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Robert in Music Therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann

Robert in Music Therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann

I am writing today about someone very influential in my life. See the link attach to understand the background story:

 A former patient and friend of mine passed away this week after living several years with a severe Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). It was heartbreaking to hear of this news. I will never forget our times together. I had THE most fun with Robert (and his sister Janice) at TIRR. He was one of my first experiences in treating SCI using Neurologic Music Therapy. We wrote songs and performed them in the doctor’s rounds at the hospital when he was in his first phase of inpatient care. I got to spend a lot of time with this grand artist, performer and lover of life. I learned so much from him even though I was there to help him with his rehabilitation, he was teaching me so many life lessons with his words and even more so with his gusto for life. He had been paralyzed from the neck down after a fall. He did not let that stop him from being the great artist and creator that he was. He came to our hospital for several rounds of therapy, so I got to really get to know him more each time.
I am so thankful that I got to see him one last time a few years ago when I was speaking at the Americans for the Arts conference in San Antonio. I invited him because I knew that he would relate to using the arts for healing. He was still making art even in his chair. He used the wheels of his chair to create painted murals and would then complete them by using a computer program with his mouth. He attended my presentation downtown and even hung out at the University touring me around and introducing me to all of his actor friends in town. I was on his old stomping grounds and he was the best host.
I will never forget his stories, his joy, and his impersonations of babushkas and musical theatre characters. I have learned that you can truly do anything that you have a desire to do if you just have the drive, community, and mind to do it. He never quit. I know that he is now free and his story will never die. I will never forget Robert and I will share him with the world.


As I reflect on life and give thanks for all that I have during this season, I want to bring attention to something that happend last week.
On Thursday, Novemeber 20, 2014 TIRR Memorial Hermann had the privilage of recieving the Caring Heart Award form the Institute for Spirituality and Health.
Several members of our medical team were recognized for the rehabilitation of Gabby Giffords.
I was honored to represent my team that day and be recognized for such an award.
I was ammazed at the progress shown by our former patient Gabby as she was invited to give a speech and discuss some of her new goals and advocacy efforts with her husband Mark Kelley.
What I said that day to Gabby and Mark was something that I have been wanting to express for a long time.
I explained how her healing process brought attention and awareness to the world of Traumatic Brain Injury.
Also, that helping her regain her voice, in return gave me a voice. I expressed how important it is that the world got a glimpse into the miracale and power of music and the arts being used in the medical setting. I am thankful to Gabby and Mark for allowing their process of healing to even be out there for the world to see.

On a daily basis Musicians and Music Therapists contact me from all over the world and explain how they were inspired to join the field of Music Therapy after seeing how music helped in Gabby’s healing process. Her story helped put the Arts and Music back on the map.
I am thankful that I got to be a part of her and her family’s lives.
It is truly an honor to receive such acknowledgement and to help book-end this experience.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Awareness Weekend 2014

This past February I had that opportunity to speak to the students of the Music Therapy program at Sam Houston State University. I decided to share a story of a former patient and now friend who has rehabilitated at TIRR with me and some of my colleagues.

I wanted to bring Daniel, my former patient, to meet and tell his story. He also brought his one-handed saxophone to explain his story and give a performance. Most of my patients are not professional musicians. I use music on a daily basis to help non musicians in the healing process. Daniel is an example of someone who’s life was turned upside down because he was not able to use the Left side of his body after his stroke. This was devistating for a musician and teacher. I explained his first few weeks in rehab and how receiving music therapy gave him the hope he needed to get him back to making music again.

Check out his webpage:
Here is a little background from his page:
“Like most people, I began my musical life in the sixth grade band. I started out on the clarinet. Throughout junior high and high school, my love for music continued to grow. After placing in the All-State band my junior year, my clarinet teacher gave me his blessing to start learning saxophone along with my clarinet studies. In college, while clarinet was still my primary instrument, I added flute to my vocabulary and began pursuing my dreams of being a woodwind doubler(someone who plays multiple instruments in pit orchestras or musicals and the like). I graduated with my bachelors in clarinet performance from Sam Houston State University in 2004.

July 28, 2008 I suffered a near-fatal hemorrhagic stroke due to two severe brain tumors that led to a bleed in a surrounding, weakend blood vessel.

As a result of the stroke, I was left with hemiparesis of my left side. Not quite paralysis, but unable to use my left hand, nonetheless. I returned to teaching, somewhat, in October 2009. Early 2010, desperate to be able to make music again and get teaching more regularly, I sent my saxophone to Jeff Stelling of Kearney Nebraska to have it converted to his “toggle-key” system. This mechanism allows the instrument to be played by the right hand alone. After nearly two years of waiting, It was completed and I picked it up in January 2012.”

