Clive Robbins, music therapy pioneer, founder of center at N.Y.U., dies at 84

BY ALBERT AMATEAU  |  Clive Robbins, a pioneer of music therapy and founding director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University’s Steinhardt School, died Wed., Dec. 7, at the age of 84.

“He was one of the founding fathers of music therapy and revered by thousands of people throughout the world,” said Dr. Alan Turry, a friend and colleague.

Until this year, Robbins maintained an active worldwide teaching schedule that included Europe, Asia and South America, as well as the United States.

Born in Birmingham, England, he trained as a special educator and began a 16-year collaboration with Paul Nordoff, an American composer and professor of music at Bard College. They began their work in England, pioneering the application of improvisational and compositional techniques in music therapy. They worked with children with a wide range of disabilities.

Moving to the U.S., Nordoff and Robbins were awarded two grants by the National Institute of Mental Health, the first such grants to music therapists. Their work included training courses for musicians, music therapists and educators.

Following Nordoff’s death in 1977, Robbins formed a new team with his wife, Carol, also a music therapist. From 1975 to 1981 they worked at the New York State School for the Deaf at Rome, N.Y., where they developed a program and curriculum guide to open the world of music to children with hearing loss. In 1982, they moved to Australia and established music therapy programs in Sydney. In 1989, he and his wife established the Nordoff-Robbins Center at N.Y.U. She died in 1996.

He is survived by his second wife, Kaoru Robbins, a Nordoff-Robbins music therapist, and his children, Toby, of Great Britain, and Jenny, of France. Seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also survive.

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