Peter and the Wolf worked magic across the miles

Three-year-old Lachlan was in Auckland having a great time making chicken music and Holly was in Southland making wolf music. Lockdown didn’t stop Prokofiev’s children’s symphony Peter and the Wolf working its magic.

Holly McPhee is one of six second-year music therapy students at Victoria University of Wellington who provided free online musical interaction for families struggling to entertain young children – and the offer was music to the ears of their parents.

Daphne Rickson, Associate Professor at the university’s School of Music, put the word out on the Awhi-at-home Facebook page. The sessions were designed to help parents and provide some experience for students who couldn’t go to placements at earlyintervention centres and schools.

In Auckland Tania Gray was caring for Lachlan and five-month-old Claire. She says that when watching Holly interact with her son, she recalled growing up with her older autistic brother. “I wish I’d had access to a programme that helped me engage with my brother through music. We would have had more of a sibling-type relationship,” she says.

“I never learned music, but I know the benefits of music and I want that for my child.” Tania says she hopes parents will be encouraged to bring more music into their homes to help them and siblings connect with their child with special needs. “It’s not just about the music. It’s learning to listen. It’s activating all parts of the brain.”

Holly started her sessions with a meeting with Tania. “Tania said that Peter and the Wolf was a favourite of Lachie’s … and that he knew all the different themes and what instruments they were played on. I thought this would be a great familiar piece of music to create an activity around and to engage Lachie. I played each theme to him and challenged him to tell me which character it represented, and he named all of them correctly.”

Daphne Rickson says while the sessions were not music therapy as such, online interaction has some advantages. “One of the things we can do is share the music resources that you can find online, as shown by Holly and Lachlan.” Daphne says that the sessions could be recorded, which was another advantage, because this enabled teachers to watch the recordings and to give detailed feedback to students by commenting directly within the timeline. “We are actually using the Awhi-at-home work as the students’ mid-term assessment.”

No family had to have a musical instrument to participate. Daphne says families made use of what they had at home. “If you can’t have an instrument, you do body percussion, or you bang on the table.” Or in Lachlan’s case on the bottom of a pot.


This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.

Read the full issue of Community Moves.