Story by Kacie Frederick. Photos by Nancy McGuire.
Therapy through musical healing is the mission of KidLinks, a non-profit music therapy organization based in Dallas. Sara Chigani, MA, MT-BC, is the Music Therapy Content Coordinator for Kidlinks and a music therapist at KidLinks’ clinic location at Southern Methodist University campus. Joining the KidLinks team in 2019, Sara hit the ground running, providing as much support for her clients as possible.
Sara received her Bachelor’s in Music from Berklee College of Music in Boston, but she admits that she had not heard of music therapy prior to her graduation. An experience observing a local music therapist in Fort Worth inspired her to pursue a Master of Arts Equivalency Degree in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University.
From there, Sara’s passion for music therapy only blossomed. Upon completing a rigorous Music Therapy Clinical Internship at Dallas Children’s Medical Center, she instigated the Music Therapy Program at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
“I always felt a personal and emotional connection to music,” shares Sara. “It has always helped me get through tough times. I knew there was something more to music to help people heal; I just didn’t know what that was. Once I discovered music therapy, I didn’t look back.”
During Sara’s intensive clinical internship at Dallas Children’s Medical Center, she conducted musical therapy services from neonatal to end of life. In her position with KidLinks, Sara is grateful to focus her musical skills on her clients ages 18 and below.
As a music therapist, Sara offers her clients a unique experience to freely and wholeheartedly express themselves through music without fear of judgment or doubt. KidLinks’ clientele ranges from those with speech development issues, genetic disorders, emotional disorders, and anyone who seeks out KidLinks’ treatment. Music therapists work alongside the parents and caregivers of the patient to establish what needs and goals they want to have met.
“You don’t have to have any musical experience whatsoever to soak in the benefits of music therapy,” advises Sara. “We are all musical, and we can all make music together. There is no right or wrong. Music is about freedom of expression.”
KidLinks offers in-person therapy sessions with various instruments the patient can use, playing along with their music therapist. During the peak of Covid, KidLinks utilized Telehealth, a service the organization still offers today. Sara embraced Telehealth, queuing her virtual clients to clap, sing, and use their bodies to create percussion and rhythm.
Nevertheless, Sara is uniquely positioned as the music therapist at SMU’s campus. Thanks to a generous grant, KidLinks’ SMU clinic offers a ten-year initiative, granting up to eight patients a year with free music therapy services, which started in April of 2022. The clinic also works alongside students of SMU who are pursuing music therapy. Sara hopes over time the students may join her to shadow her work as a music therapist to broaden the field. Additionally, as music therapy is not seen as a main form of treatment, Sara hopes to spread the word of this incredible therapy resource especially to those who may not have the opportunity to receive it.
“Just working with clients and seeing their progress keeps me doing what I do,” says Sara. “Of course, it takes time on all ends between the client, therapist, and even family members. But there is no better feeling when everything comes together and you see everything working. In 2019, I had a client who was diagnosed with non-verbal autism. At that time, he maybe only spoke one word to me, but now he is speaking full sentences, reading and writing. That is why I do what I do.”
KidLinks is a non-profit organization offering music therapy services to those in need in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington areas. KidLinks is a 501(c)(3) organization, making your donation tax-deductible. For more information or to donate, please visit: https://www.kidlinks.org.