Carol White is the director of Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre, an Auckland-based music therapy clinic for children with intellectual and physical disabilities. With a vast range of musical instruments and trained therapists at hand, children can communicate, work together and have fun through sound, in a space that seeks to develop their abilities.
My background is television. I started over 20 years ago at TVNZ – accidentally! I’d been to the UK, came back to make some more money, went in there for a temp admin assignment for six weeks, then they said they were looking for someone permanently. Within a year there was an opportunity to go into the production side of things and help look after the budgets for television programmes. In those days it was called features and documentaries.
I was very career driven and TVNZ in those days was very traditional, you had to be there for years before anything happened, so I jumped and went across to TV3 six weeks before it launched. I went from a very bureaucratic organisation to the total opposite. There was so much freedom to make decisions and huge responsibilities thrown at you.
After TV3 went into receivership and was sold I went to Sky. I remember people saying, “Why would you do that? No one’s going to pay for television.” It had three channels then. I was there for seven or eight years, then I got an opportunity to go and live in Singapore for a couple of years because my husband had work there. I got a job working in an advertising agency and decided I didn’t want a career in advertising!
Back in New Zealand, I ran the Rialto Film Channel for five years. It was good way of bringing all the different skills I’d learned in different jobs into a general manager role. I like being in small environments where you can make things happen quite quickly.
Then I just got bored. I thought, “I’ve done media.” I was going to have a year off and thought I might go and volunteer somewhere. A friend of mine said, “There’s this music therapy centre and they’re looking for a director.” I thought they meant a director on the board of trustees! I went in and met the previous director and she said, “No, it’s my job!” But I left thinking it was exactly what I’d been looking for. I said, “I’ve never worked for a not-for-profit before, but this is what I have done,” and they decided they needed to bring someone from the business community into this sector.
That was two and a half years ago. I thought I’d be done by now! There’s just so much potential for what we could be doing. We don’t get any money from the government – not a cent. We completely fund ourselves, which is a $750,000 a year requirement.
Internationally music therapy is used in so many different ways – they use it in hospitals, for people undergoing chemotherapy, in burns units, for mental health, for eating disorders and depression. Music is such a primal part of who we are as human beings; it’s used in the smallest tribes in the middle of nowhere and in the biggest cities. The heartbeat when you are in the womb is one of the first things that resonates with you. Children who aren’t verbal can certainly tap to a beat. They’ve got rhythm!
Words by Rebekah White. Photography by Pat Shepherd.