His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced that the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) will be presented to Mrs. Fran Herman, one of the pioneers of music therapy in Canada, and the first Chair of the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund. Fran will receive her award from the Governor General this Friday, at the Music Therapy Centre she founded in Toronto.
After decades of being a Music Therapist (MTA) working with children with special needs, Fran used her unique skills as a story teller, author, an advocate for persons coping through challenging circumstances, and her passion for the profession of music therapy to do what some claimed was impossible – raise over $4 million with the support of the Canadian music industry.
These funds pioneered music therapy programs and research across the country and financed free and subsidized music therapy at the Toronto Music Therapy Centre.
To raise these funds Fran used the most simple of all media – connecting with people. Fran mobilized a team seemingly simply by telling them about the histories of children she worked with and how music therapy had transformed their lives. The work and visibility of the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund and the Music Therapy Centre (both continue to this day) reach individuals of all ages across the country and inspire programs internationally. To date, her efforts have contributed to the funding of over 400 music therapy projects from coast to coast to coast, enabling new research, new program development and direct music therapy services to reach thousands of men, women, children and seniors with different needs (physical disabilities, palliative care, mental health, just to name a few) in healthcare and special education settings.
Music therapy is a research-based practice and profession in which music is used to actively support people as they strive to improve their health, functioning and well-being. Music therapists incorporate a range of music making methods within and through a therapeutic relationship. They are employed in a variety of sectors including health, community, aged care, disability, early childhood, and private practice. Music therapy is different from music education and entertainment as it focuses on health, functioning and well-being. Music therapists are committed to supporting people of any age and ability regardless of musical skill, culture or background and they use the power of music to heal, rehabilitate, and promote wellness across a broad array of challenges, including autism, Alzheimer’s, depression, physical disability, homeless youth, and assisting with end of life care. Brain imaging has shown that music affects our brains like no other experience, and that the way our brain engages in music is special. Music engages the whole brain, giving it the power to bypass injury and help reprogram the brain. Yet despite the mounting scientific evidence, music therapy remains unfunded by government health care or corporate benefit programs.