‘Cultivating young minds through the power of music’

editorial image

Meet Coleraine woman Louise Kelly, the north west’s only music therapist.

In a special interview with The Times this week, Louise, who is a former pupil of Loreto College, talks about the benefits of music therapy, and how music can be used as a means of communication.

Louise takes weekly sessions at both Ballysally and Kylemore nursery schools.

At the sessions children as young as three learn valuable social skills whilst getting their tiny fingers on an array of musical instruments.

The Coleraine woman also works with children at Ballykelly Nursery and at a Primary School in Donegal.

Louise has always had an interest in music.

As a youngster she learned the violin and the piano. Then as a teenager, Louise felt that she wanted to follow a career in the caring field, so she decided to put her love of music to good use - and she set her sights on becoming a Music Therapist.

Louise studied to masters level education and has been practising as a music therapist for the past 13 years. She says she still gets a buzz from her role.

“Music therapy is not about teaching music or performing, I use music as a therapeutic process” said Louise.

In recent years, Louise, who is a member of the Health Professions Council, has supported patients with brain trauma injuries, strokes, adults and children with learning difficulties and people suffering with Alzhiemer’s.

“Music is a means of communication, particularly for children on the Autistic spectrum.

“They may be non-verbal, so music becomes a means of communication for them.

“Banging on a drum or crashing a symbol, it’s lovely to see the smile on a child’s face when they realise that they have not only made a noise, but have made a connection with someone through sound. In this situation it is great to get parents involved and it can be a great bonding tool. ”

Explaining more about her job, Louise outlined the role of a music therapist.

“We are trained to use music making to address social, communication, developmental and emotional needs.

“During the sessions at the schools here in Coleraine, the children develop a host of skills, and they don’t even realise what they are doing because they are having so much fun.

“The children develop self awareness and self esteem, they learn to become awareness of others, about social interaction with their peers, and even the simple task of learning to share.

“Children love to move, so moving to music allows them to express themselves and to develop.

”Making music can also stimulate speech and vocal sounds.”

In the sessions the children also learn songs and rhymes, and Louise points out: “That helps them develop literacy skills. Language just isn’t about words, it’s about communicating.”

The mother of one says that each session is different depending on the needs of those involved. “I remember joining in a session with a group of parents to learn about how music can help our children.

“I have no musical experience at all, and we were all very nervous to start off with, but it was lovely to see how we could all interact muiscally with our children as the session developed.”

In recent months Louise has been working with the local Surestart group in a ‘Train in the Trainer’ programme.

The project is about equipping staff with Therapeutic Music Making ideas to take into their workplace.

Louise states “As many organisations and schools are losing funding as a result of cuts in education, I feel it is important to share some if the ideas I have learned through my 13 years as a music therapist.

“The staff or parents will not become qualified music therapists, they will be more confident to use music in their workplace or home - this in turn will allow our children to grow emotionally, educationally and socially.”