Campus: CSU Northridge -- September 23, 2001

CSUN's Music Therapy Clinic Gives People Back Their Lives

It's a very simple color pencil drawing of a guitar, but it hangs framed in a place of honor in music professor Ron Borczon's office at Cal State Northridge.

The inscription reads in part "You made me feel as if I had a brand new life." The picture is signed by Falesha Bradley, a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing. Borczon, director of CSUN's Music Therapy Clinic, had worked with her in the weeks following the tragedy.

"She had lost her mother, her niece and her nephew in the bombing. Her sister's leg had to be amputated and Falesha lost her ear. The side of her head had been burned," Borczon said. "She didn't want to talk to psychologists or psychiatrists, only a music therapist. It was music that brought us - a white California music therapist and a black urban woman from Oklahoma - together. Through music we met as two people and were able to give her back her life."

Every day, Borczon and the therapists and students who work at CSUN's Music Therapy Clinic try to give people back their lives. Their clients range from autistic children and children with Downs syndrome to the survivors of severe trauma and rape.

The clinic operates in a classroom in the university's Music Building, when the room is not being used for classes. The therapists see 50 to 60 clients a week. Northridge students also go out into the community to work with people in psychiatric hospitals, geriatric centers and other similar facilities.

Northridge's music therapy program started about 12 years ago and quickly gained national recognition.
Currently, there are about 40 students in the program, and Borczon said he gets three to four e-mails a day from people around the world inquiring about CSUN's music therapy major.

Borczon said the therapists use music to help develop a relationship with their clients.

"Through that relationship and music, we help our clients meet the goals they are trying to achieve in life, whether it's helping a child to talk or getting back into their lives after a severe trauma," he said.
Borczon said that for centuries people have used music to help with healing or to deal with grief.

"Healers have used songs and drumming over the centuries to help people," he said. "We're simply rediscovering what they always knew - that music, through its profound effect on mind and body, can be a potent way to help people get well.

Debbie Clark, who has an autistic 4-year-old son, cannot say enough good things about the clinic.
"I love this program. It has really made a difference in Adam's life," Clark said. "When he started at the clinic at the end of February, he was only saying maybe two words or nonsensical stuff. God bless Ron and Jim (Adam's therapist). They were very patient with him. The music just opened up his mind. Now Adam doesn't stop talking.

"He doesn't know the days of the week yet, but he knows when it's time to go to music therapy and he'll say 'Mommy, time for music therapy'," Clark said with a laugh. "Back in February, he could barely say 'Mommy.'"

Borczon has provided music therapy to victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and at Santee High School in California.

Last week, in response to the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, Borczon and his students held a drumming memorial and unification ceremony on campus to help faculty, staff, students and members of the community deal with the emotional fallout.

"Music helps you get out those emotions you can't really express with words. It also brings you together with others in rhythm and helps you communicate and create bonds without having to say anything," he said.

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