HCDM 61 | Music Therapy

 

The great Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain,” and in modern medicine, we are now seeing the application of music to help patients on the road to recovery. Using music this way is called music therapy and in this special episode, our guest will talk all about it. Dr. Richard Marn sits down for an information-packed conversation with author, coach and music therapist, Tim Ringgold. Tim talks about the profession, how music therapy works and its benefits in helping patients on the road to wellness. Tune in and listen as Richard and Tim make beautiful music in this special episode.

Listen to the podcast here:

S2E61 Helping Patients Recover With Music Therapy: A Conversation With Tim Ringgold

I have a fantastic guest for you. He’s fun and has great stories. I love his deep voice as well. He also has a very interesting career, which may be intriguing to you, especially if you love music. We’re going to talk with Mr. Tim Ringgold. He is a board-certified musical therapist, a columnist, author and a host of Reduce Your Stress Podcast, which is a podcast he started years ago, specifically for healthcare workers to reduce their stress when they’re going to and from work. You might want to take a listen to that if you’re looking for something to help reduce your stress. It has some music that he created. It’s very common. Check that out if you’re interested in that.

He’s also the host of Stress Elimination Summit. He has provided music therapy to thousands of teens and adults to help them lower anxiety and reduce pain. Tim is also an award-winning international speaker having shared the stage with some of the top music minds in music, the brain and personal development, including Tony Robbins. Tim was the first person to give a TEDx Talk on music therapy in 2012.

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I have a great guest here. Welcome, Tim. How are you doing?

It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me, Richard.

Tim, why don’t you introduce yourself?

My name is Tim Ringgold. I’m a board-certified music therapist, specialist in pain and stress management. I’m living in Orange, California. I’m in Southern California in private practice.

As a music therapist, what do you do to help people out in their healthcare related activities?

Music therapy is a modality that can be applied from cradle to grave, all the way across the lifespan. Music therapists can work with preterm infants as early as 32 weeks gestational age to the elderly and actively dying. My company focuses on working with adolescents and young adults struggling with mental health issues related to depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and trauma. We also serve older population in memory care facilities who are struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s dementia. Those are the two patient populations that we support on a weekly basis.

What are the usual steps to achieve a music therapy profession or degree?

It’s not unlike how physical therapy or occupational therapy used to be, where you could get a bachelor’s, master’s or a PhD, do a clinical internship and then go into the field. In music therapy, you can still practice with a Bachelor’s. It’s a four-year degree where you go in a Bachelor’s in Music Therapy or you can get an equivalency if you’ve already got a bachelor’s in a related field.

You have a couple of options. You can enter the workforce after completing a bachelor’s, a 1,200-hour clinical internship and then pass the National Board certification exam. You can get an advanced degree as a master’s level practitioner or a PhD. Those two are typically for those who want to move into research or academia. Then 100 CEEs every five years to maintain your board certification. If you don’t maintain them, you can retake the exam every five years but who would want to do that? Not me.

What is the best part of your career?

As a musician, getting to play for a living in a way that is in a healthy, professional environment, unlike touring, playing bars or clubs and the gratitude quotient. In a music therapy session, you can see transformation take place in somebody’s being, in their wellness. That is immensely gratifying to see it happen right in front of you because you know that the work you’re doing is making a difference with the person that you’ve worked hard to come to serve.

You see it there up close too, as opposed to you’re on a contract stage and you got a lot of people.

All the different ways that a musician can interact. When you release a CD or an album, someone can be listening to your music. You have no idea that they’re listening to your music. You don’t know the impact you’re having. With music therapy, they’re with you face-to-face. It’s not so much like you’re performing for them but it’s the fact that as a musician, you’re not pouring out what you do into some black hole and hope that it works out somewhere for somebody. You are seeing the difference you make in real time. That’s a great feeling.

What’s the least favorite part of your career?

It's an extraordinary feeling when you show up in service to others with the thing you love, which is music. Click To Tweet

The hardest part is that because there are so few music therapists, most people don’t understand what it is. It’s not like when you say physical therapy, people either have been through it or observed it. They have a sense of let somebody takes exercise and points at a problem. That’s a quick way to describe physical therapy. Music therapy, what’s that? They try to imagine what it might be and create their own shape on the pegboard of their brain like what they think you’re going to do in music therapy.

