By Pamela Brown
Photos by Richard Falco
Music offers self-exploration, healing, and social connections. “Most individuals develop a very close personal relationship to music that remains with them throughout their lives,” said Lisa Sandagata, co-director of the Music Therapy Institute (MTI). For 25 years, MTI has been the largest provider of professional music therapy services in the greater Westchester region, helping more than 25,000 children and adults grow, express, learn, and change through individual and group classes/programs at the Music Conservatory of Westchester (MCW) and throughout Westchester county.
On March 16th, MTI will celebrate its anniversary with Dance the Night Away at the CV Rich Mansion in White Plains. Guests will enjoy dinner and dancing to music of Don DuPont’s 19-piece Big Band. ABC-TV meteorologist Bill Evans is host. “It’s an amazing milestone. Our programs have real staying power because of their high quality and because they mean so much to our students and their families,” said Jean Newton, Executive Director. Two community leaders will be honored: Marsha Gordon, President/CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, for her commitment to the arts and longtime support of Westchester ARC, and Conservatory board member/former president Alan E. Katz, Partner, Greenfield Stein & Senior, for his outstanding dedication and commitment to MTI.
MTI was created in 1986 to utilize music to successfully and positively impact the lives of individuals with physical disabilities and cognitive delays. “Including a music therapy program at the Conservatory helped us fully realize our mission to make music available and accessible to everyone in the community,” said Sandagata. Since its inception, MTI has partnered with 26 organizations, including eight public school districts, to provide music therapy programs and professional development for music educators. Annually, MTI serves people with a wide variety of disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, chronic medical conditions, developmental disabilities, and behavioral/learning disorders. “It gives individuals the opportunity to be musical, share their accomplishments with their peers and family members, develop personal and social skills through music, and explore the sheer joy of music,” she said, noting individualized programs provide opportunities for social interaction, emotional expression, increased attention and communication skills, growth in motor skills, and can alleviate pain and stress.
“The elements that make up music correspond closely to aspects of one’s life, for example, body rhythms and vocal expressions embodying melody and harmony. Actively creating music is activating the whole person, stimulating all aspects of one’s being and bringing connection to what is within and what is outside,” said Sandagata.
After learning of MTI’s reputation for high-quality, individualized music therapy, Jill Faber of Chappaqua, enrolled her son, Nathaniel, in private music therapy sessions with Sandagata. “He benefited in many ways from his work with Lisa. The therapy gave him the opportunity to enjoy making music–playing the guitar and singing while improving his focus and communication skills,” said Faber, member of MTI Advisory Committee. Through MTI, Nathaniel’s attention improved, his receptive and expressive language increased, and he enjoyed exploring and experiencing music. “Without this individualized program, adapted for children like Nathaniel with severe disabilities, he would’ve missed out on pursuing this much-loved activity.”
MTI’s 25th anniversary celebration underscores its commitment to spreading the joy of music. “Music is an incredibly powerful tool that touches people intellectually, emotionally, and physically,” said Newton.
Dance the Night Away will be held March 16th at the CV Rich Mansion at 305 Ridgeway in White Plains.Cocktails start at 6:30. Dinner will be served at 7:30 in the ballroom, then dancing from 8 to midnight. Event tickets start at $250; sponsorships and tables are also available. For more information, visit htpp://swingwithmcw.eventbrite.com. For information on MTI or MCW, call (914)761-3900 or visit www.musicconservatory.org.