Notes of Success: Music Therapy Returns to Berryville

Almost four years have passed since the Music Therapy program at Grafton’s Berryville campus filled the hallways with notes of healing and harmony.  Now, with the addition of Milo Levine as the new Music Therapist, songs have filled the campus once again.

Though he has only been with Grafton for a short time, Levine has already started to breathe life back into the Music Therapy program to help students and staff discover the benefits of music. Levine is also hoping to involve the local community and parents, ensuring that the program’s benefits are widespread and provide resources that are not often available.

“My vision for Music Therapy’s return to Grafton’s Berryville location is really just to make it fun,” he said. “Bringing in musicians from our community to come play for the kids and jazz cafes to have a guitar ensemble, to set up a little recording studio. That’s something that’s inaccessible for a lot of people.”

Levine is passionate about giving the students the opportunity to create their own music. He said songwriting is an outlet for emotions and can help bring healing to the surface. Levine has already connected with students, and has witnessed those benefits firsthand.

Shortly after joining the team, Levine overheard an incident with a student in the hallway. He left his classroom, guitar in hand, to see how he could help. The student, seeing Levine in the hall, shouted “the music man,” and they began talking. Levine just said to him, “let’s sit here and talk about it.” Levine started to play soft melodies and the student began opening up about his emotions and why he was upset.

“He [student] just started singing about how it’s sometimes hard to take space and we wrote an impromptu song of how we could better manage it in the future,” Levine said. “It was impromptu, but it was definitely a pretty awesome experience for my first month here.”

Levine received his bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy and was drawn to the career because of its basis in psychology. “I was always really interested in psychology but my first love is with music,” Levine said. “Music Therapy really gave me a chance to take a lot of psychology courses and music courses and blend my passions into a career.”

Rachael Reeder, Executive Director of Grafton’s Berryville campus, is excited to welcome Levine to the team and Music Therapy back to Berryville. She has witnessed first-hand the impact music can have on children, and how it can help process emotions that are difficult to express.

“People, especially children, are wired for music and enjoy the interventions, which can be less stressful or threatening,” Reeder said. “We can make progress that we may not have in other forms of therapeutic intervention.”

Levine, who was born and raised in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, recalls how music has been ever-present in his life and how it has helped him to not only process difficult emotions, but to also help him find the right words.

“I think that everyone has one song that they can connect to as, ‘this song calms me down, this song validates that I’m angry, this song validates that I’m sad,’” Levine said. “Being able to identify those songs and how they can influence your mood positively is a huge tool for all of us throughout life.”

Levine pinpointed a few artists that he shuffles through during those moments including Duke Ellington, David Bowie, and Kenny Rogers. “Music has been incredibly helpful for myself in that way and I’m hoping I can translate that to some of the clients here,” he said.

Having a variety of music on hand is also beneficial to help reach the many different students at Berryville. “I actually have a very eclectic taste in music, and I think that really helps me as a Music Therapist,” Levine said. “I’m very familiar with a wide range of genres to fit a wide range of individuals within my sessions.”

As Levine finds his groove at Berryville, he has turned to Frederica Dooley-Brown, the Music Therapist at Grafton’s Winchester campus, for guidance as he navigates his new role. “I had the pleasure of being able to shadow her [Frederica] for some of her sessions, and pick her brain for some programming here,” he said with excitement. Levine also loves that Dooley-Brown started as an intern years ago, as he wants to establish a connection with Shenandoah University’s Music Therapy Department to bring practicum students to Grafton for exposure and experience.

Dooley-Brown shares Levine’s excitement for the return of music therapy to Berryville and notes that he is a perfect fit for the role, adding that his enthusiasm was evident from the very beginning.

“His passion for the growth and development of the Berryville Music Therapy program is evident, and his dedication to his craft is commendable,” she said. “During the training process, Milo exhibited a thoughtful grasp of the intricacies involved in implementing a successful Music Therapy program.”

She, like Reeder, are looking forward to what Music Therapy will do for the students and staff at Berryville. Dooley-Brown added that Levine’s passion for music and his dedication to helping students are a winning combination.

“When touring the Winchester campus our students were drawn to him and now ask me about Mr. Milo,” she said. “I believe Milo’s energy, coupled with his professional expertise, will contribute significantly to the success and growth of the Berryville Music Therapy program. His commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive environment aligns seamlessly with our mission at Grafton.”

Prior to starting at Grafton, Levine worked with hospice patients, primarily in geriatrics, and over the summer, he had the opportunity to work at grief camps with children. In that time, he developed a love for working with young people and believed Grafton was a match for the next song in his career playlist.

“Grafton’s the perfect place for me to start fresh and get to work with some awesome kiddos,” he said, adding that he wanted to come back to his hometown after spending time working in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Levine’s journey back to the country roads brought joy to Reeder and the students of Berryville.

“I am excited to have Milo join our team,” Reeder said. “Many people use music to regulate and express emotions, areas that are challenging for many of our youth, and I have missed having this resource for our program at Berryville.”

Even though the song has just started at Berryville, Levine is looking forward to singing the rest of the playlist and providing the staff and students with instruments of success.

“My goal for the program is to make a bunch of rockstars,” he said. “The biggest thing is to inspire the kids to realize they can make music if they want to, whatever they put their mind to, and really set up the students for success beyond the Berryville campus.”