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How we work

Music therapy

Musicians Without Borders has incorporated music therapy into programs in Rwanda and Palestine. Qualified music therapists have delivered sessions with program participants, provided training in therapeutic uses of music, and offered coaching to local music leaders.

Music therapy has to be responsive to the ways in which people understand music, their culture, and their needs. This means the therapist must begin by listening:

  • to the sound a child makes on a small percussion instrument that they choose to play,
  • to a tune composed in a group session,
  • to the answer to the question: “How are you today?”,
  • to the silence of a young person who chooses to turn their chair to the corner and refuse any invitation to play.

Music therapists work with the expressive and reflective elements of music to support social, psychological or physical needs. They listen and respond musically, and work towards agreed goals.

In our programs we work with people who are marginalized and silenced by social injustice, prejudice, and isolation. Music therapy has been defined as attending to those unheard voices. When people’s opportunities are reduced by oppression, poverty, or conflict, music therapy can be used to increase possibilities for action.

Music therapy in Rwanda

In 2013, Musicians Without Borders partnered with Rwandan healthcare organization WE-ACTx for Hope to support the establishment of the country’s first professional music therapy position. From 2013 to 2017, over a hundred young people living with HIV benefitted from music therapy sessions.

Rwandan musicians were brought in to offer additional skills, and they received mentoring in music therapy approaches. We developed a training course in Music & Health for music students at the University of Rwanda.

To continue music therapy provision in Rwanda, we have collaborated with University of South Wales and University of the West of England, to recruit music therapy students and graduates.

“When I am angry, I start singing. Later on, the anger had transformed into happiness, a good mood.”

– Music therapy participant, Rwanda Youth Music

Music therapy in Palestine

Since 2015 we have partnered with Music as Therapy International in Palestine. Four groups of Palestinian musicians and social workers have been trained in techniques and theory aimed towards supporting developmental needs of children. Each training cycle of one year contains eight modules, including assignments, a training weekend with music therapists from Music as Therapy International, and practical work.

During the practical work, each trainee gives eight Music as Therapy sessions to a small group of young children with special needs, and they receive online supervision from a certified music therapist. The students have done their practical work in places such as a rehabilitation hospital, a center for children with learning difficulties, and centers for children with disabilities.


Because they were hiding, they couldn’t sing

April 13, 2015
by Chris Nicholson "Because the tutsis were hiding, they couldn’t sing.” This testimony of a…


March 17, 2015
by Chris Nicholson “No Chris, I think it should be this…” and he corrected my…

“I am fine, thank you.”

January 24, 2015
by Chris Nicholson It took me a couple of months of giving therapy sessions before…

One… Four, five…

September 22, 2014
by Chris Nicholson ONE, two and, three and, FOUR, FIVE, six and; ONE, two and,…

Rwandan music box

December 1, 2013
The carpenter who makes the cajons talks to my friend in Kinyarwanda, telling her he…

Rain drumming down

October 21, 2013
by Chris Nicholson When the rain comes down in Kigali it bounces off the ground…

Ribbits in Rwanda

September 20, 2013
by Chris Nicholson With the frog scraper, you scrape a stick across the instrument’s wooden…