Music – instrumental in therapy

Rocklin woman uses song to help clients overcome obstacles
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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A typical music lesson with Rocklin resident Sarah Quinney includes singing, songwriting and using all types of instruments ranging from drums and the piano to xylophones. But 24-year-old Quinney isn’t just an ordinary music teacher. She recently launched her own business, Music Therapy Services, using music as a tool to help children and adults with special needs. She defines music therapy as “using music to achieve non-musical goals” such as improved vocalization, motor skills, memory and as a way to express feelings and manage stress, among other benefits. After earning her bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Florida State, she moved to the Sacramento area where she interned with a music therapy practice. From there, she worked with a music therapy private practice in the area and in July of 2008, she started her own business, now providing services to residents in Rocklin, Granite Bay, Roseville, Auburn, Meadow Vista and surrounding areas. Although Quinney offers classes to individuals with ADD, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, speech impairments, depression and other special needs, she said many of her clients are autistic. Thuy Nga Vu’s son KJ has autism and has been working with Quinney for a year now with half-hour sessions twice a week. Thuy Nga said they’ve been focusing on instruments, hoping to pinpoint a favorite to concentrate on. “He loves music and so it helps with his rhythm,” Thuy Nga said of her 11-year-old son. Quinney said that autistic children seem to respond well to music and KJ is no exception. But like any child, he has on and off days. “There will be good days and there will be bad,” Thuy Nga said of KJ’s response to music therapy. One of the things Quinney does during therapy sessions is help her clients feel confident. “They will be 100 percent successful every time,” she said. “I enjoy creating the environment where these kids aren’t threatened by anything.” Roseville resident Ryan Rhetta felt so unthreatened, he went from a speechless 6-year-old to a talkative 8-year-old with Quinney’s help. “For him, it (music therapy) was crucial,” said Tara Rhetta of her autistic son Ryan. “Now he talks a lot.” Twice a week, Quinney meets with Ryan to sing, work on drum patterns and play instruments such as the harmonica and piano, Tara said. Shortly after music therapy sessions began for Ryan, Tara said she saw her son attempting to talk and make sounds. “Music is really a universal language,” Quinney said. “It is kind of a natural thing humans have done in history.” One of the examples Quinney gives for using music as a teaching method is children learning the alphabet – most learn through song. Quinney uses that idea in her classes as well, teaching math and helping kids learn colors and shapes through music. Because Quineey’s career consists of helping others, it’s not without emotional ties. One patient in particular will always have a place in Quinney’s memory, she said. Quinney worked with the Sutter Cancer Center at the time and helped a patient diagnosed with cancer write a song about peace and the world. When the client passed away, Quinney was asked to sing the song they created together at the funeral. “I care so much about my clients,” she said. Although it’s only been about six months since Music Therapy Services began, Quinney said it’s been a success. She has approximately 20 clients she works with a week, varying from children with special needs to adults with various illnesses. Even with the economic slump, Quinney has found there’s a need for her services. “The acceptance of alternative therapy is out here,” she said. For more information on Music Therapy Services, call 792-2908 or go to Contact Lauren Weber at