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This summer, my husband and I had the opportunity to go on a music-based mission trip to Belize with a local, non-profit organization called Guitars For Glory (GFG). Originally, they had asked my husband to go as the trip videographer, but when they found out I was a music therapist, they saw the benefits of having someone trained in the therapeutic aspect of music and invited me as well. A total of 19 people went on the trip, all whom work typical 9-5 jobs, but are incredibly talented musicians, worship leaders in their churches, spiritual leaders, and all affiliated with and representatives of Guitars For Glory. The guitar company, Fender, donated at-cost 14 acoustic electric guitars, 2 electric guitars, and 1 bass guitar for us to take to Belize. We also brought 2 kajones (box drums), and a petal board for the electric, hand made by one of our team members, who is the owner of Midnight 30 Music. The trip was a total of 7 days and we spent the majority of our time in the city of Belmopan.

We lead and participated in ministry every day, morning, noon, and night. In planning and organizing the trip, we partnered with Praying Pelican Missions, and were sent to lead music and worship training at the church, Casa De Dios. During morning ministry we had a kids VBS, which I had the privilege of leading music, dancing, and face painting. Another morning we visited an orphanage, which was one of the nicest facilities that we visited in Belize. The children were craving attention, making it difficult for the mere 19 of us to attend to and play with what seemed like hundreds of children, all ranging in age. One morning we were able to spend time in worship as a team, lifting up our voices and praising God. We had packed suitcases full of supplies for women and children’s ministry, which we were able to give away during small group time in the evenings.

Our main ministry was equipping the church, Casa De Dios, for worship, so we spent 3 days leading training workshops, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keyboard, drum, and vocal lessons. I got to help lead the vocal training and on the first day, we were singing 3-part harmonies to the song, “Holy Spirit.” What a beautiful sound. We were able to give away all of the instruments that we brought to the church, Casa De Dios, and to some individuals that attended the music training.

For evening ministry, we lead worship in different places. The first night we arrived, we were waiting at Casa De Dios for the bus to pick us up. They were having their church service, but there was a Spanish language barrier. The church began singing a song in Spanish that some of us from GFG knew in English, so we were able to sing with the congregation, but in different languages. That’s when I realized that the power of God through music truly transcends all language. It was an incredible moment. The following night we lead worship in a street, shutting down a neighborhood street and inviting locals to come worship with us. Another night we lead worship outside of a high school and people gathered on a football field. That night it began raining really hard, so everyone tried to cram onto the small school porch. After a few minutes everyone started slowly going back out in the rain and continued worshiping. A little rain can’t hold us back!

While we were in Belize, we did get to see and experience the beauty of the country. We ate amazing food every meal that the pastor’s wife fixed, under the shade of a huge almond tree. We went cave tubing in the rainforest, seeing bats, crystals, stalagmite, and stalactite. We also rode in a water taxi out to one of the Keys and went snorkeling in the Caribbean in the second largest coral reef in the world. Later that day we swam with stingrays and nurse sharks. If you’ve never touched a stingray, they are super slimy! We also got to rub a shark’s belly, which is bumpy and tough. It was only moderately terrifying with these animals swimming around our legs. 😉

It was truly an incredible mission trip. It is possible that we will be going back next summer to equip other churches in Belize for worship. I feel so blessed that I not only got to experience the power of music in Belize, but that I get to experience it every day as a music therapist. What a gift.



You can find out more information about each organization as listed below:


Mollie Flasch

belize 1 belize 2 belize 3

Music Therapists Erin Valvo, Joel Page and Gina Schuster participated in the 4th annual MATT Fair (Managing Autism Together Today) on Saturday April 18th at the ESL Total Sports Experience in Spencerport.  While there, these therapist’s met with other professionals in the special education, health and wellness, and agencies working with children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  They also were able to meet parents and grandparents and speak with them about how music therapy could contribute to their child’s education; how to get a referral for a music therapy evaluation; and/or how music therapy works in the special education setting.  If someone stopped at our table they also were invited to make an instrumental out of recyclable materials such as bottles, cups, paper towel tubes and containers, then jam out to their favorite song.  Joel Page even made a drum set out of card board boxes, pots and pans and had kids come by and try it.  Overall it was great day and a fun experience for everyone!!


matt fair

Managing Autism Together Today (MATT) is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization focused on supporting parents, children, and families affected by Autism.   Our mission is to make it easier for families to locate, obtain, and use the community resources that are available to their special needs children in the Greater Rochester, New York area, so that these children can live happy, healthy, and productive lives.

