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Gaile Hayes, MTA – a Tribute to an Important Music Therapy Supervisor

Gaile and Jen
Gaile and Jennifer – June 1991

Gaile was my internship supervisor and the primary reason I migrated to Calgary from the West Coast after I completed my education at Capilano.

I am not sure what lead me to the decision to intern in Calgary but the opportunity presented itself and it unfolded quite nicely. Until I met Gaile, I had yet to witness anyone who worked in private practice and immediately I found it suited me.  I loved waking up early, getting a corner store coffee,  travelling to 4 – 9 different locations, being with all ages and all abilities.  In those days we barely identified what needed to be included in the 500 supervision hours (the mandatory at the time) so we made it up as we went along.  I was Gaile’s first intern and together our focus was giving me as much time interfacing with clients and being in the act of ‘doing’ music therapy.  Ultimately my company is based on the same premise – the doing of Music Therapy – being with clients while keeping the reporting and meetings at minimum levels.

Gaile entered the music therapy program in her late 40s.  It had been her dream.  She was a trained classical vocalist – a gorgeous soprano –  and her music therapy style was a beautiful blend of science and whoo whoo (the term I used at the time) – today I call it enlightened.  I remember her teaching me many great things that “research suggested worked” and then at the same time she would she would say “sometimes just a silent touch on the knee could do more than a song”.  Again – I carry these learnings in my work today.

I was blessed to learn from someone who took the work so seriously and aimed to make music therapy a meaningful contribution in health care.

Many years later Gaile would be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer – a shock for the non-smoker.  She was given a short time to live.  As I started my practice I became very absorbed in my own journey and my relationship with Gaile had fallen away.  During her last few months of life I nervously called her.  I could hear the smile in her voice as she invited me over.  When I arrived I witnessed a much more frail teacher…but her voice was still strong.  As I rubbed cream in her thin, dry arms we shared stories of some of our favourite clients.  She then did something I did not expect – she asked me if I would help her with her funeral arrangements.  She was “having a hard time seeing the computer screen – and Norm (her husband) couldn’t do it.”

As I sat at her computer typing out her favourite pieces to be sung at her celebration of life I occasionally started to choke up.  She never told me I would be okay, and I never told her she would be okay.  We both knew it was what it was – and okay didn’t quite fit. What she did do was hold her hand on my shoulder as I typed.  I still feel it there sometimes.