People Helping People
Karen Nisenson, M.M., M.A., MT-BC
Founder/Clinical Director/- Music Therapist
Karen Nisenson is Founder and Clinical Director of Arts for Healing. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the Juilliard School, Bachelor of Science from Hunter College, a Master of Arts degree in Music Therapy from NYU, where she has been an adjunct professor and affiliated with the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy. Karen developed the integrated music and arts therapies methodology (IMAT) and the Adaptive Music Teaching Curriculum, which has been published by the Simply Music Company under the name of Simply Music Gateway. She has also created early childhood academic programs specifically designed for children on the Autism Spectrum. Karen is a contributor to Special Parent Magazine and The Motor Story Online News Magazine. Karen consults to schools in Fairfield County, CT, and frequently presents talks and workshops to parents and professionals about the impact and importance of the arts in education.
Matt Hennessy MA, MT-BC Music Therapist and Clinical Director of TheaterWorks – earned his BA in Music with a Concentration in Alto Saxophone in 2011 from Western Connecticut State University, then went on to earn his MA in Music Therapy from New York University in 2015. A Board-Certified Music Therapist, Matt is proficient in several instruments, including the saxophone, guitar, piano, and mandolin. He has been a great addition to the Arts for Healing Family and helped successfully launch our new TheaterWorks Program! One of the things Matt especially enjoys at AFH is the ability to work with and provide support for children, teens, adults and seniors in a variety of settings.
Billy Ayres holds a Masters in Special Education and BS in psychology and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and Aftra. He is a very talented musician, trained in percussion and a self-taught pianist and guitarist as well as a published song writer who has sung many national commercials for T.V and radio, performing with Ben Vereen and Michael Bolton. In addition to working with individuals and groups at AFH, Billy has created, directed and performed more than fifty original musicals with special needs children and adults, at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts, The Greenwich Youth Stage, Northern Westchester Boces, Norwest, and for Ability Beyond Disability, a rehabilitation facility where his work with traumatic brain injury victims received high praise by the New York Times. He conducts workshops in a broad array of settings, from the theater, to the classroom, to community homeless shelters. His has received high acclaim in the Journal News for his work at the Westchester Arts Council, and has been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Billy has a long list of accomplishments.
Carissa Streuli received her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Montclair State University in 2013 and is Board Certified. She is thrilled to join the Arts for Healing team, and to have the opportunity to spread the joy of music therapy to families in Connecticut. Her work at AFH has primarily been working with children in PreK and in leading some of the TheaterWorks groups for young adults. Carissa plays the guitar, sings, and plays flute. She is passionate about using the arts for self expression, and is grateful to have the opportunity to facilitate these experiences with the wonderful folks she works with at Arts for Healing. Carissa enjoys yoga, dancing, and spending time with her family.
Terry Hess: Terry joined the AFH staff in 2017 and has worked with seniors with dementia in several of our outreach settings engaging them with her beautiful voice and through an assortment of instruments. Terry received her BA in Music from the State University of New York at Oswego. After receiving her undergraduate degree in music, she studied for her for her Masters in Music Education at Chicago Musical College. She is an award-winning educator working for over twenty- five years in both public and private schools throughout Connecticut. Terry is an eclectic musician with many years of experience as an early childhood music educator, studio musician, singer, guitarist and djembe percussionist. She also sings with the Martin Luther King Gospel Choir in Norwalk, CT, studies african drumming with master drummer kojo Bey of Sounds of Africa, and is an avid Rhythm and Blues singer.
Allegra Themmen-Pigott, BM, MA, LPC, MT-BC, DBPC: Music Therapist, Psychotherapist, Voice Teacher and Reiki Master has a Bachelor of Music from Manhattan School of Music in Voice and received a Masters in Expressive Therapies from Lesley University with a Counseling and Music Therapy Specialization. She has been a Music Therapist for over twenty years and has provided services working with children and adults with Special Needs, Mental Illness, the elderly and Performers. She teachers the “Montello Method for Performance Wellness”, a proven technique to manage stage freight at the New School and provides classes and workshops throughout the tri-state area.
Phyllis Bethel, MA MT-BC
Phyllis has been working with children and adults with special needs for more than 40 years, 23 of those as a music therapist. She brings a love of drumming and community music-making to group music therapy. Using voice and percussion, each group creates a musical identity and experience that expresses a collective and unique sound. These events take place in classrooms, community organizations, group homes and studios, and promote a sense of well-being and engagement for people of all abilities and ages.
Nancy is a graduate of the Creative Arts Therapy program at The New School in New York City and also has a BFA in Arts Management from C. W. Post and an audio engineering certificate from Audio Recording Technology Institute. She is a trained vocalist, plays acoustic guitar and piano, and also composes her own music. After working in the record industry, Scorcia spent many years volunteering for community and school events, chairing several large galas and concerts while raising her five children. She began her relationship at Arts For Healing as an intern and continues to do both one-on-one and group outreach with preschool children, teens, adults and seniors. Nancy enjoys seeing live music, walking her dog and enjoying simple pleasures of nature.
Jennifer Ellyson, M.A., R-DMT, received her Master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago. Her clinical work combines her strengths and passions from dance and movement, child development and psychology. Jennifer also received post-graduate certification in infant and child dance/movement psychotherapy in Dr. Suzi Tortora’s “Ways of Seeing” program. She has experience working with individuals and groups in various settings, including nursing homes, schools, social service agencies, and hospitals. In addition to her work as therapist, Jennifer is an experienced dance and movement educator, teaching children and adults of all ages. She offers a holistic, mind-body approach to her engage her students and clients fully. To feed her creative soul, Jennifer dances and choreographs actively at home and in the dance studio.
Jacqueline has a dual master’s degree in art therapy and clinical counseling from Albertus Magnus College. She has had clinical experience with individuals and groups; adults and children with chronic mental illnesses, dual diagnosis, substance abuse issues and cognitive and physical disabilities; caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients; and veterans with PTSD. She has brought art to elementary schools and businesses. Jacqueline seeks to provide an atmosphere where her clients can gain insight, joy, and healing from the arts experience. She is a culturally diverse individual who understands cultural differences and speaks several languages.
Terrie Robinson Nesto
Expressive Arts Therapist
Terrie has her Masters degree in Art Therapy from Vermont College of Norwich University – 1995. She has worked with all ages, in varied settings and with a wide range of issues including inpatient psychiatric patients, hospice clients, children with emotional and/or developmental disabilities, medically fragile students, as well as with victims of domestic violence. Terrie has worked both in the US and overseas for years in schools, camps, hospitals and community centers and she equally enjoys working with children, adults and seniors.
Carol is the face of AFH. She is the first person people talk to when they inquire about our services and the first face they see when they come for sessions. In between, she keeps AFH running by managing everyone’s schedules, finances and correspondence with clients and their families. We all appreciate what she does to keep everything running smoothly.
Program Development Director
Susan Nisinzweig has an MSW, has run several home businesses and is the mother of a son who has benefitted from Arts For Healing for many years. In 2016 Susan began working part time at AFH to help with marketing, writing grants and developing new programs. Susan helped get funding to launch and/or expand the TheaterWorks Program, ArtWorks Together Program (held in Norwalk Public Schools), the expansion of our Senior Memory Care Programs and A.C.T. – Adults Creating Together for young adults. Susan enjoys the fact that at AFH we can have an idea or respond to a request and then through commitment, passion and creativity, we can create a new program that benefits more clients. That feels exciting!
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