The amount of training that we go through is often underestimated to become a music therapist, that anybody who’s musical can be a music therapist and can be doing music therapy. That would be equivalent to saying anybody who can talk could be a psychologist. We wouldn’t say that. Anybody who can exercise can be a physical therapist. You would be surprised that people think that just because you can play a musical instrument, you can practice music therapy. There’s more to it than meets the eye.

Would you say that’s one of the misconceptions out there about being a musical therapist or the big one?

People don’t know what it is. Music therapist is like, “I need something to be one.” It’s like, “You have to go to school to be a music therapist.” You don’t need to go to school to help, inspire and move others with music but if you want to be practicing therapy, therapy is something that is done by clinical professionals. Any therapy is done by a clinician or a professional.

If you want to use that phrase and want to work in that setting, work in very fragile patient populations and apply music as a treatment modality in very challenging settings, there’s a process. It’s long and pretty challenging. It’s not just like, “I’m going to take a weekend certificate program online. Now I can go do this thing.” There’s more to it than that.

What are some of the highlights of your profession that people should know?

The thing that people should know about music therapy is that if you’re a musician with a heart and you love people and love helping people, the greatest part about being a music therapist is you get to be yourself on the clock. It’s an extraordinary feeling when you show up in service to others with the thing you love, which is music. It’s the thing they love. I’ve never introduced anybody to music. It’s not like, “I’ve got this new protocol. It’s going to hurt a little. You’re going to have side effects. We’re going to have to go through some rehab.” You don’t say any of that. You’re like, “Your friend, music.” “I love music.” “I know. Here we go.”

As a therapist, it’s very cool. Let’s say I’m working in a hospital setting and I come in to see you. You’re a patient. You’re struggling with pain and anxiety. Doctors can’t seem to get it under control with medication. It’s exacerbating your conditions that you’re in admission for. I walk in the room. We’re total strangers but we have a mutual friend. It’s music.

When you get to people talking about music, I start to talk about my music and what it does for me. You start to talk about your music and what it does for you. We’re talking about technically maybe two different musical genres or libraries but we’re talking about the same thing and it’s doing the same thing for each of us. We both know, love and trust our music.

The music becomes this bridge of connection between you and me, where we both start talking about this friend that we have that we love so much. “You know music. I love that guy. He’s great. We’re going to be buds.” A music therapist leverages that mutual trust and connection. We have this ability to get close and connected with strangers like that. That is awesome.

I love how you use music identified as a person, something that you can both relate to. It’s not just some industry. It’s compartmentalized in this entity and the way that you presented it. It’s tangible.

Music is very personal. Any of us survived our adolescents through music. You go from 14 to 24, there is not a 24-hour period that you are not reaching for music to help you figure out who you are. It is very personal to the human being. It’s very powerful and mostly positive. We have a very intimate relationship with it. As a music therapist, understanding that relationship and then highlighting that to people, you ride the wave of that very easily. It creates an automatic inroad to connection, which is where therapy happens. Therapy happens in the connection between two human beings.

How do you help people? A typical day as a music therapist, what is it like? What’s going on?

Depending on the type of person you want to help, your day as a music therapist might look very different. I’ll give you an example in my private practice of what it looks like. We see teens and adults who are in residential treatment centers where they’re there for 30, 60, 90 days working on their issues. We will drive to the treatment facility and lead groups once a week for that particular facility. Let’s say it’s Monday morning. We look at the calendar. “I got a 10:00 group here. Then I’ve got a 1:00 group here. I got a 2:15 here. I got a 3:30 over here.”

I’m going to drive to these different facilities and lead groups that are going to address very specific clinical issues that those patients are having. They’re usually a 50-minute group. There are usually 6 to 8 people in the group. We’re going to leverage music in a couple of different ways. We might make it. We might improvise with rhythm instruments or listen to music that has certain themes that we want to address in the therapy. We can dig into those themes in a creative way through other people’s music. We might use music to help them relax.

HCDM 61 | Music Therapy

Music Therapy: The hardest part of music therapy is that because there are so few music therapists, most people don’t understand what it is.

 

In mental health, one of the big challenges is that people’s nervous system is stuck in a stress response. They don’t know how to initiate the relaxation response in their own body. Using music, it automatically goes in and influences the autonomic nervous system. Knowing what music can do to heart rate, blood pressure and the stress response, we can use music to help people enter a psychologically safe place in their body where they can start to relax.

