,  anxiety symptoms, and general functioning. The results concluded that music therapy, was an effective method of treatment along with standard care when confronting depression.

How does music therapy work as part of mental health treatment?

Music therapy in the means of mental health relies on music for communication and expression. Music therapy looks beyond verbal expression, allowing participants to find their voice in the music, in a time where it may not be easy to find the right words to say.  Music therapy in mental health settings includes interventions such as musical improvisation, song writing, music listening, and lyric analysis.

Why does it work?

Music therapy uses a participants personal relationship with music to access and create meaningful experiences. The American Music Therapy Association lists possible ways that music therapy can reinforce positive outcomes in the treatment of mental health needs.

  • Explore personal feelings and therapeutic issues such as self-esteem or personal insight
  • Make positive changes in mood and emotional states
  • Have a sense of control over life through successful experiences
  • Enhance awareness of self and environment
  • Express oneself both verbally and non-verbally
  • Develop coping and relaxation skills
  • Support healthy feelings and thoughts
  • Improve reality testing and problem solving skills
  • Interact socially with others
  • Develop independence and decision making skills
  • Improve concentration and attention span
  • Adopt positive forms of behavior
  • Resolve conflicts leading to stronger family and peer relationships

Music therapy should not replace standard care, or psychotherapy, however the research provided proves that music therapy is a positive addition to standard care, increasing a person’s opportunities for living a successful and fulfilling life.

Channing Shippen MT-BC


Erikka, J., Punkanen, M., Fachner, J., Ala-Ruona, E., Pontio, I., Tervaniemi, M., Vanhala, M., & Gold, C. (2011). Individual music therapy for depression: randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry , Retrieved from

Music therapy and mental health. (2006). Retrieved from


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Use of Music in the Applied Behavior Analysis Verbal Behavior Approach for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Article Review

We recently came across a research article about the use music with Applied Behavioral Analysis Verbal Behavior and we wanted to share it with all of you.  We have been working with schools and classrooms that use Applied Behavior Analysis as a primary teaching strategy for many years, and although our experience has demonstrated that music therapy is a great supplement to the instructional methods, it is nice to see the music therapy literature supporting this collaborative effort as well.

The following information comes from the article entitled Use of Music in the Applied Behavior Analysis Verbal Behavior Approach for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Hayoung A. Lim in Music Therapy Perspectives.

Applied Behavior Analysis (or ABA) is an approach used with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that has been used over 20 years.  This article focuses on using music therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis to increase language and communication skills. In the Applied Behavior Analysis all behaviors, including verbal behavior, contains three distinct parts:

  1. The antecedent – what causes the behavior, or events that lead up to a resulting behavior
  2. The behavior – the behaviors itself
  3. The consequence of the behavior – the result of a performed behavior.

(Lim  2010).

Using these three distinctions, the behaviorist establishes a pattern of circumstances resulting in specified behaviors.  ABA uses strong motivational variables, known as reinforcers, that alter behaviors to illicit desired behaviors. Reinforcers may be edible, allow for short controlled contact,  are easy to deliver and remove from the child, and can be repeated and given on multiple occasions.

In recent years, with the continuing development of Music Therapy in use with children on the autism spectrum, ABA  in combination with music therapy has proven successful in providing children with a multifaceted opportunity for growth. Music is inherently structural, which allows it to be a solid antecedent and strong reinforcement  for children with ASD (Lim 2010).  Music therapy addresses a variety of goals and objectives such as social skills, cognitive skills, behavioral skills, and language and communication skills. Using a variety of interventions, music therapy is flexible and capable of catering to each child on an individual basis.

Research suggests that children with ASD have shown preference toward musical stimuli (Lim 2010), this allows music to provide experiences that children with ASD will find useful as motivational variables, as Hayoung states in the article “Age appropriate and well-facilitated musical experiences can provide powerful motivational variables and ongoing reinforcing activities for establishing such rapport between peers.” Music may also function as an “automatic reinforcer” this means that the child may respond naturally to musical stimuli without prompting to obtain the desired behavior.

Within the ABA approach, Verbal Behavior or VB,  is used  to increase language and communication skills. With the use of ABA VB, language and communication is treated as a behavior that is capable of being altered, formed, and reinforced. In order to treat the behavior, it is also important to focus on the reason and context the child chooses to use the language they are using. Language and communication is reinforced by the environment in which the child lives as well as motivational tools. Within the realms of music therapy, ABA VB is reinforced by the natural structure of the music, providing children with clear and concise sequences and patterns.

In Lim’s article, the following conclusion was drawn:

“Pairing target verbal behavior with musical experiences establishes effective automatic reinforcement, and  it can increase the frequency of the communicative behaviors and social interactions in children with autism.”

It would seem that with evidence provided by Lim, the collaboration of ABA therapy and Music Therapy is a natural one. ABA therapy is and music therapy address the necessary goals, allowing a therapist to obtain measurable responses in a way that is functional, motivational, and most importantly, fun for the child.

