Anna Plaskett and her daughter Elsa at the new Music Therapy Centre at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts in Halifax. Photo by Bruce Murray/VisionFire

Music for all students

Programs join forces to increase accessibility and offer more opportunities

By Lindsey Bunin

Anna Plaskett and Sibylle Marquard sing the same tune when it comes to their passion for music, education and its accessibility in the community. 

Plaskett has been a music therapist for 18 years and has been sharing her passion for music and education through her private practice, Heartsparks Music Therapy. This fall, she and her team will join the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts in Halifax. 

“We know music does so much positive and brings out the wellness in people, but folks with disabilities may not have had the same access,” says Plaskett, who is the new music therapy department head. “We’re hoping that having more diversity come through the doors of the building will open opportunities for all involved.”

The Music Therapy Centre will work with people with physical and developmental disabilities and provide outreach for youth centres, seniors homes and other organizations. 

As dean of music, Marquard couldn’t be happier about what this collaboration represents. 

“It’s a marriage made in heaven,” says Marquard. “We are making sure the Conservatory is serving the whole community, all demographics. Our programs are not only for gifted musicians and those studying to make music a career path. It’s really the missing link to making this a much more inclusive environment.”

Music therapists work with parents to develop goals for the sessions. Programming is tailored to the students’ abilities and interests, and can be adapted to factors such as sensory environment. 

“I had a student with cerebral palsy who has limited movement and is non-verbal,” says Plaskett. “He loved to strum my guitar, so I’d adapt the songs and adjust the tempo so he could strum along and leave space for him to vocalize. We’d have a beautiful experience together.”

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