That turns off cravings and initiates creativity and connection. All kinds of very powerful clinical outcomes can happen from using music specifically as that tool. Each week, we’ll use music in a different way to address the clinical outcomes that are relevant to that patient population. It’s not about the music, the performer or the therapist. It’s about the client’s diagnosis, treatment plan and clinical outcomes that they’re trying to achieve.

We’re going to use music specifically in a very specific way for that group for that reason. Then we’ll go to a different facility. Based on what the clinical goals are for that population, we’re going to use music differently over there. For my dementia patients, I’m going to be singing music from their childhood, from their teens and their twenties to them live.

I’m going to have them interacting with small rhythmic instruments to engage their body. We’re going to have them singing along and access that memory bank in their head. It’s going to look totally different in that session than it is going to look with the teens. What’s so fascinating about music therapy is you have broad options in front of you in terms of how you’re going to utilize music because it depends on who you’re serving.

You have to know what patient you’re taking care of. Have you ever been in a situation where there are diverse patient populations in a group?

You’re going to be in a treatment setting where you’re either working one-on-one, you already know what their diagnosis is and there’s a treatment plan and clinical outcomes. If you’re in a group, that group is already organized in some sort of clinical way where they might be stroke patients that are all doing rehab for gait training, for balance or something like that.

They might be kids on the spectrum and you’re working on developing attention span and appropriate social behavior but they’re all going to be kids in a certain age bracket who are all struggling on the spectrum in a similar cohort so that you can apply this one treatment to this group. They all match each other in some way. That cohort right there is of the same age, at the same developmental level or they’re struggling with the same diagnosis or same referring symptoms.

Tell me how this has been impactful for some of the patients you’ve taken care of that give you a story that was powerful.

When I worked in oncology, inpatient setting in the hospital, I worked as a part of the palliative care team. The palliative care team would get referred to see patients who the attending docs couldn’t treat their pain, anxiety or nausea. They didn’t have access or knowledge of the right pharmacological approach that worked. They would bring in specialists. We’d come in.

The pain management team had knowledge and access to medication that the attendings didn’t. They would apply the top shelf drugs to attempt to bring these symptoms under control. When that didn’t work, they referred me, the music therapist. My job was to see only the most symptomatic, most challenging, sickest patients in the hospital. That was where I was of use.

I loved it because what music does to the brain, to the adrenals and to your nervous system is very global. It does so many things at the same time to the human body. The fascinating thing about music therapy is you start to understand the science of music as opposed to the art. You know how to apply music because you know what music will do to the brain and the body. You can leverage that in ways that a pharmacological approach can’t do at the same time.

For example, I had this lady. They could not address her pain. Pain and anxiety go hand-in-hand in the hospital because it’s like a vicious circle. On a self-report, her pain and anxiety are 7, 8 out of 10. It’s pretty high. I come in and bring my classical guitar. I give her a choice. “We can improvise with some rhythm instruments. I can play some songs that you love. We can listen to some songs you love or I can do what I call the relaxation vacation where I play some slow tempo guitar and I walk you out of the present back in time to a place in your history where you felt safe, healthy and happy.”

The science behind the relaxation vacation comes out of Harvard from a doctor named Herbert Benson. This is some pretty deep stuff. The brain can’t tell the difference when you walk the brain through your senses. It can’t tell the difference between review, view or preview. What I mean by that is let’s say you play tennis. I say, “I want you to think of hitting a forehand. I want you to imagine hitting a forehand.” The same part of your brain lights up as when you hit the forehand.

If I say, “Richard, I want you to think back to the tournament you played over the weekend. Remember that forehand winner you hit. I want you to think of that forehand winner.” The same exact part of the brain lights up as when you hit the forehand winner in real time. The human brain can be tricked into organizing and firing as if it’s in different places in time. Knowing that is immensely powerful because when you walk people out of the stressful present into a safe, healthy, past, their body reorganizes as the safe, healthy past.

Their heart rate and blood pressure slows down. Their respiratory rate stabilizes. Their immune system fires up again. Using slow tempo guitar, we can train them and their nervous system to turn off the stress. I watched this gal in real time as I did the relaxation. I could see the effect in her face changed, the tension in her shoulders dropped and her breathing slowed down.

