Musical medicine: TWU professor receives grant from Kiwanis club

Langley, B.C.—Professor Paul Hoelzley, Ph. D, knows the power of music firsthand. From conducting his concert band students at Trinity Western University to providing music therapy to children with special needs, he has seen music transform children in his community in extraordinary ways. Hoelzley gives hope to children with autism, cerebral palsy, sight and hearing impediments, brain damage and more. In support of his contribution, the local Langley Kiwanis club has given Dr. Hoelzley, who is an accredited and Board Certified Music Therapist with both the Canadian and American Associations for Music Therapy, a $3,500 grant to help special education high school students in the Langley and Abbotsford school districts.

“I really enjoy working with children and I’m so appreciative to the Kiwanis club for giving me this grant to support music therapy,” says Hoelzley. “I work with many schools in the Langley area so I’m grateful for the opportunity to offer music therapy to another youngster in our community”.

“We had been talking for about a year, but this is the first time that we’ve been able to partner with Dr. Hoelzley,” says Don Fenske, president of the local Langley 100 Kiwanis club. “Hoelzley talked to us about his work with children and it really struck a chord with us, because our focus is helping children all over the world.”

After performing for over fifteen years with such ensembles as the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the United States Army Field Band of Washington D.C., the official world travelling band of the U.S. Army and the renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Hoelzley decided to return to teaching. Not only did he become a music professor at TWU, but in 1991 he opened a private music therapy practice. And after teaching numerous courses in instrumental music, in 2001 the University decided to add a music therapy course due to Hoelzley’s work.

“When you play the right music, it’s almost like turning the lights on. Music is a wonderful motivator for children,” reflects Hoelzley. “It’s a tool that is non-threatening, and one that can positively impact human behaviour in an unobtrusive and harmless manner. The different components of music therapy often enable a child who cannot speak or effectively communicate nonverbally. The next step is to have the child respond to me.”

In some cases Hoelzley will play up to 20 instruments including the piano, clarinet and tuba, in an attempt to find a sound that will evoke a response from his clients.
“With autistic children one of the main goals is to get them to communicate. And while some children do not respond, I’ve had children learn to speak through playing tunes and singing for them. Over time the child learns to trust me and learns to say their name, or speak a phrase by imitating an instrumental sound that appeals to them. It’s an amazing thing to witness; though the process is tedious it’s very rewarding.”

“Music therapists are trained not only in several areas of music, but also in psychology and natural sciences.” Music therapy is much more than recreational music, it’s a behavioural science that attempts to enhance human capabilities through the controlled use of music’s influence on human brain functioning. The goal is the maintenance or re-establishment of good mental and physical health, and one must be qualified to do it,” says Hoelzley.

“I’m very grateful to the music department and the administration at Trinity Western University for their steadfast support of my music therapy involvement. I was brought on faculty in 1990 to direct the university’s Bands and Instrumental Music activities, but due to Trinity Western University’s strong commitment to community service, my music therapy endeavour in the community has always been affirmed with strong support.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,200 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 other graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative
leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping