Every Note Counts: The Story of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy

By Soshensky, Rick | Music Therapy Perspectives, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Every Note Counts: The Story of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy


Soshensky, Rick, Music Therapy Perspectives


Simpson, F. (2007). Every note counts: The story of NordoffRobbins music therapy. London: James and James. 119 pages. ISBN 978-1-903942-79-6.

Every Note Counts: The Story of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy by Fraser Simpson may be the music therapy profession's first coffee table book. That's what occurred to me as I began to skim through it although I wasn't sure if it could actually be considered "the first." But as I shortly learned, Dr. Even Ruud, in his review of the book in Nordic Journal, also referred to Every Note Counts as music therapy's first coffee table book. So perhaps it is.

What makes Every Note Counts a coffee table book? For one thing, there are lavish color photographs on almost every page, some double-paged. There are plenty of rock star supporters of Nordoff-Robbins including Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osborne, Bono, and Phil Collins among others. We see freeze-frame glimpses of the children and therapists caught in the rapturous moment of musicing. There are also many photos of key figures in Nordoff-Robbins history, including, of course, the stars of the book, Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins.

The book has numerous quick-read sidebar essays that highlight different dimensions of the story such as important moments in Nordoff-Robbins history, key figure bio's, essential Nordoff-Robbins foundations such as Anthroposophy, and "Meeting the child where he [or she] is," as well as an abundance of compact case studies. This is a fun book that is attractive, colorful and easy to read. One can leaf through it and still come away with something of substance. For every music therapist who has earnestly attempted to respond to the well-intentioned question of friends, family, and professionals who ask with more or less casual interest, "What exactly is music therapy," a half hour or so with this book will give them a working idea of the answer to this question as it is practiced in the music-centered tradition as pioneered by Nordoff and Robbins.

Every Note Counts is not an academic book. It will not provide much theory or technique that cannot be found in greater depth in other books by Nordoff and Robbins or their practitioners. But for those interested in Nordoff-Robbins history who want to delve more deeply into the book, Fraser Simpson has done a comprehensive job of documenting the 50 year journey of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy including the formative years and growth in Great Britain, the development of the training programs, the continuation after Nordoff's death, and the eventual establishment of training programs and centers worldwide.

Every Note Counts is also the story of the people behind the scenes that came together to become the Nordoff-Robbins Charity in the UK. As a certified N-R practitioner with a decent knowledge of Nordoff-Robbins history, I still found new and fascinating information. I had not heard of the formidable role played by Sybil Beresford-Peirse, a distinguished music education department head who left her post to take up the cause of practicing and promoting the seminal Nordoff-Robbins music therapy in Great Britain with a passionate zeal. It seems that Beresford-Peirse is not as well known, at least in the United States, as some other key players, but it was her drive and commitment that first established the Nordoff-Robbins Charity in the UK. Pauline Etkin, current Managing Director of Nordoff-Robbins in the UK, wrote in the book's Foreword that the motivation for commissioning this book followed the death of Sybil Beresford-Peirse in 2002. It seemed vital that the early history and development of the charity be documented and preserved before it was lost to future generations.

The eclectic and aristocratic group of supporters that became the Nordoff-Robbins Charity began to form both through Beresford-Peirse's organizing talents and through their own attraction via various paths of introduction in the early 70's. …

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