By the end of the session, she’s a zero on pain and anxiety. She’s like, “I don’t know where it is but it’s gone.” What’s beautiful is you’ll watch their bodies change in front of you. When they’re in the ICU and they’re hooked up to heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory monitors, you can see the numbers change. It’s not just a subjective visual effect. It’s actually happening on the monitor.

We can use music to help people enter a psychologically safe place in their bodies where they can start to relax. Click To Tweet

When we’re working in the ICU, even with patients who are in a coma, we can slow down their heart rate and blood pressure with a slow tempo rhythm. We’ll be at the nurse’s station before the session, writing down the numbers. We’ll go apply music therapy for 15 to 30 minutes. We’ll come back to write the numbers again. There are two very different sets of numbers. That is so rewarding to be able to walk into an intense environment and know that the tool that you have works.

Is there a population where music therapy, in general, has the most impact? Are there any particular diseases or patient populations?

There are some great places where music therapy is immensely effective and they’ve been able to do some good research around that. One is in the NICU with preterm infants. It’s allowing neonates to be able to discharge from the NICU sooner than without music therapy. It stimulates neural development and the suck-swallow-breathe reflex. It allows them to feed orally and be discharged sooner.

That’s a fascinating research done in the NICU. It’s good in neurological rehabilitation for strokes and for traumatic brain injuries. There’s a great research done in that patient population with powerful outcomes. Patients post stroke or CVA doing gait training with physical therapy when they co-treat with music therapy, at the same time, are able to respond and regained gait in 55% of the time it would take if they didn’t have music therapy.

It’s roughly half the time. They get down walking back faster when you introduce music into their therapy. Some cool outcomes that make a big statistical difference in that person’s life. Those are two areas. With kids on the spectrum for autism, it’s effective when it’s combined with ABA. There’s great research. The point is that music therapy is particularly effective with kids on the spectrum.

I worked in academics. I rarely saw music therapists. I’ve been out of academics for years but it sounds like this could be used for a lot of people in the hospital.

There are only about 8,000 music therapists nationwide. The challenge is that it’s such a small group that most people haven’t met one or seen one. Their exposure hasn’t been there compared to 185,000 speech therapists out there. That’s a big difference. ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis.

What would you say is a work-life balance quality in this career?

You can work in so many different settings. You have a lot of freedom and flexibility in music therapy. The biggest challenge for music therapists is most people who get into helping professions get into it because of their passion for helping others. They forget about the person in the mirror. It’s a cultural thing. The person in the mirror needs help too, the person in the mirror being self-care.

With the work-life balance, what tends to happen is people will feel this cultural drive to give all they have to their patients. They don’t set a boundary for the person in the mirror. I’m using that phrase specifically because when we say ourselves, something about that word is like there’s something in our language about ourselves like selfish or self-centered. When I tell people who are caregivers and their loved one dies, I’m like, “You’re still a caregiver. You’re just caring for the person in the mirror.” They think differently.

One of the big challenges in music therapy is taking time for the person in the mirror and whatever that looks like for them. How do you refuel? You are a burning fuel, whether it’s physical, emotional, social or spiritual fuel. You’re burning fuel during your day. What do you do to refuel? It’s not an endless supply. If you don’t take time to refuel, then you burn out.

It’s predictable. It’s an issue in my field and in most helping professions. Burnout is real. I don’t feel that the music therapy field does enough in their training to train this work-life balance understanding early on. Academia and healthcare can be totally guilty of this burning through their students and their professionals in an attempt to serve their patients.

Changing the direction with the outlook of this profession, how do most people get into this profession in the first place?

There are so many reentry students in music therapy. They’re students who got a degree in one area and have a musical background and then weren’t finding fulfillment in whatever that field was that they had gotten their primary degree in. They discovered music therapy somewhere along the way and came back to school to either get a second bachelor’s, a master’s or an equivalency in music therapy because they realized, “That’s the thing where I can be myself.”

I thought I was an unusual student at 32 going back to school for a degree in music therapy. In my degree program, at least half of our students were reentry students. It’s a little unusual and a little different than a lot of fields because they don’t know. How many high school juniors who have been Allstate vocalists, orchestral or band members know music therapy is an option in their career? They don’t know.

It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just that for every music program out there, there are thousands of music programs and there are less than 100 music therapy programs. It’s an unusual shape on the pegboard. They’ll most likely find out about it because they either had a personal experience with it or they have a family member or a friend who had a personal experience with it. Somehow it put music therapy on the landscape for them. We come to the field through many different doors.

