Message from Dr D. Rickson Recipient of the WFMT Lifetime Achievement Award 2023

Dr. Rickson picture
Dr. Daphne Rickson Recipientof the World Federation of Music Therapy Lifetime Achievement Award 2023

Kia ora!
Ko DaphneRickson toku ingoa
KoAoraki te maunga  
KoRakaia te awa      
Ko Hakatere teMarae            
He Pākehāahau  
Kia Ora, Tēnā koutou,tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa
Warm greetings from Aotearoa New Zealand.

My mihi, above, explains that I am Daphne Rickson, a Pākehā (white) woman who was born in Ashburton, New Zealand. While I currently live near Wellington, Ashburton will always be my ‘home’; my mountain is Aoraki Mount Cook, my river is the Rakaia River, and my community meeting place is Hakatere Marae.

At the recentopening of the World Congress of Music Therapy in Vancouver, I was honoured with the World Federation of Music Therapy Lifetime Achievement Award. I am truly thankful to the people who nominated me, and grateful to have received this honour.  

When I first heard I was to get an award for my “significant contribution to the field of music therapy” I was somewhat bewildered. I can name many people who have made more or greater contributions than I have. I have drawn on their work, some have mentored me, and some have afforded me the privilege of collaboration. So, before I could accept the award, I needed to understand what making a ‘significant contribution’ means to me.

My ‘Lifetime of Achievement’ began, as it does for many music therapists, with a rich musical childhood – full of singing and dancing. It morphed into piano lessons, teaching music, and playing in bands, but didn’t involve music therapy until our daughter was born deaf. From that time, I not only had the privilege of learning how to share music with my daughter, but also with hundreds of other people who have different ways of engaging with the world. For almost forty years, I have gratefully accepted opportunities to serve New Zealand and global music therapy communities, to practice, teach, supervise, and to research music therapy. There have been many highlights.

While reflecting on my career I came to the understanding that, for me, making a significant contribution was not necessarily about the number or size of themilestones I was able to conquer. Rather, it was about caring deeply for music therapy and all involved in it and endeavouring to make the most of the experiences and opportunities that came my way. By developing rich and meaningful relationships not only with music therapy participants but also with team members, supporters of music therapy, local politicians, and music therapy colleagues in New Zealand and abroad, I have been inspired and motivated to take every opportunity I could to move the profession forward.  I valued each step along the way, no matter how small they seemed, or how heavy they felt at the time, and I am profoundly grateful to have had such a rich and highly enjoyable career in music therapy.

I am also acutely aware that unearned privileges have afforded me various opportunities that are not necessarily available to others, and that we, the global music therapy community, have a lot of work to do towards ensuring that all musictherapists, especially those who have less resources or identify with marginalised groups, have equitable opportunities to participate in global music therapy activities. I acknowledge and thank the World Federation of Music Therapy for continuing efforts to work with issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access within their own as well as other music therapy communities.

In accepting this award I acknowledge and thank all music therapists. Every day each one of us makes a ‘significant contribution’ – witnessed in musical connections, client smiles, a parent’s “thank you”, a colleague’s appreciation for the advice shared, a first publication, and so on. We remain involved because we care about music therapy, about each other, and about the people we work with. As Brea Murakami wrote in her blog in July 2021

“As music therapists, we are all pillars of our community, whether it’s supporting our clients, our colleagues, or our students”.

I’d like to finish with a Māori proverb, a whakatauki which talks to community, to collaboration and a strengths-based approach. It acknowledges that everybody has something to offer and by working together we can all flourish.

“Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi. With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive”.


Murakami, B.(2021) What We Owe Each Other As Music Therapists (Blog, July 26, 2021).