Written by Channing Shippen, MT-BC



Lim, H. A. (2010). Use of music in the applied behavior analysis verbal behavior approach for children with autism spectrum disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 28, 95-105.

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Resources for Recovery

Our team here at Roman Music Therapy Services sends out our heartfelt thoughts to all of those affected by the tragedies in Boston this week. We have seen an out pouring of support for those affected by the tragedies of Monday. We encourage those seeking any kind of assistance to reach out and take advantage of the support and kindness of local resources.

As parents, many of us also need to reconcile how to talk with our children about these terrible events and support them in understanding while we ourselves struggle to understand.

Below you will find a list of resources that we have found that we believe may help you and your family. We will continue to add resources as we find them.


This page was created by Brene Brown following the tragedies in Newtown, but it contains a number of helpful links and resource for parents.


Resources from our community partners at The Massachusetts School for Professional Psychology Freedman Center for Child and Family Development

The MSPP INTERFACE helpline is available Monday-Friday 9AM-5PM at 617-332-3666 x1411 should you, a loved one, or friend feel it appropriate to seek mental health support in the coming days and weeks following this incident.

For parents as well as providers or school staff members working with children, the following resources may be useful:

Parent tips of preschool aged children:

Talking with children about the bombings:

Additionally, regardless of how directly we were affected, all of us will need to ensure that we take good care of ourselves in order to be available whether it be for your own children, students, clients or friends and loved ones. Please find some helpful reminders about caring for ourselves in light of this tragedy courtesy of the Riverside Community Care Trauma Center:

Please note that these resources, as well as many others that may be useful to you, are available at our website:


Common Sense Media

On the Common Sense Media Page there is helpful information about explaining the news to our children. You can read more here.


The National Association of School Psychologists offers this site to support parents and teachers on helping children cope.


The American Psychological Association offers these resources for dealing with disasters and traumatic events.


Leonard Bernstein Quote

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5 Reasons Music Therapy is Great With Autism

1. Music therapy is an individualized form of therapy that uses the strengths and abilities of a person to accomplish personal goals and meet personal needs.

2. Music therapy is flexible and able to work across multiple goal areas at once! Music therapy is able to address, communication, social, cognitive, emotional, motor/physical, and independent goals. Some parents have referred to music therapy as “one stop shopping!”

3. Music therapy can be both motivating and a positive reinforcer.

4. Music therapy is able to provide a personal experience for individuals and group members alike, incorporating preferred music into sessions, creating a deeper connection to the experiences.

5. Music therapy is Fun! Music therapy is individual in its approach, in that it allows a person to work in a way that is both self-expressive and goal oriented., making it seem like no work at all!

Music Connects

Channing Shippen MT-BC


Reschke-Hernandez, A. E. (2011). History of music therapy treatment interventions for children with autism. Journal of Music Therapy48(2), 169-207.

Allgood, N. (2005). Parents’ perceptions of family-based group music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 23(2), 92-99.

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Our New CD!

Gather Round Music CDGather Round: Music Time is Family Time

Hopefully you’ve already had a chance to hear some of the songs on our new CD! If not, buy your copy now!

This CD has been such fun to record, produce and share with you, our families. We are confident that you will enjoy listening to this music as much as we do. It’s been playing non-stop in our music therapy center in our homes. Our children, nieces and nephews have all had a chance to hear it and the responses we’ve heard so far have been wonderful!

Girls Listening Girls-Recording-small-300x225 Laura RecordingKristina RecordingMer Recording

My son, who is 2 and a half and attends Sprouting Melodies has been asking for “Laura’s songs” all the time! He asks for “More Bye Bye Music Time is Done” all of the time as that is his favorite song at the moment! He also loves listening to the songs he’s heard in class and is singing them along to the CD. I’ve also seen him run over to get a drum to march with the marching song! This is exactly what the CD was intended for! So we want to know, how is the recording being used in your home? What is your favorite song? Which song do your children keep asking for again and again? Let us know by contacting us!

And mark your calendars for February 3, 2013 when we will have our very first CD Release Party!


CD Release PartyCome to our CD Release Party!

The Prince has been gracious enough to let us use their space to celebrate the release of Gather Round! The best part is you can order anything off their full menu to enjoy a family lunch, great music, and our amazing Roman Music Therapy Service Community of great families!

There will be two shows – One at 11am for families with young children, and another one at 1 for families with children from 6-14 years of age of All Abilities!!! Everyone is welcome!

February 3, 2013 Gather Round Family CD Release Party

11:00am-12:30pm For families with children 0-5 years old
1:00pm-2:30pm For families with children 6-12
More Details to Come Soon!

Bring a friend with you and be entered into our “Friend of a Friend Raffle”

Bring a new friend who has never been to one of our programs or events before and they will be entered into a raffle to win a $50 gift certificate good towards merchandise, classes or a birthday party!

If your friend wins….you do too!

