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Music Therapy Conversations

May 15, 2019

Pauline Etkin trained as a teacher at the Witwatersrand Teachers Training College in Johannesburg, Rep of South Africa. She became head of Music and early childhood didactics and was always interested in how music could help the many children that she came across who were struggling to fit in socially or educationally. Pauline has been a major influence in the development of music therapy both in the UK and internationally. She trained as a music therapist in 1982 and her first passion will always be as a music therapist having worked in this role for 25 years working for a year in South Africa with children with life-threatening illnesses and in Soweto with children and teachers there. In 1986 she returned to London and worked as a music therapist and tutor becoming Sybil’s Deputy Director in 1988.  Pauline took over from Sybil Beresford-Peirse as Director of the new Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in North London in 1991, and then as Chief Executive Officer of Nordoff-Robbins from 2002 to 2013. When Robin Howat, Head of the Post-Graduate Training course moved to Australia, Pauline undertook the additional role of Head of Training from 1993 until 2003, developing it together with her team into a two-year Master of Music Therapy Degree course in 1996 validated by City University.

Pauline became aware of the huge resources of the centre, including its library and conference facilities and made sure that the developing profession in the UK, in addition to therapists working within the Nordoff-Robbins approach, could benefit from such facilities. Conferences and meetings were held regularly at the centre.

Pauline was also instrumental in linking with governmental departments in helping to set-up the formal registration of music therapists in the UK. She served on many national groups, for many years chairing committees on supervision and training and education. The BAMT awarded Pauline a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2013 and she was awarded an OBE ‘for services to music therapy’ in the 2013 Queen’s New Year Honours. For more information about Pauline’s extensive career in music therapy see her autobiography in Volume 2 of John Mahoney’s compilation (2017) and the two histories of the evolution of Nordoff-Robbins by Fraser Simspon (2007, 2009).

In this interview Pauline talks about her own experiences of training, with particular reference to Sybil Beresford-Peirse and Clive Robbins. There’s also some discussion on what it might mean, from her perspective, to be a music-centred music therapist, and on the evolution of music therapy in the UK, with tributes paid to the various pioneers identified by Pauline, who have contributed so much to the profession.