Writing a waiata fit for a Prime Minister might seem daunting.
But West Coast DHB music therapist Heather Fletcher rose to the challenge when her choir was asked to perform at the opening of Te Nīkau Hospital and Health Centre in Greymouth in September.
“We were given ten days notice and I thought we don’t really have something with a New Zealand theme to sing so I will have to write something.”
The PSA member conducted the performance of her song Te Nīkau at the opening.
She says it was a great honour for herself and the members of the Waiata Koha Community Choir.
“They had a fantastic time, it was the highlight of their singing careers to be able to perform for the Prime Minister.”
Heather is no stranger to composing, writing songs with clients and music to support therapy goals.
She works in areas including child development and mental health, adult neurological conditions, and dementia care.
“I love the variety. One moment I can be playing musical games with pre-schoolers and the next I’m singing songs from the 1940s with people with dementia.”
Heather says it’s an exciting time in music therapy, as advances in neurological research enable us to see what’s happening in the brain when people engage in musical activities. This is explaining why someone who has lost the ability to speak can still sing a song, for instance.
It is now known that when we listen to music, certain areas of the brain come online, including those that decode sound and language, process emotions, and plan movement.
Music therapists can harness this to help clients learn or re-learn skills that have been lost through brain injury.
“The beauty of music is that we don’t necessarily need words to communicate, which is especially useful when working with people who have communication difficulties.
“Music is also a great motivator and makes therapy more fun – for the client and the therapist!”
As an Allied Health professional, Heather is part of a multi-disciplinary team that supports health goals.
She says while Allied Health professions require a high level of training and clinical skills, there has been a lack of recognition in the past.
But she says regular briefings provided by the Ministry of Health to Allied Health professionals during the Covid lockdown show that may be changing.
“It ensured we were all singing from the same song sheet.”
The PSA has an equal pay claim for DHB Allied, Public Health & Technical workers.
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