How musically gifted you need to be to be a musical therapist?

HCDM 61 | Music Therapy

Music Therapy: There are some really great places where music therapy is immensely effective and they’ve actually been able to do some really good research around that.

 

In order to graduate with a degree in music therapy, you have to be proficient in piano, guitar and voice. You don’t have to start out proficient in those but in order to graduate, you’re going to be studying all three. You use your voice and then you use an accompanying instrument, which is either a piano or guitar, even a ukulele. You need to come in as a musician, as someone who’s already been studying music, studying a musical instrument because music is your tool. You have to be accomplished and practiced at some level to even pass the audition to declare yourself a music therapy major. To enter the program, you have to have some level of proficiency on some instrument to begin with.

What is the future outlook like for musical therapists that you can guess out?

Music therapy can take a couple of different turns. Where they’re poised is a field because there’s a conversation about master’s level entry, following other therapy professions and moving in that direction. However, a master’s level entry is something that will cut the number of people who become music therapists immediately because of the economic impact of what it takes. It’s almost like a class issue. The number of people who can afford to come into the field as a master’s trained therapist versus a bachelor’s trained. You cut the field immediately when you insert a master’s degree right away.

Since the numbers are already small to begin with, it’s not like we have already a critical mass of music therapists out in the industry. I see that we’re at a crossroads. The good news for music therapy is that every year, the research that’s being done in neuroscience is validating the research that’s being done in music therapy. For the last years, have we been able to videotape the brain in action, so to speak. Since that time, what neuroscientist has seen on film is the brain on music is quite unique.

It’s an immensely effective tool for brain development and brain rehabilitation. That is very encouraging because one of the things that are logged in the Western medicine world of evidence-based quantitative research, music is subjective. It’s hard to standardize music. If I try to play Frank Sinatra to you, it’s not going to have the same effect as it’s going to have to me because of our preferences.

There are some challenges being able to prescribe music as this broad spectrum thing. If you give ten people aspirin versus ten people Frank Sinatra, it’s not standardized like that. There are some challenges for the field but because of the research that’s being done, music therapy is being more and more welcomed into hospital and clinical settings as an evidence-based practice.

Are there any types of students that best fit and flourish in this career?

Yes. Anybody who has already studied music and psychology should go right into music therapy. It’s a perfect blend. There’s somebody who is thinking about helping others and they have this musical skillset that took thousands of hours to get into their fingers or into their throat as a vocalist. It’s a great combination of the two. A lot of people will be a music major and a sociology minor or a music major and a psych minor or a psych major and a music minor or a sociology major and a music minor. If they’re in any of those scenarios, they should go for music therapy because you get to put the two in a blender.

You didn’t follow that trajectory at all. What were you thinking about doing when you were in high school?

I was an Allstate vocalist in high school. I was a good singer and I wanted to be a music major but at the time, music performance, music education or music composition were the only options. I didn’t necessarily want to sing opera or musical theater as a career. I didn’t necessarily want to teach lessons or music class. I struggled. I wandered the desert, trying out this and that major.

I went to seven different schools. I have eight different universities on my transcript. Literally and figuratively, I was physically searching like, “Is this it? No, that’s not it.” I was scrolling through an index of majors at a school from A to Z to see what would inspire me at this school. I’m an athlete and an artist. For a time, I was working in physical therapy but I was like, “It’s just tissue. It doesn’t touch the mood or the soul. I need something that goes deeper.”

What do you do to refuel? It's not an endless supply. If you don't take time to refuel, you burn out. Click To Tweet

I bumped into music therapy myself. I saw it as a major. I was like, “What is that?” I clicked on it. It was two paragraphs type of work a music therapist does and the type of person a music therapist is. It read like my dream job and my autobiography. I thought I can get a degree in being myself. My mantra has been, “You don’t work music. You play it.” I haven’t worked a day since I graduated. That’s why I looked so good.

Let me tell you. When you get into your middle-age years, you see your friend’s age at different speeds and a lot of it is because of what they’re doing 40, 50, 60 hours a week. I’m taking private lessons for something and I told the guy I’m aging. He said, “Congratulations, you found the fountain of youth.” I said, “It’s because I don’t work for a living.” I genuinely believe that. You don’t hit the work button when you start music. It’s the play button. I don’t work guitar. I play guitar. Play is immensely restorative. For anybody who likes to play, this is a good field for you.

