Raukatauri spreads its music therapy wings

When the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre first opened in 2004 it had just one client, one music therapist and two instruments – a violin and a piano. Fifteen years later the centre has over 260 clients, nine music therapists and more than 500 different instruments. 

The Auckland-based centre, which is New Zealand’s only music therapy centre, has recently set up regional centres in Hawke’s Bay and Northland, and earlier this year it expanded its Auckland services to include weekly sessions at Starship Children’s Hospital and the Mason Clinic, which provides forensic psychiatry services in Auckland. And in August this year, it started a weekly programme at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. 

Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre’s commitment to providing music therapy to people who have emotional, intellectual, physical and social challenges was recognised at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2019 on 11 September when it received the Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award.

In their comments, the judging panel said: “This nomination had the wow factor! Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre delivers quality programmes to a wide range of clients and their families with outstanding results. It has a clearly articulated vision and policies, responding to need and expanding its services beyond Auckland and into Hawke’s Bay and Northland.” 


Centre Director Jen Ryckaert says their clients range in age from one to 70 but most of them are school-aged and have a variety of developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome.

She says around 75% of clients attend one-on-one sessions with a registered music therapist and the rest attend small-group programmes. In both cases, participants play instruments, sing, dance and move around the room.

“Music therapy isn’t passive. It’s very, very active. It’s about using music to address non-musical goals such as increasing communication, improving social and emotional skills, and improving cognition. It involves both the music and the therapeutic relationship.”

Jen says research has found that taking part in musical activities can help form new neural pathways in the brain. MRI scans have also shown that singing lights up the brain’s pleasure centres.

“It’s an incredibly enjoyable and motivating experience.”

The centre was set up in 2004 by singer/songwriter Hinewehi Mohi, whose daughter, Hineraukatauri, has severe cerebral palsy. She experienced life-changing benefits from the music therapy sessions she took part in during a family trip to London in 1999 and Hinewehi wanted other New Zealanders to have the same opportunity.

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Since then, the centre has expanded its services to include five satellites in Auckland and more than 20 outreach projects, including the new service at Starship Children’s Hospital that started in March 2019. A therapist works one-on-one with children in the cardiac, long-term medical and neuro wards with very positive results.

“It provides amazing anxiety relief and can offer pain relief,” Jen says. “It’s also fun and stimulating for those kids and their families.”

In June 2018, the Trust opened a regional centre in Hawke’s Bay. This was followed by a second regional centre in Whangarei, which opened in February 2019.

Jen says the motivation to expand their services into the regions came from a 2016 survey, which found that New Zealand had only eight music therapists working outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

All the centre’s therapists have master’s degrees in music therapy and are accomplished musicians. Some are particularly skilled at using taonga pūoro – traditional Māori musical instruments such as flutes and percussion instruments.

Taonga pūoro are among the more than 500 different instruments the centre now owns, ranging from orchestral instruments such as violins and clarinets to a wide variety of percussion instruments, including a marimba.

The centre is committed to making sure its services are accessible to anyone who want to use them, regardless of their income. It runs an active fundraising programme to help keep the cost to clients as low as possible.

“We don’t get any direct government funding, and the Centre Manager and I spend a lot of our time applying for grants,” Jen says.


RMTC brings music therapy to Northland for the first time!

Until recently, residents of Northland were unable to access the life-changing benefits of music therapy – a fact that has changed with the official opening of Raukatauri’s Northland Regional Centre on the 9th of March, an initiative supported by Foundation North.

Raukatauri has found the perfect home for its Regional Centre - the beautiful Old Library right in the middle of Whangarei.  Registered Music Therapist Katie Boom offers music therapy sessions here on Wednesdays and Saturdays in a beautiful sunny room stocked with instruments, thanks to the amazing generosity of KBB Music and Remo Inc.  As at all of Raukatauri’s locations, sessions in Northland are goal-oriented and strengths-based, and use music to aid in the growth and development of children and adults with special needs.

Katie is familiar to many members of the Raukatauri whānau, as she has been working with us in Auckland since 2017.  As a Whangarei native, she is particularly excited to be the first music therapist working in Northland and sees many opportunities for music therapy there, both at the Old Library and through work directly in the community.  The Northland community clearly agrees with Katie, as since announcing our opening date we have been receiving enquiries almost daily from families and community organisations from Dargaville to Kawakawa!

You can read more about the Northland Regional Centre in this recent article from the Northern Advocate.  If you would like to refer a child or adult for music therapy sessions in Northland, you can use our online referral form found here.  If you would like to enquire about music therapy for your organisation, or have questions about any of our locations, you can reach us at info@rmtc.org.nz or on 09 360 0889.

Photos below were taken at our Opening Celebration which took place on the 9th March.

RMTC - open in Hawke's Bay!

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Five months in and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Centre is going … and growing … strong!  Families rave about the sessions offered by Registered Music Therapist Will Darbyshire with one mum saying recently, “I love the open lines of communication with Will and the discussions around the girls’ progress and goals.  It is focused, fun and really worthwhile.”

As in Auckland, RMTC Hawke’s Bay is conscious of the need to make music therapy convenient and accessible for families so offers sessions in both Napier and Havelock North.  We also strive to make the sessions personalised to the needs of every client, offering individual, family and small group music therapy for clients of all ages – from early intervention services for toddlers to music therapy session for those with dementia.  If you’d like to refer someone to music therapy, or just want to learn more about our services in Hawke’s Bay, please contact us on 06 870 3990 or at info@rmtc.org.nz

 One of the best things about opening in Hawke’s Bay has been introducing the work that RMTC does to a whole new audience. Will has received a warm welcome from the health, disability and education communities, and has been made to feel right at home in his two therapy locations – Tamatea High School in Napier and the Havelock North Function Centre.  We have been thrilled to receive funding support for the Regional Centre from COGS Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga, First Light Community Foundation and Hawke’s Bay Foundation and were particularly excited by the recent gift of a brand new piano by Huawei. The delivery of the fabulous new piano was captured by the Napier Courier, who featured it on their front page, and full details can be seen here.

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