Music Therapist and Side-By-Side participant Marie-Victoire Cumming tells us why music can be the best medicine

Marie-Victoire Cumming is the Registered Music Therapist at Brightwater Madeley Aged Care, the site of one of WASO’s recent Music For The Ages concerts. Music Therapy is a health profession that aims to enhance patients’ quality of life and improve both physical and mental health through the creation of tailored music experiences.

Outside of her work with the community, Marie is a talented musician herself and will perform with WASO at Perth Concert Hall in June for Side-By-Side Symphony, a bucket list experience where community orchestra musicians and educators sit side-by-side with WASO for an incredible mainstage performance.

We talked to Marie about her experience with playing music, music therapy and WASO.


What is your background with music?

I grew up in a musical family and music has always formed a significant part of my life. At family gatherings (especially the French side of my family), there were always lots of concerts and singing. Any opportunity to engage in music brought much joy to my childhood. My late French grandmother used to play the violin and I feel very grateful to have inherited her beautiful instrument. I started to learn the violin at 5, piano at 7, and the onwards music journey continues to inspire me.

What is music therapy and how did you get involved with it as a career?

Music Therapy is a research-based allied health profession where a trained and registered music therapist uses music to actively support people through improving their physical and mental health, functioning and wellbeing. Music Therapists use their training to facilitate interactive musical experiences, within a therapeutic relationship, which are tailored to the needs and goals of the client. I first heard about music therapy when I was in high school in South Africa. I was drawn to combining my love of music [with my] interest in psychology and helping people. Best decision I ever made!


What impact does music have on health and wellbeing, especially in aged care communities?

Music is one of the most powerful tools we have to connect with another human. It can lift us up when we need motivating, comfort us when we’re sad, connect us to some deep emotions and help us express our identity. It can remind us of special moments in our lives and connect us to the people and world around us.

In aged care especially, music can stimulate autobiographical memories, restore personal, cultural and social identity, and enable expression of a wide range of emotions. Familiar music can relax a person and can have positive effect on depression. Engaging with music can further improve mood, reduce confusion, maintain cognitive functioning, aid communication and much more! In aged care, engaging in music can also encourage meaningful connections with family, friends and caregivers.


How did you get involved with WASO’s Side-By-Side Symphony?

A friend of mine in the West Coast Philharmonic Orchestra told me about WASO’s Side-By-Side Symphony, which encouraged me to learn more about it and to apply. Through my work with Brightwater, I have also been involved in organising a ‘Music For The Ages’ concert at one of our sites. WASO’s community program has been so well received by our residents, who have loved sharing in the joy of live classical music.

What is a memorable moment you’ve had with WASO either as a Side-By-Side participant or audience member?

Attending WASO concerts is always such a treat! A memorable show I attended with a friend of mine was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Concert with WASO performing the score live on stage in 2022, which we both found was an exciting and fun experience.

Tickets for Side-By-Side Symphony are now on sale.