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Julie Wylie mixes up music for children and Ryman residents

Written by Alan Wood
on November 29, 2022

Julie Wylie has always gone that extra step to enrich people’s lives with music whether they be young or a bit older.

So, when her husband John moved into the care centre at Ngaio Marsh Retirement Village, she adapted her lesson schedule, so as to allow residents to enjoy her children’s classes to see the joy that music brings.

Julie started her own business in the early 1990s, having just completed Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy training with Clive and Carol Robbins. The Julie Wylie Institute of Musical Play remains very active and enjoyed by children, and now retirees, to this day.

Julie has written her own material and during sessions with children presents her songs plus others including nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty and Twinkle Twinkle. The village residents love sitting in. “A lot of them have said: ‘we don’t have contact with the little ones’, and this is why it is so special – it really is…,” Julie says.

“One of the women said to me last week, ‘my youngest is 61 and it’s a very long time since I’ve had any interaction with little children’.”

She believes music, and other creative processes such as art, can provide therapy to many people including young children. Everyone of all ages benefits from interactive musical play, including children born prematurely, those with Down syndrome and those with learning difficulties.

In 1990 Julie established her own music school. Julie says in the 1980s she was a high school music teacher, but left her position to become an early childhood music adviser in Canterbury. She worked alongside Russell Kent and notably Murray Lennox, now a resident at Diana Isaac Retirement Village. That led to a music therapy training programme, which in turn led on to a book, published in 1992. Around that same time she lectured in music at the University of Canterbury. Later she release a series of CDS to showcase her music, some of which she says includes ‘jazzy’ influences making it suitable for both children and adults. The music is also carried on Spotify and iTunes, and she has travelled to support it to countries including Lithuania, South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom.

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Her aim when she left high school teaching was to really develop within parents that sense of loving and nurturing towards their children. “Music regulates and calms in a way that nothing else can,” she says.

Tracey Reed, who has a background in early childhood learning, joined Julie’s team earlier this year, and now assists in the musical sessions including some playing of drums. Tracey met Julie when her own boys Joel and Izaac were youngsters and attended one of Julie’s classes. The boys are both proficient musicians, she says.

With John about to move from Ngaio Marsh to Ryman’s Essie Summers village, Julie has attracted a wider audience to her lessons. She leads from the front on keyboard. Some of the residents have been joining in on maracas.

For her more recent sessions, she has invited children and their parents to the atrium at Ngaio Marsh. Some arrive from the care centre, with help from their walkers, to listen and watch.

Her husband John, now suffering from a rare disease affecting his speech and mobility and having suffered recently from a fall, is one of those in attendance. He talks of his work in supporting Canterbury and New Zealand rowing, which included serving as an umpire at many world championships and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work with rowing teams, Julie also received a MNZM in 2018.

The 82-year-old, who started rowing in 1955 and has been involved in the sport ever since, has retired as Canterbury Rowing Association (CRA) manager. Julie says one of the reasons she started bringing the music sessions was for John who’d had such a busy and active life.

John is soon to move to Essie Summers village, and Julie says her music programme will also run in that Beckenham village, not too far from her Cashmere home. As part of her business, Julie also teaches music teachers from around the world.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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