I have been enthralled by music since my childhood. Shortly after graduating from the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Washington, it occurred to me that music was not only one of my primary interests, it also had value as a therapeutic agent. Selectively, I began using music in my clinical practice, particularly with those who had meaningful associations with music or the arts. The success of these interventions and strategies convinced me that music often opened up hidden areas of people’s lives that they were unable to identify but nonetheless troubled them. Music often removes blockages and impasses, allowing therapeutic processes to continue flowing. Due to these successes, I began to seek out additional training in the educational and therapeutic uses of music.
Skills of this sort are generally taught by people outside the mental health community, often by musicians. Much of the relevant information is located throughout many varied disciplines. As a result of these training opportunities and further clinical use of music, I developed Musical Intervention, a method of using music for therapeutic and educational purposes. I have provided individual, couple, and family therapy for more than thirty years, as well as ten years of music intervention services for hospice patients and their families.
I grew up in Tacoma, Washington. My dad, Rilie, enjoyed music, especially country western and opera. Our family radio was regularly tuned to both The Voice of Firestone and The Grand Ole Opry. Dad’s favorite aria was “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” from Michael Balfe’s opera, The Bohemian Girl based on La gitanilla, a tale by Cervantes. Since Dad was a man of few words, I never found out the significance of his musical preferences although I adopted some of his music choices, like opera.
Raised in rural Tennessee near Chattanooga, Dad had to leave school in the third grade and begin working in the coal mines to help his single-parent family survive. His father died in 1904 when Dad was only four years old. Dad and I both served in the military; he in the Navy, and I in the Marine Corps.
Although my father and I never shared closeness, I felt he cared deeply for me. He really wasn’t very close to anyone. I don’t remember him ever saying, ‘I love you,’ nor do I recall any hugs between us. Men of those times tended to keep to themselves and manage any difficulties they experienced internally. Dad left the nurturing to my mom, Martina, who was the perfect person for the job. She provided the love and understanding my younger brother, Dave, and I needed to grow and prosper. Mom had a number of fine friends. Together they developed a network of mutual encouragement that sustained her through difficult times and brought her pleasure when she experienced evidence of life’s blessings.
Our parents provided well for Dave and me. Our family was not well off but certainly not poor. Love was expressed by each parent in their own way. We had a decent home environment along with the resources we needed to grow into adulthood. Both Mom and Dad encouraged me in all my interests and endeavors, including my love of music.
Renee, my life companion and dear friend, and I have three adult children, Shannon, Monika, and Carlos. They all enjoy music, yet like me, they are not musicians.