Music Therapist Treating Disorders With Rhythm



Courtesy photo

Music therapist Cynthia Sambrano uses all types of music and instruments to connect with patients. One child (above) loved to dance and crash the cymbal during therapy sessions.

After spending most of her life surrounded by music on and off Broadway, Cynthia Sambrano understands the power of music.

As a trained classical pianist, music has moved Sambrano through various stages of her life and seen it help others with learning disabilities, brain injuries and mental health issues improve by leaps and bounds.

“I see what it has done to my life,” she said, “and I thought how can I bring music to others.”

This question altered the course of Sambrano’s life, from a professional musician and music director who worked 12 hours a day, six days a week in New York City, to a board certified music therapist, working in schools and at the Heart and Soul Music Therapy studio in Payson, 1000 N. Beeline Highway, suite 103.

Music’s impact

After attending the Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass., for music therapy, Sambrano moved to the Valley to be closer to family and then moved to Payson with her husband to get away from the heat.

Sambrano works with children, adults and senior citizens with mental health issues.

Sambrano explained she uses musical instruments to work on non-musical goals such as cognitive, emotional and behavioral issues, social skills and physical and speech concerns.

Her work is primarily with special education children who attend school in the Payson Unified School District and senior citizens at assisted living facilities.

With senior citizens, music therapy helps maintain physical and mental functions.

“The sensory and intellectual stimulation of music can help maintain a person’s quality of life,” according to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).

With school-aged children, music helps strengthen communication and physical coordination.

Sambrano also works with individuals with autism.

“The nice thing about music therapy is they don’t have to talk,” she said. “So a lot don’t speak, but a lot can sing.”

One client Sambrano worked with was an 8-year-old boy who was autistic and nonverbal. After a few sessions, the boy started making sounds. The boy’s mother told Sambrano this was the first time she had ever heard her son’s voice.

“Autistic children really take to this type of therapy,” she said.

Sambrano emphasized that music therapy is not musical education, so the goal is not producing a great singer or musician, but rather fostering a relationship.

Another client of Sambrano’s was an older woman with severe dementia. Although the woman could not talk, she would sing along with Sambrano every week. After a year’s worth of music therapy, Sambrano questioned whether she was getting through to the woman, who showed little progress.

“On our last session, I said goodbye to her and she looked at me and said, “Thank you for coming to see me. I love you.”

With that, the woman went mute again, but Sambrano knew she had made a difference.

Starting in September, Sambrano will offer “Music Together” class at the East West Exchange bookstore. Music Together is a music-based program for children, infants and their parents. Sambrano teaches parents how to use songs to improve their child’s tonal and

rhythmic development. Included in the class is a music CD and songbook. In September, Sambrano will offer a free demo class at the bookstore.

For more information on music therapy or the Music Together class, contact Sambrano at (928) 478-8680 and visit


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