Music therapy student driven to help people through the power of song, wins award

As she delicately plucks the strings on a maroon, acoustic guitar, Casey Gregg’s soft voice transcends the chirping birds at her La Crescenta home.

She smiles, even when she fumbles over a few words or chords.

Some people may mistake Gregg as the next aspiring pop starlet or folk rock queen.

But, she is a music therapy student at CSUN who is driven to help people through the power of song.

“Music is just a unique modality that you can use to work with clients that is different than other forms of therapy,” says Gregg, 21, who transferred to CSUN last year from Chapman University.

She says instead of repeating arbitrary motions, such as in physical therapy, a client can learn to play an instrument while strengthening the injured part of his or her body.

But, the physically injured aren’t the only clients who use this unique form of therapy.

“All sorts of clients benefit from music therapy,” says Gregg. “Among the most prominent are children with autism. They benefit from music therapy for speech needs, social needs and cognitive needs. It taps into a lot of issues that children with autism face.”

When she sits down to play her award-winning song, “The Wind and the Water,” she warns that she’s a little out of practice since the contest ended in March.

It’s hard to tell as her fingers move effortlessly across the strings producing a melody over which makes it difficult not to swoon.

Gregg says the song is about her transfer from Chapman University to CSUN, but it can apply to anybody dealing with uncontrollable events in their lives.

She just recently won an award for her song from the Western Region American Music Therapy Association (WRAMTA), with which she has been actively involved.

“I was very surprised that I won,” she says.

Laura Pruett, president of the Music Therapy Association of Northridge, balanced out Gregg’s modesty.

“It was very well written and had a nice guitar accompaniment,” she says.

The founder of the music therapy department at CSUN, and one of her professors, Ronald Borczon says Gregg has a bright future ahead of her in the profession. Borczon was present the night she won the award.

“She’s actually a classic overachiever,” he says. “First of all she’s going to be a really fine music therapist. But, I also think that she’s going to probably at some point get more involved in leadership roles in the profession and be more involved in the western region as far as the executive committees.”

Gregg has already served as the president of students for WRAMTA and is now president-elect of the American Music Therapy Association for students.

“She is committed and driven and very enthusiastic about the profession,” says Pruett. “She is a good advocate for it. She’s very excited to become a music therapist and to

help people.”

Gregg’s passion for music began at age 8 when she began taking piano lessons. The

piano eventually gave way to her discovery of the saxophone, drums and guitar.

“I didn’t really pick up guitar until my freshman year of college,” she says. “So now I kind of focus on drums and guitar. But, I’m still passionate about all the instruments I’ve learned.”

Gregg is in the middle of planning her wedding to another musician, and it’s apparent when walking into her house.

Frilly white wedding décor dots each room, illustrating the matrimonial chaos the occasion can wreak on a woman.

She says she’s happy to take a break from it.

She sets up her drum set that sits in the living room next to her keyboard. As she places the drums in the right place, she says she’s trying to sell it. She and her fiancée, who is also a drummer, have several drum sets between them.

The sound of the sticks hitting the snare drum echoes throughout the house while her mother goes about her business in the kitchen. After having a daughter who is a musician, she walks around as if she’s immune to the crashing drum roll in the next room.

While she plays, it is apparent Gregg has an undeniable presence, whether she’s speaking, singing or slamming the skins of her drums.

“She always has a smile on her face,” says Borczon. “She’s very positive and very optimistic. She has just a really great energy about her. I think she attracts a lot of people just by her general affect and just how positive and nice it is.”

Pruett agrees with Borczon and says this is why Gregg should continue pursuing music therapy.

“I think she’ll be very successful. She’s very organized and she has her priorities straight. She is a great musician and she’s very personable and tactful,” she says.

For now, Gregg will continue mailing out invitations and picking out flower arrangements, not to mention getting ready for her spring 2010 graduation.

After CSUN she says she plans to pursue a master’s degree in either social work or marital and family therapy.

Either way, it seems Gregg was destined to help people whether through music or traditional therapy.

“She’s pretty special to have around actually,” Borczon says.