On Saturday, April 18, 2015, 9am-1pm, Managing Autism Together Today (MATT) will be hosting our 4th Annual Autism Spectrum Connection Fair at the Unity Health System Total Sports Experience, 880 Elmgrove Road, Rochester, NY 14624. This will be a free community event that will connect parents who have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the agencies, businesses, and organizations in the Greater Rochester, New York area that provide Autism services, support, and information. MATT would like to invite you to participate in this 4th Annual Autism Spectrum Connection Fair.

The Autism Spectrum Connection Fair will be an informative and fun-filled family day, where parents/guardians will have an opportunity to come face to face with representatives from a variety of wonderful businesses and organizations in the Greater Rochester, NY area that provide services and support to those affected by Autism.

In addition, this event will be opportunity for special needs children to come have fun.   MATT will provide bounce houses, games, and other activities for children of all ages that attend with their parents/caregivers to enjoy.

We are nearing that time again when school ends and schedules around the home change. Camps, clubs, vacations, sports…so many different activities become a part of your child’s day and enrich their early development. What about music though? When school is not in session, a lot of children take a break from music for the summer because there aren’t summer programs available. Well, here at Upstate Music Therapy Center LLC we have some incredible summer classes that can fill that musical void in your child’s life. We offer Music Explorers classes are for children of all ages:  Level 1 Early Intervention is for children under the age of 3 years old, Level 2 Preschool is for children ages 3-4, and Level 3 School-Age is for children ages 5-6. These classes are specially designed and led by board-certified Music Therapists and are offered for children with or without special needs and one adult. These 45 minutes sessions include songs, musical games and instrument play that facilitate age-appropriate development and strengthen the bond between parent and child. Please browse our website for registration information or feel free to contact us at any time with questions. Make this summer one to remember by sharing musical moments with your child!

The following article highlights some of the benefits of musical development and the early years:  Musical Development in the Early Years

While we are fortunate in the greater Rochester area to have many opportunities for our school age students with disabilities to receive music therapy services, once students graduate high school those opportunities are greatly diminished.  Many older students and adults can still benefit tremendously from music therapy and other creative arts therapies.  The need for services for this population is growing, as is the awareness of that need.  There are a few local organizations that provide various creative arts therapy services for adults with disabilities, including individual and group therapy, modified music lessons, drama performance opportunities, and day habilitation.  Click on the links below to learn more about each of these organizations and the programs they offer.

Trinity Assistance/Blue Ridge Music Therapy Center
Trinity Assistance/Blue Ridge Music Therapy Center is located in the Cross Creek Church at 3527 Vienna Street, Palmyra.  The Therapeutic Arts Program is an innovative and comprehensive program for special needs individuals ages 21-30.

Studio 440
Studio 440 is located at 3 Railroad Street, Fairport and offers a unique educational experience in music and theatre arts.  The focus of this studio is to instruct, include and inspire the creative instincts of EVERYONE who seeks to discover their performance abilities.  Offering opportunities to: Vocalists, Instrumentalists and Actors

Cobblestone Arts Center
Cobblestone Arts and Educational Center is located at 1622 Rt. 332, Farmington and is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities through Art, Education, and Participation. Our classes in Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Public Speaking, and Media Studies are aimed to help students achieve a higher potential while developing a sense of involvement in the community.

Hochstein School of Music & Dance
Hochstein School of Music & Dance has two locations, 50 North Plymouth Ave, Rochester and 435 East Street, Canandaigua; and offers individual and group music therapy sessions, as well as other various programming, to individuals with special needs.