Please spread the word.  This will be a great time for all.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

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4 Thought Provoking Ways to Use Music

Lately I have been having all of these cool thoughts about how music can be used more effectively in our everyday lives. I decided to compile all of it into a convenient blog posting for you! Enjoy!


1. Turn on the Music at home.  Sometimes we get so busy and caught up in the things we have to do, we don’t even take a minute to walk over to the stereo and turn it on. Try it in the morning when you’re getting ready for your day or getting the kids off to school. Try it in the afternoon when you need to get yourself moving again in the office and you are trying to resist yet another cup of coffee! And at the end of the day, when you just want to put up your feet for 3 minutes, put on your favorite go-to song to help de-stress and relax your body.

2. Have a favorite song stuck in your head? Give it another few minutes of thought… Why is that song in your head at this moment? What are the lyrics? What is the theme or mood of the song? When is the last time you heard that song played? Taking a moment to discover why this song has presented itself is a wonderful opportunity for introspection.

3. Music for Childbirth – Music is an effective pain management tool for labor and delivery. It’s one of the areas in which I want to do a lot more work! I have consulted with expectant parents about what music to use in labor and delivery, how to choose the best songs for you and tips and tricks for using music in the hospital. If you are expecting a new little one, or know someone who is, think about how much can make labor and delivery an incredibly pleasant and joyful experience! People don’t believe me, but I love childbirth and it’s because of the great associations I have with the music I listened to for each labor.

4. Lolo iPod/iPhone apps – Do you ever get stuck on the treadmill or the elliptical struggling to get through a workout? I have discovered the coolest music and workout application. It uses an incredible beat-sync technology that takes your favorite tunes, analyzes the beats per minute in the song and then uses that at appropriate times in the work out to get your body moving! Lolo is so cool, it can even speed up and slow down your tunes to match the workout exactly, without losing the pitch of the songs. Intervals at the gym are finally enjoyable with your favorite tunes speeding up and slowing you down. This is an amazing use of music and technology to increase your physical activity.

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Look Where We Are!

Roman Music Therapy provides services to communities all over Massachusetts.
Check out this map to view the cities and towns where we work.


Where Our Music Therapists Work:

  • schools
  • homes
  • centers
  • hospitals
  • hospices
  • recreation programs
  • libraries
  • rehab
  • dayhabs
  • assisted living
  • preschools
  • early intervention
  • senior centers
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Boston Conservatory Welcome Address, by Dr. Karl Paulnack

This is an excerpt from a welcome address given to parents of incoming students at The Boston Conservatory on September 1, 2004, by Dr. Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division.

“One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school-she said, “you’re wasting your SAT scores!” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they loved music: they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

One of the first cultures to articulate how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you: the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940 and imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose, and fortunate to have musician colleagues in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist. Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for the prisoners and guards of the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the Nazi camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture-why would anyone bother with music? And yet-even from the concentration camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

In September of 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. On the morning of September 12, 2001 I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, on the very evening of September 11th, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heart wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

Very few of you have ever been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but with few exceptions there is some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings-people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks. Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in a small Midwestern town a few years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier-even in his 70′s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute cords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?”

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. The concert in the nursing home was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the Nazi camps and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

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Do-It-Yourself Music Therapy

Barbara ReuerI recently came across this article written by Dr. Reuer about the benefits of using music for yourself. I really believe it’s wonderful to see the applications of music therapy in everyone’s everyday lives.
Read full article here

The Healing Power of Do-It-Yourself Music Therapy
Barbara Reuer, Ph.D.

When a favorite song comes on the radio, we all turn up the volume and listen more closely or sing along—and instantly feel better than we did moments before. It turns out that there’s a lot of science behind this phenomenon. -Barbara Reuer, Ph.D.

As Reuer says in this article, “In a nutshell: Music has been shown to . . .
• boost the immune system
• lower blood pressure
• ease chronic and acute pain
• relieve nausea
• improve muscle control (for instance, in Parkinson’s patients)
• promote visual and auditory abilities
• improve brain function, focus and memory (including in Alzheimer’s patients)
• reduce stress, anxiety and muscle tension
• combat insomnia
• lift mood”

Read all of her words here.
Retrieved from: August 3, 2011

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What Is Music Therapy?

Watch and read to see what these experts have to say.

Mozart Effect: Does Listening To Classical Music Really Make Us Smarter?
Oliver Sacks, MD, Author, Neurologist

WATCH (Sacks’ discussion of music can be found between the 0:46 and 3:41 marks):

Retrieved from: August 3, 2011

What Is Music Therapy?
Ronna Kaplan, MA, President of American Music Therapy Association

This article shares wonderful descriptions of Music Therapy in answer to the common question, “What is Music Therapy?” Read her words here.

“Music therapy uses music prescriptively to provide opportunities for individuals to establish or strengthen connections, achieve transformations, build and expand upon foundations and reach aspirations.”

Read full article here

Retrieved from:, August 3, 2011

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