Daniel also played his first formal recital since his injury and receiving his new saxophone. His performance was one of excellence. I look forward to more to come.

My hope is that his story will spread more awareness about Brain Injury and stroke and the power of music in the rehabilitation setting and new life after that process. I look forward to hearing Daniel perform more in our community and that his story can be an inspiration to everyone.


Meeting Robert at Sundance with the Americans for the Arts

Meeting Robert at Sundance with the Americans for the Arts


This has been a great year for me and for much attention to the field of Music Therapy. I have posted some of the press that has covered a lot of the big events that have happened this year on this word press, but here is a little recap.

In the spring of 2013 our Music Therapy department was invited to give a week long conference in Montpellier France at one of the oldest Universities in France. It is known as the first medical school in Europe and still has some of its medieval asthetics and antiquity. We were invited to go with some the professors, students and the director from the Sam Houston State University Music Therapy department. My colleague and I also were able to tour around the region and speak at several rehabilitation hospitals to see how they do things in their country as well. More importantly we were able to hang out with our old friend and former intern in the wine country in Anduza France and…taste the wonderful wines and cheeses in the area…OF COURSE! This was a work trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful that I was chosen to go, work and enjoy.

I thought that after that adventure away from my regular life and family that I would take a little break from traveling for work this year….that is until I was invited by Robert Redford and Robert Lynch with the Americans for the Arts to come and speak and be a part of a small thinking tank at a roundtable in Sundance resort this past Fall. Earlier in the year, I had requested of my supervisor to help me say “no” more this year when asked to travel and speak, but when I told her of this opportunity she said, “You can’t say NO to Robert Redford”. I knew that she was right and I took her advice and said YES! I am so happy that I did. On this trip I was able meet with so many other wonderful artists. One being a past time favorite musician, Ben Folds. He has also been a great advocate for the Music Therapy field, so it was a great time talking with him about his ideas for the future of music and a new generation of musicians.
I met some awesome film makers (Fine Films),actors, composers, the the active Surgeon General, several other amazing musicians and last but not least Robert Redford.

It was such an honor to be invited to his home. He has done such outstanding things for the arts and is a true humanitarian. He had wonderful things to say about the work I get to do with music in the medical field. He so down to earth and such a fun person to be around. In my last post there are more details about what I was doing at Sundance in Utah. I just wanted to share this picture and remember the moment.

You never know where life will bring you. The media wave that I got to ride over the past few years has brought me into new beginnings connecting me with many others that are trying to make a difference in this world in their time here. Most importantly, we are now getting to do our own clinical research in the Music Therapy deptartment at TIRR. My colleague and I won grant money with in our hospital system. I have waited many years to do this and it is finally happening. So, look forward to more stories, adventures and hopefully research publications for Neurologic Music Therapy to come.

Happy Holidays everyone,



Earlier this year I was invited by Robert Redford, founder of Sundance Institute and Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of the Americans for Arts to join the 8th annual convening of the Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable that took place on September 19-21, 2013 in partnership with the Sundance Institute and located in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

This year’s topic for the 2013 Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable, Arts and Healing: Body, Mind, and Community, examined how the arts play an important role in the rehabilitation of those who have experienced both mental and physical traumas including our nations wounded warriors. Further, the arts are a proven driver in the healing of communities in need and through that process help foster creative placemaking in communities throughout the world. Through presentations and discussions we discussed best practices, heard from those engaged in the work, and brainstormed how to best further the role of the arts as a rejuvantive tool for our nation, and the world.

As a representative of Music Therapy and TIRR Memorial Hermann, I spoke on a panel during the convening that focused on healing the mind and the body through the arts.

The National Arts Policy Roundtable is the leading arts policy convening in the United States. Since 2006, more than 200 high-level decision makers and thought leaders have gathered to recommend policies and strategies critical to the arts and advancing American society. Participants included corporate CEOs, foundation presidents, philanthropists, government leaders, military heads, artists, and academics. In addition to spirited discussion and debate, the convening has also produced significant and measurable policy achievements at the national, state, and local community levels.

As a member of the 2013 Roundtable, I was able to give my clinical perspective among an influential group of 30 public- and private-sector peers. Being a part of this dialogue will hopefully result in cross-sector policy recommendations—solutions that will ultimately serve as a policy road map for community leaders across the country—helping others move from knowledge to action. The work during the Roundtable is the first step in an ongoing process of engagement in issues critical to the arts and society.

Mainly, I was I honored to be invited to such an event. I met some of the greats that weekend including: Robert Redford, Ben Folds, and our acting Surgeon General. I was able to advocate for Neurological Music Therapy and continue to spread the importance of our techniques being part of evidence based practice. My hope is that there will be more opportunities for research in music therapy and more musicians interested in the field.



Sundance retreat

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