This is the time of year when we look at our lives and evaluate what we are thankful for. At Upstate, I know we as music therapists are thankful for the opportunity to be in this profession. We can always rely on each other to be supportive and offer guidance and help when it is needed. However, we know that this is not the case for everyone. Many parents and families feel alone in navigating life with a child with a disability. Here in Rochester there are a lot of unique support systems for families and we were fortunate to have come across a very special organization, MATT, this year. Managing Autism Together Today (MATT) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit charitable organization that was founded in 2010 by Connie and Kevin Schoenl and named after their son, Matthew, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This volunteer organization focuses on supporting parents by creating a local network of people that truly understand the unique nature of having children with ASD and to use this network to help each other at every stage of our children’s lives. MATT’s Mission is to make it easier for families to locate, obtain, and use the community resources available to their special needs children in the Rochester, New York area so that these children will be able to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. We hope that spreading the word of this wonderful organization will promote connectivity between families in Rochester and assure them that they are not alone. We are so fortunate to do the work we do and come into contact with organizations such as MATT. Happy Thanksgiving to all our families!


Matt Website:

As music therapists we rarely get the chance to come together and create music. This may seem ironic but it is true. Working in the school-based music therapy environment we are constantly moving from district to district and providing services to students. Staff meetings are spent discussing reports, research and continuing education opportunities. But…we hardly ever have the chance to play together and enjoy the main backbone of what we all are, musicians. This fall we changed that and decided to put on a concert at Elderwood, an assisted living facility in Penfield around the corner from our office. This concert was beneficial for not only the residents but for us as well. Music provides seniors with the opportunity for memory recall, improved awareness, socialization, and an overall enhanced quality of life. Songs we performed such as “Ring of Fire”, “Love Me Tender”, “Hey Good Lookin”, and “Sunny” became sing along opportunities and the smiles that accompanied these songs revealed the joy the residents felt. This concert was an opportunity for our therapists to work with a different age range and to give back to the community while promoting our own self-care. Many staff members also played instrumental songs ranging from fiddle tunes to “Linus & Lucy”. As the concert ended, we were flooded with positive comments from the residents who shared their own experiences with music and conveyed how much they appreciated our hard work. Music truly has the opportunity to create connections and promote wellness; we look forward to continuing our outreach to area facilities and sharing the joy of music with everyone.

For more information on the benefits of music therapy in Elder care please visit the following links:

The popular and respected radio program “Science Friday” will devote a full hour this Friday, December 16, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern time to music therapy. Joke Bradt, Connie Tomaino, Andrew Rossetti and Dr. Oliver Sacks will join host Ira Flatow.

Click on 
for more information.

Check out what some of the parents have to say about Music Explorers:

“It’s a small group with excellent 1:1 attention. Teachers know what they are doing – organized and creative. They work exceptionally well with kids with special needs…”

“It was a lot of fun. The kids enjoyed singing and making motions. They loved learning and using new instruments.”

“[The therapists] did an excellent job incorporating movements and fun activities with the songs they chose.”

“It was really great. My daughter couldn’t sit still at the beginning of classes and by the end of them she was doing much better.”

Come and see for yourself what a great program Music Explorers is for young children and their parents.

 Ashley McCulloch is a high school senior from Wayne Central School district.  For her senior project she chose to learn about music therapy, as well as to coordinate a fundraiser selling custom designed “Music Heals ♪” bracelets.  Ashley chose music therapy because her friend’s brother has special needs and receives music therapy as a related service at school, and she thought that it sounded interesting.  Through her research she learned about music’s unique powers of healing, as well as how music can be used to help people with disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and Autism.  Ashley states, “I love to listen to music and it always helps me to feel better, but I had no idea that music could help people physically as well as mentally.”

The money that Ashley raised selling her bracelets is going to help several families pay the tuition for their child to enroll in our music explorer’s program this summer.  If you are aware of a family who has a child under the age of 3 years old and can benefit from this tuition assistance, please refer them to our website.  After completing the registration and adding “seeking tuition assistance” at the top of the form, they should mail it directly to our office.   The tuitions will be granted on a first come first serve basis.  Proof of financial need will be requested.