| Azad Sharma
Interview: Andreas Rosenboom, Music Therapist
There’s been a real music theme at the Ideas Hub lately as we’ve been learning lots about inspiring music therapy organisations. This week, we sat down with Andreas Rosenboom, a music therapist working at the Richmond Music Trust in London. We asked Andreas to tell us more about his work and share some stories and pieces of advice that have come from his work.
I’ve had the pleasure of personally knowing Andreas for quite some time. My younger brother Gyan has severe autism and has been attending music therapy sessions with Andreas since he was seven years old. Gyan is now a 24 year old man and during our interview Andreas shares some insights into my brother’s journey.
Tell us about yourself and what you’ve done
My name is Andreas Rosenboom. I am a qualified music therapist. My first degree is in social work and then I did a Masters in music therapy. I’ve been working with the Richmond Music Trust since 2003. Before I worked for this music service I worked for lots of other organisations providing music therapy. That was in the education sector, in the NHS, and also other independent providers.
What is your background? Why did you get involved with music therapy?
I grew up in a musical family of amateur musicians playing classical music. I learned recorder, violin as a child and grew up playing chamber music in small ensembles and orchestra, things like that. Classical music was a big part of my childhood.
I also grew up with a disabled brother. I have a younger brother who has autism. I grew up in a completely natural way of living with a person with disability. For some reason, I think that probably steered me towards a combination of music and working with people.
When I was 19 I was clear that I wanted to become a music therapist because it seemed the perfect combination of working with people and using music. It is something I love and feel natural with. I’ve never been great at being a musical performer. So performance wasn’t really what interested me. What interests me was playing music with people. And experiencing what happens when we make music together. That could be jamming, in any situation, improvisation, and within that context I’ve explored lots of other instruments and genres, including percussion, singing and folk and world music. I continue to play as a violinist in the Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra were I have the opportunity to perform classical repertoire regularly.
Playing music with people is such a powerful way of connecting and really still fuels my enthusiasm about music therapy where we make music with people from all sorts of background and with a wide range of needs.
Who has been your greatest inspiration or influence?
In regards to my profession? I think I have been strongly influenced by a professor in music therapy called Dr. Tony Wigram. He was the supervisor for the first two and a half years of my professional career. He’s published extensively on music therapy, especially music therapy for people with autism. He was very much on the forefront of developing research in music therapy.
What’s the best thing about what you’ve done as an organisation?
Obviously we’re a big organisation providing a lot of services in the field of education. Two thirds of our organisation is music education to children in the London Borough of Richmond. And one third of our organisation is music therapy providing services all over West London and Surrey. Music therapy is now really well integrated in the organization with lots of opportunities for learning from each other and co-working.
But for me, I’m in charge of the music therapy. The vision was for the music therapy department, was to provide a one point access music therapy service which is accessible to anybody who can benefit from music therapy.
Music therapy is usually more compartmentalised. It’s just for children or just for people with autism or just for people with learning disabilities or whatever. I wanted to create a service which is open to anybody from whatever age, one or two, up to age 90 plus; they can come and access this service. I believe passionately in music therapy and there are a lot of clients in the community who can benefit from it.
Did anything surprise you during the project?
I think the growth. I never anticipated that we would have a service of this size. The brief was to run a service in the beginning that was not dependent on external subsidies and carries itself financially. And so, in the beginning we had a small start up grant to start up for the first year but I was expected to run a service that was not dependent on fundraising. So I think that was a big challenge and there I wasn’t 100% confident that it would be possible. In a way I’ve been surprised that we’ve managed to be here for 15 years and that we managed to establish so much music therapy work in the community.
What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about doing something similar?
I think the biggest advice for me is to follow any lead you’re getting. Don’t ever discount a lead as not going anywhere. Whatever lead you get, whatever phone call you get, however weird it might sound, even if it sounds unrealistic. Follow it until you’ve really explored all options to make it work.
And I think have passion and express your passion for the work. That is really what drives me. You know I believe and experience how important music therapy is and how powerful it is. And I want to bring music therapy to the places where it needs to be. That’s what drives me.
What have you found that is working really well?
I think the main thing is to look at the detail. Sometimes we might feel that after a session that nothing really has happened, but if we look back at the video, we really see different things or hear different things.
Also – collaborating. I think collaborating with families, with other services, with community organisations. I think collaboration is a big part. We are just making a new collaboration with, for example, the Richmond Adult Education Community College. We’re setting up new services and we’ve collaborated with other charities.
Do you have any stories you’d like to share about the people you work with?
Well I think a good story is about your brother! He came to us as a very autistic boy who found it difficult to make eye contact and to actually engage in some kind of shared play in music therapy and was very isolated in his world. Now he is a grown man and has a much better ability to relate to others and to me. He is communicating to me repeatedly that he wants to learn. He wants to learn and get better at things, get better at the piano. And in fact he is learning the piano and is playing real pieces from written music and playing duets with other people and playing music in a group with other people his age. I think that is an amazing story and we don’t often have the privilege of following someone’s path for such a long time.
So what’s next?
Well we don’t want to be a national provider, but rather want to consolidate and broaden our work in Richmond, Kingston, Hounslow, West London and Surrey. But I think keeping step with the changes in funding landscapes, securing the work, breaking into new clinical areas. For example there is a new developing area for music therapy for adults with acquired brain injuries. So people who weren’t born with a disability but have acquired a disability as a result of an accident or a condition. That is a growing area for music therapy.
Where can we find out more?
Our website is a good first point of call!