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Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins

Category: Healer

 

Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins are jointly known as key figures in the use of music to heal.  Nordoff was an American composer of music and musician, Dr Robbins was a British music therapist, Special Needs educator, and anthroposophist.

The result of their partnership is now known as Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy , which is “ an improvisational and compositional approach to individual and group therapy”.  In other words, sick people use music to help them heal, and are encouraged to improvise and compose their own music to express their feelings.  Although very much a psychologically based healing approach, since mind and body cannot be separated, the therapy aims to help both – mind and body.

 

The early development of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy resulted from Nordoff and Robbins' similar philosophical background, the supportive environment of Sunfield Children's Home, the guidance of Herbert Geuter, M.D., “and their courage”, which meant basically that they kept going despite set-backs and criticism.  The Nordoff-Robbins method of music therapy is still practiced at Sunfield today.

Since those early days, the application and practice of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy has undergone many refinements, but the principles remain solid.  Music heals and being involved in music making is an even better healer.

Two films featuring their work were broadcast on BBC Television. In 1976, musicians and managers in the British music industry formed the Silver Clef fund-raising organization to support all the activities of the Centre, which now bears their name.

Paul Nordoff

 

Paul Nordoff (June 4, 1909 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – January 18, 1977 in Herdecke, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany) was an American composer.  He composed the score to three of Martha Graham's ballets: Praeludium (1935), Every Soul Is a Circus (1939) and Salem Shore (1943).  His music is generally tonal and neo-Romantic in style.  His work as a composer was acknowledged by two Guggenheim Fellowships (in 1933 and 1935) and the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship for music. 

Born in Philadelphia, he studied the piano at the Philadelphia Conservatory, receiving a B.M. degree in 1927 and an M.M. degree in 1932. He later studied with Rubin Goldmark at the Juilliard School and in 1960 he received a Bachelor of Music Therapy from the Combs College of Music in Philadelphia. He served as head of composition at the Philadelphia Conservatory (1938–1943), a teacher at Michigan State College (1945–1949), and professor of music at Bard College(1948–1959).

He was married to the American Eurythmist Sabina Nordoff.  Paul Nordoff died in Herdecke, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany in 1977 at the age of 67.

Dr Clive Robbins

Clive Robbins, (23 July 1927 in Handsworth, West Midlands - 7 December 2011 in New York) was the son of a baker.  He had a somewhat traumatic childhood and did not discover until he was 17, that the woman he had always been told was his older sister, was his mother and that he was actually illegitimate  “He started life somewhat disoriented and in search of meaning and purpose”. During the Second World War, he was sent away to foster parents, as most wartime children were. Here he developed his lifelong passion for music, was able to hear classical music and take piano lessons.

 

While in the RAF at 18, Clive was injured by a bullet that nearly killed him, leaving his left hand and arm partially paralysed and dashing his hopes of becoming a pianist. Instead, he attempted photography and painting but found no vocation until becoming a teacher in 1954 at Rudolf Steiner’s Sunfield Children's Home.  Robbins described it as "the first profoundly fulfilling experience of my life". He and his wife Mildred lived with their two children, Tobias and Jennifer, on the grounds of the school in a small trailer.

After Nordoff’s death in 1977, Clive continued promotion and development of the therapy on his own.

In 1975, Clive returned to the US where he married his second wife Carol Matteson, also a music therapist. Together they worked at the New York State School for the Deaf in Rome, NY (1975–81), at Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1981–82), continuing courses and lectures and maintaining ties in Europe with annual teaching engagements.

with Carol

From 1982 until 1989 they lived in Australia where they established a Music Therapy Centre at Warrah, an anthroposophical disability service centre and biodynamic farm, and a Nordoff-Robbins Association in Australia. In 1989 a dream was fulfilled with the establishment of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University, of which Clive and Carol became Co-Directors. The new Centre served as a music therapy clinic and training venue for music therapists in the Nordoff-Robbins approach. Here Clive stayed active until his death, becoming Founding Director in 1998.

