Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy

Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions

Clive Robbins

Dr. Clive Robbins, CMT/RMT, DHL, DMM, one of the world's pre-eminent music therapists, passed away on December 7, 2011. He was 84 years old and a resident of Jersey City. Dr. Robbins was a co-originator of the approach known as Creative Music Therapy and the Founding Director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. He worked with developmentally and multiply- disabled children for over fifty years.

Dr. Robbins was internationally recognized for his teaching of clinical resources, his research into processes of music therapy, and for his commitment to higher standards of clinical practice, creativity and musicianship in music therapy. Until this year he maintained an active world-wide teaching schedule that included Europe, Asia, and South America as well as the United States.

After training as a special educator, Dr. Robbins began a sixteen-year collaboration with Paul Nordoff, D.Mus.,an American composer and professor of music at Bard College. They began their work in England, where they pioneered the application of improvisational and compositional techniques in music therapy. They worked with children presenting a wide range of disabling conditions: mild to profound developmental disabilities, autism, emotional disturbance, schizophrenia, aphasia, learning disabilities, visual and auditory impairments, physical and multiple handicaps.

Returning to the United States after their pioneering work in Europe, Nordoff and Robbins were awarded two major grants funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the first such grants to be awarded music therapists. During these years they developed both long- and short-term training courses for music therapists, music educators, and musicians.

Following Nordoff's death in 1977, Dr. Robbins formed a new team with his wife Carol, also a music therapist, to continue the development and dissemination of his life's work. From 1975-1981 the Robbinses worked at the New York State School for the Deaf at Rome, New York. There they developed a comprehensive music program and curriculum guide to open the world of music to children with severe and profound hearing loss. This work attracted much attention and served as a demonstration program for innumerable visiting professionals and students.

In 1982, after a year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where he was a Meadows Distinguished Professor of music therapy, he relocated to Australia. He established music therapy programs at Warrah Village, and Inala School in Sydney. During these years Dr. Robbins was closely involved in establishing and developing treatment, training, and research centers for the practice of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy in London, Germany, and Australia.

In 1989, with Carol Robbins, he established The Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University where he worked for the rest of his life.

Robbins held honorary doctorates from Combs College of Music, Philadelphia; Universitat Witten/Herdecke, Germany, and the State University of New York. He co-authored many books about the Nordoff-Robbins approach, as well as books of musical activities, songs, and musical plays for children. He was the recipient of the American Music Therapy Association’s Presidential Award, and he was named a Superior Honoured Guest by the Norwegian Academy of Music at the 30-year anniversary of its music therapy program.

Robbins’ influence on the profession of music therapy was profound. Dr. Barbara Wheeler, retired Professor and Director of Music Therapy, University of Louisville and Professor Emerita, Montclair State University states simply, “He was probably the most beloved music therapist in the world.” Dr Kenneth Bruscia, Professor Emeritus of Music Therapy at Temple University, states, “Clive was a living example of the “music child.” Though he may not have had the formal musical training that many music therapists have had, he was the one who continually demonstrated to us that we all have an innate musicality, and that this musicality can be of core significance in our lives. He was the quintessential musician---in mind, body, and spirit. He literally “lived” his entire life “in the music,” and then devoted his entire life to helping others do the same. The profession will always be indebted to him, not only for tirelessly offering us his musicality and clinical wisdom, but also for sharing his person and life with us.”

Clive Robbins is survived by his wife, Kaoru Robbins, a Nordoff-Robbins music therapist, his children Toby and Jenny, 7 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.