Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in the News

Molloy College's Rebecca Center a Force for Music Therapy

February 13, 2020 - LI Herald

By Briana Bonfiglio

Music therapist Michael Kelliher, left, sang with client Christopher Troiano.

Music therapist Michael Kelliher, left, sang with client Christopher Troiano.

As late afternoon turned to evening on a Tuesday earlier this month, a corner of Molloy College's Kellenberg Hall basement came alive with music, as clients of the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in Rockville Centre engaged in their weekly sessions.

It would seem small and simple to most, but plain rooms with a few bongo drums, a piano and acoustic guitar is where the magic happens. For patient Christopher Troiano, 21, these walls are his "forever home," his father, Frank, said.

Christopher has been going to the center since he was 5 years old. He has severe autism and is mostly non-verbal. In the music room, though, "he'll do things and you'll go 'where did that come from?'" Frank noted.

The Troianos live in Albertson, so it can be difficult to get there at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday, but "it's always worth it," Frank said. Christopher's former music teacher referred him to the center at a young age because she noticed he had perfect pitch.

"Nothing will solve everything with Chris," Frank lamented. "But it's made him a better person, [helped him] to engage more."

Michael Kelliher, a music therapist at the Rebecca Center for the past six years, sat down at a piano with Christopher that evening in one of the center's four private treatment rooms. To their right, Anne McGoldrick, a sophomore music therapy major at Molloy, sat behind a tall bongo.

As part of her studies, McGoldrick, of Shirley, is practicing as a music therapy observational student at the Rebecca Center. "It's been one of the best experiences of going to school," she said. It was soon clear why.

Kelliher chose and led the first tune from the Beatles songbook, singing and playing piano to "If I Fell." McGoldrick periodically kept a tempo on the drum and added her vocals.

Slowly, Christopher began to sing along. By the end, the young man who, minutes ago, buried his head down in his smart phone and avoided eye contact seemed excited to make music. He chose the next song, another Beatles hit, "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" and the next, "She's Leaving Home."

The three jammed out, and at the end, Christopher turned the page to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." But the session was over, and at 6 p.m., he'd move to the next room for "band practice," Kelliher told him. Every Tuesday, clients come together for a music performance group session. For Christopher, this was just his warm-up.

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*Photo by Briana Bonfiglio

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