Music Therapy Awareness Month Faculty Feature: Graylen Howard

Posted March 6, 2020

March is Music Therapy Awareness Month and we’re featuring our talented Faculty on our social channels.

We’re excited to introduce Graylen Howard, our Music Therapist based in the satellite location in Nanaimo! We interviewed Graylen to learn more about what its like to be a Music Therapist.


Graylen Howard, Music Therapy

Graylen Howard Adv. Dip. (Mohawk C); BMT, MMT (WLU)


What is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist utilizes the skillful and specialized use of music within a therapeutic relationship to help individuals’ achieve their goals. Furthermore, music therapy is an evidence-based practice using musical interventions to help clients’ reach their individual goals and enhance quality of life.


What inspired you to become a Music Therapist?

During grade 10, I took a civics and careers course in which we completed an online survey during the careers portion of the course. I believe the survey was on “”. Essentially this questionnaire looked to capture your personality traits, combine them with your interests, and give you a list of personalized career choices. To my surprise, music therapy ranked number one on my list! I had never heard of music therapy before! After “googling” what music therapy was and doing some light research, I was quickly drawn to the field for two reasons: I get to connect and work with people while using music as the medium. I couldn’t believe it. From a young age I was always a people person and loved connecting with others. In addition, I have always been very passionate about music. The writing was on the wall and here we are today!


Where did you go to school? What do you specialize in?

Following my post-secondary studies, I attended the music program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, in which I completed a three-year advanced diploma in French horn performance. During this time, I still knew I wanted to pursue music therapy as a profession, so I applied to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and was grateful to be accepted. While at Laurier, my primary principal instrument was French horn, and I completed both my Honours Bachelor of Music Therapy and Master of Music Therapy Degrees. In addition to my studies, I belonged in several campus clubs and played four years with the Wilfrid Laurier Wind Orchestra and numerous other orchestras and ensembles across Southern Ontario such as the Toronto Brass Ensemble and Stratford Symphony Orchestra.


Where do you work out of?

As part of the music therapy faculty at the VCM, I am thrilled to be representing the MT department at our satellite location in Nanaimo! We rent space and partner with the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music – downtown Nanaimo in the Old City Quarter – in which I run a studio three days a week. In addition to our studio at the NCM, we are also at three different off-site locations located within the community of Nanaimo!


What does a normal day for you look like?

A typical day for me always starts with a good, healthy breakfast that gives me the energy and focus I need to be at my best for when I am working with clients.

Depending on where I am working that day (NCM, community site), I always arrive early so I can set up and arrange the space to best meet the needs of the individuals’ I will be working with. After setting up the space, I always like to play through some scales and do a quick warm-up on my instruments to help me mentally prepare and focus i.e. creating a musical space and environment for myself. This was something my professor and mentor from Wilfrid Laurier University – Dr. Colin Andrew Lee – used in his daily routine throughout his clinical work as a music therapist and is essential in contributing to our preparedness.

After facilitating sessions all day – both individual and group – I set time aside to complete documentation.

The most important part of the day I leave for last; self-care time! Much like self-care, Music Therapy works toward restoring and taking care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is at the utmost of importance that we do this for ourselves and tend to our own needs. Self-care is something that we often overlook, and it can look very different for every person. For myself, self-care is going to the gym and or going for a nice long walk by the water or on a hiking trail! I find being active and healthy greatly contributes to my overall well-being and helps me “hit the reset button”.


Share a memory from your time as a Music Therapist.

One of fondest memories I have was during my 1000-hour clinical internship for the Canadian Association for Music Therapists during my undergraduate degree at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. There were many opportunities for inter-professional collaboration and lots of amazing and unforgettable experiences I had working in an interdisciplinary setting during my time at HB. However, this specific memory comes from an inter-professional collaboration with the Therapeutic Recreation department.

The Therapeutic Recreation department collaborated with the Music Therapy department to create a community environment with increased opportunity for active participation, creative expression, and sensory experience in a weekly group. Towards the end of my internship, the TR/MT collaboration played a pivotal role in helping clients prepare an imaginative story they had developed over the course of a couple of months in our weekly group and was shared with their peers/families in an “Operetta” style performance.

Seeing the client’s sense of accomplishment and how proud they were following completion of their work was truly amazing! Also witnessing the role music played in the client’s weekly routine and how they thrived was always so beautiful!


Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Passionate Toronto Raptors fan since 2003 and am hoping for a repeat NBA championship this season!


How does someone learn more about booking a session with  you?

Families interested in booking sessions with me can contact Dr. Johanne Brodeur, the VCM Music Therapy department head. Once families have contacted Dr. Brodeur, she introduces both parties (the family and myself) and we discuss what sessions might look like for the individual interested etc. and look to find a session time. Our wonderful registrar Alexia Melynchuk then forwards our Music Therapy contract from the VCM to the caregiver/family member to sign. Once signed, we are all set to begin!

Contact Johanne Brodeur at 250.386.5311 ext 2030 or via email at

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