You did mention that you started a little bit later in life in this career. During those years, you were all in school or working?

I was trying to make it as a musician, as a rock star. I call it a mock star. It’s a rock star who hasn’t made it yet. I had like a Clark Kent day job working in voice and data communications. It’s awful. I have no interest in it but it paid the bills and supported my dream of making it. I was recording records and releasing albums. I didn’t know there was this other career in music where I could be in healthcare.

I loved the idea of being in healthcare. As a kid, I thought I was going to be a doctor. When I got into PT, I had to get my checks direct deposited because I couldn’t believe they were paying me for it but after a while, PT is so protocol-focused. I got bored. The creativity in me needed something that was more diverse in its application. When I discovered music therapy, my life changed the day I read that description. I was struggling trying to have two careers, one at day, one at night. I saw a way that I could make a living, raise a family, be home, not be on the road and be musical on a weekly basis.

Tim, is there anything that you would have done differently reflecting back then?

I’ve thought a lot about that, particularly because I came to music therapy late. For me, I’m okay with the way it went. At this stage in my life, I know that if I had found music therapy at eighteen, I probably would have blown it, to be honest with you. I wasn’t mature enough emotionally. I was someone who was struggling with addiction. I was somebody who went through some rough trauma in my early twenties. I might share that story because it was an initial catalyst to this. I don’t think I was ready at that stage to handle the course load, the compassion and being responsible to another human being. I was way too self-centered at that stage in my life.

It’s a great case in point that you don’t always have to find yourself early on.

I was nineteen, drinking, smoking, chasing women and crashing. I remember I met with a mentor who said, “Tim, you’re nineteen. You’re not supposed to have it figured out yet.” I said, “You might want to let the educational system and the society know that because every signal that’s being sent to me is I’m supposed to have figured this out and declare my major. I’m behind.” He’s like, “Behind what?” “I’m behind the expectations of me, my family and my culture.” He’s like, “If you can forget all that, you’ll be fine.” I’ll never forget that conversation with Father Paul Hahn. I thought he was crazy but the expectations being put on me was crazy-making.

Let’s go to some quick questions with quick answers. I call them rapid fire questions. What sport were you good at when you were in school?

Soccer.

In the last month, what song you do you remember singing along to?

Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra.

Your least favorite season of the year?

In Southern California, it’s Labor Day to Halloween. It’s the hottest time of the year here. I grew up in Connecticut, where it was cooling off by then and here it’s like, “We’re just getting started.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, how strict were your parents?

In comparison to my next-door neighbors, it’s seven.

HCDM 61 | Music Therapy

Music Therapy: Anybody who has already studied music and psychology should just go right into music therapy because it’s a perfect blend.

 

What would you consider the most important inventions during your lifetime?

The microchip got to be the game changer in my lifetime.

Place you most want to travel, especially with all of these lockdowns?

There are so many places I want to go but I can tell you that there’s an over-water bungalow in Bora Bora, Tahiti with my name on it.

Finally, what advice would you give your child, grandchild or children on their wedding day?

It’s your marriage. Don’t inherit anybody else’s expectations or definition for what marriage should look like. Create your own.

Tim, thanks a lot. This is awesome. Where can readers go to reach you and learn more about you?

If you’re on Instagram, I’m @TimRinggold. If you’re on the internet, you can go to TimRinggold.com.

Tim, thanks a lot for joining me. I appreciate it.

Thanks for having me, Richard. I appreciate it.

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About Tim Ringgold

HCDM 61 | Music TherapyTim’s first steps like that were on the wooden stage of his elementary school for vocal solo after vocal solo. Tim’s first solo was at the age of 4 singing the timeless classic, “I want a harmonica for Hanukkah” (Ask him to sing it for you – he still remembers it). He’s been on stage ever since. First, it came as a soloist year after year which culminated with his singing a solo to His Holiness Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in front of 13,000 Catholic pilgrims when he was only 16 yrs old.From there, the musical journey changed radically into the more exciting world of rock and roll, where he walked in his idols’ footsteps playing famous venues like the Whisky, Roxy, and Troubadour in Hollywood, CA and The Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ. When he returned to the world of classical music to pursue a degree in music therapy in his 30’s, his feet felt even bigger stages like The Hollywood Bowl and some of the oldest and largest Cathedrals in Europe.