Annette Rolleman is an accredited music therapist after completing an undergraduate degree in music performance. (Annette Rolleman/Site Photo)

COLUMN | Professional therapy through music in the Northwest

Music Matters by columnist Cameron Bell

By Cameron Bell

Have you ever heard a song that brought you back to a different place and time? The feeling of comfort and happiness brought forward by our favourite songs is one of the many reasons that Annette Rolleman uses music as a form of therapy.

“I’m a therapist, and music is my tool” she says, explaining that we can “make use of music to address non-musical goals.”

While human society has enjoyed the benefits of making and hearing music for centuries, only in recent decades have its therapeutic properties been focused and applied in a professional manner.

It’s a service that had never been available in northwest BC before Annette returned to her hometown to provide this unique form of therapy. Simply experiencing music can reduce agitation and anxiety among Alzheimer’s patients, and we can all benefit from the use of “entrainment” to alter the rhythms of our heart and breath. Carefully selecting a set of songs and musical activities for each client is part of the profession, and collaboration with occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and schoolteachers helps Annette maximize the benefits of music therapy.

Engaging in the music through singing, percussion, and other instruments is a component of music therapy for some, but clients don’t necessarily need to be involved in the songs during their sessions; “with music you can just be receptive” Annette says. She plays guitar and sings songs from previous decades for her elderly clients to stimulate memories and emotions from times past, and more familiar modern tunes for children – “lots of Baby Shark” she laughs.

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Playing instruments is a fun and active way to approach physiotherapy, by encouraging people with disabilities to move their arms and other body parts. Strategic placement of instruments and motion-sensing tools like iPads requires clients to reach out in different directions repeatedly, building muscles and musicality.

Helping others through music was part of Annette’s inspiration to become an Accredited Music Therapist after completing an undergraduate degree in music performance. Following an additional two years at Capilano University and an internship in the Lower Mainland, she moved back to Terrace and started her practice part-time. The business ramped up throughout 2017, and by the fall of 2018 she had committed to working as a music therapist full time.

A combination of contracts and grant funding allowed her to incorporate work with the Terrace Child Development Centre and Centennial Christian School as a core piece of Annette’s business, alongside private appointments with clients ranging from toddlers to palliative care patients.

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Using a mobile recording unit known as the “Bandwagon” at Centennial, Annette gives students the opportunity to write and record their own music.

The process of writing a song can be a powerful cathartic experience, and sharing those songs publicly can even help some clients address issues like social anxiety. The therapeutic benefits of music have been researched and proven, and the Terrace Child Development Centre recently received an Innovative Practice Award from the BC Association for Child Development and Intervention for their work with Annette.

Only a few years in business and Annette’s capacity is “almost maxed out”, demonstrating the demand and appreciation for her services in the northwest. She’s “astounded by the support of the community” and grateful for both the public and private clients that have allowed her to pursue her passion in Terrace. Annette Rolleman Music Therapy can be found on Facebook or online at

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