After Carol's untimely death in 1996, Clive married another music therapist, Kaoru Mochizuki, with whom he worked and lectured also in the Far East - Japan, Taiwan and Korea. The improvisational approach to music therapy which he pioneered with Nordoff has influenced the entire professional field, extending well beyond the range of those who were trained specifically in the Nordoff-Robbins approach. Music therapy represents a new force in contemporary music, with roots all over the globe and the Nordoff-Robbins approach has played a pivotal role in this development, championed by Clive Robbins. It was named by its co-creators Creative Music Therapy and is both a philosophy and a practical craft, based on a deep insight into the transformative power of music in human experience.

Clive Robbins, died on 7 December 2011 in New York.  As one can see, the bulk of the development work and promotional work was due to Robbins, who carried on for 34 more years after Nordoff’s death.

Wikipedia
Clive's gift was to help Paul Nordoff harness his musicianship, giving it direction and finding a language for communicating the ideas. Clive has inspired thousands with his love, emotion and sensitivity, his embracing personality and humanistic values. His descriptions of the power of music and its impact on the emotional states of human experience were profoundly moving to the many who heard and shared his passion for music and people.

 
 

Clive saw the establishment in 1996 of the International Trust for Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy which came into being to preserve the name and reputation of Nordoff Robbins and to hold the worldwide intellectual property assets arising from the work of Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins.

He held honorary doctorates from Combs College of Music, Philadelphia, the University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany, and the State University of New York.

Nordoff-Robbins music therapy

Robbins and Nordoff met in 1954, at Sunfield, a school for children with special needs in the UK, where Dr Robbins was a teacher and therapist already.  Sunfield Children's Home was a Rudolf Steiner 'curative educational community' for mentally disabled children in Clent Grove, Stourbridge.

Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins were both involved in the thinking and practice of Anthroposophy previous to their meeting.

"Our studies of anthroposophy had independently instilled in each of us an attitude of reverence for the destiny of humanity as a whole and the meaningfulness of each human existence"

While still a student Paul Nordoff had encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and, in 1943, became a member of the Anthroposophical Society, visiting its centre in Dornach to lecture at the conferences held there on Music after 1954.  Encouraged by colleagues in research and psychology, he visited Sunfield, convinced that music could help disabled children and there he met and teamed up with Dr Clive Robbins, a special educator already committed to and using music as a medium of therapy.

In 1958 Nordoff gave up his academic career, convinced of the power of music as therapy for disabled children and worked full time with Robbins.

From 1958 to 1960 Paul Nordoff and Dr Clive Robbins worked together in Sunfield Homes together with Michael Wilson and Dr Herbert Geuter, the son of founder Fried Geuter, both accomplished musicians conversant with the field of music therapy themselves.   

The time Paul Nordoff spent at Sunfield in 1959-60 working with Clive Robbins was life-changing. The two men formed a close relationship and carried out experimental musical work with many of the most disabled and unreachable children who bore tragic lives of distress and self-injury. With the help of carefully chosen harmonies, appealing melodies and rhythms, the children were drawn into musical participation developing increased social and self-awareness, discipline and concentration. Placed in front of a snare drum and cymbal, they revealed their sensitivities and their expressive, receptive and relational abilities in their musical responses. It was a profound discovery of how music could be used for human benefit and Paul and Clive documented their observations and techniques in painstaking detail, making and transcribing recordings of their sessions.

When Paul left Sunfield in June 1960, Clive accompanied him, gripped by the urge to continue what they had started. They visited 26 curative homes across Europe, giving illustrated presentations and live demonstrations of their work, then spent the next six years in Philadelphia exploring and establishing the work which they called therapy in music. A research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health supported them in this. There followed seven years in Europe where Paul and Clive worked as Lecturing Fellows of the American-Scandinavian Foundation from 1967 to 1974. This period saw the fruition of their work together with teaching engagements across Europe, the evolution of music therapy training for musicians, publications and television documentaries about their work.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Paul and Clive toured the world demonstrating their work, with groups of followers starting to work wherever they went. After Paul Nordoff's death in 1977, Robbins continued his music therapy work, teaching and lecturing well into his 80s and renowned for his ability to inspire and captivate audiences with real-life stories of his charismatic life-transforming work in music.

with his third wife Kaoru

Observations

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