Matt Wilczynski joined the professional consulting staff as an adjunctive music activity therapist in 2011 at the Star View Adolescent Center in Torrance, CA. Star View serves the most significantly disturbed and traumatized teens in the public mental health system of California. This is a secure setting with 56-teens, and all of the teens have a serious emotional disturbance and diagnosis, including psychosis ad major mood disorders.
In his weekly visits, Matt engages the teens to create, performs and support a variety of creative arts approaches, music being foremost. His style is straight-forward, warm, professional and highly engaging. As a musical professional, he has become remarkably proficient at how to best help each teen in his group.
Matt has excellent judgement with the teens, with great respect for the professional boundaries of both his position and the supervision he has received.
I was delighted that he added another afternoon at our TAY (Transitional Aged Youth) community center in Carson, where he has a music lab and software to further engage and challenge the teens.
Matt has demonstrated the highest level of professionalism while in our program and I have no concerns about his ability to provide ethical, well-informed, and team coordinated care.
I recommend him highly, without reservation.
Peter Zucker Ph.D. President and CEO, STARS Behavioral Health Group
My daughter, Sarah, is 12. She has special needs and loves music. Matt’s creativity and relationship-based approach was wonderful for Sarah! Matt has a particular genius for bringing music to children on their terms. For example, he reached Sarah through movie songs, and they made voice-overs to movies using computer software. When Matt started working with Sarah, she began to identify herself as “a singer,” and to sing in talent shows. I was amazed, and it still brings tears to my eyes. Love you, Matt! Helen Davis, UCLA
My son, Joe, is eleven years old and is Autistic. He attends a special needs school named Village Glen dedicated to serving the needs of high functioning autistic children. He joined one of the bands organized by Matt Wilczynski as part of HRA last September and has had the most incredible experience over the last nine months. Not only has he formed real bonds with his three band mates, but he has performed in two concerts organized by HRA and stood up in front of dozens of people, mostly strangers, and sang his heart out. The look of pride on his face when the crowd cheered is more than I can describe. The day after the recent concert he wore he band ID to school where he was literally treated like a rock star. Places where children can experience overcoming their fears, of expressing themselves artistically, of becoming part of the world of music – of having fun with other children that do not include electronic devices – are far and few between. I know that Matt and HRA are dedicated to providing instruments and help to schools that do not have resources to provide music to their students. I have supported this wonderful work and will continue to do so. My family has been blessed by having contact with HRA and I unconditionally support this wonderful organization.
Our oldest son, Jake, started working with Matt in 4th grade. Jake had been taking acoustic guitar lessons at a local park center. His aptitude for music was clear from the beginning; however, his interest was waning, as he was not connecting to the music he was playing. Matt introduced Jake to the electric guitar. He engaged Jake with music he likes to listen to. Matt used power chords and popular traditional rock to get him playing right away and then added solos and original music as his skills developed. For Jake, his ability to express himself and his personal confidence has come through music and his participation in HRA. He has progressed consistently through working with Matt and other talented HRA teachers.
When Sarah started with HRA last March, she didn’t know how to play much guitar, and she had had limited singing experience. She also didn’t know any kids who wanted to be in a band. After placing Sarah in a band that was the right match for her socially and musically, Matt took her inexperience and shy personality and he pushed, cajoled, taught, motivated and inspired her. At the last concert, Sarah was an accomplished guitarist, singer and song writer as well as a confident entertainer. She has loved the whole experience. We are thrilled for her.
-Leonie de Picciotto and Mitch Rose
It is difficult to put into words how HRA has affected our lives. It transformed my son from being a drummer to being someone passionate about the drums and music. My son is 12 years old. He was 11 when we walked into our first meeting at Melodious Co where they would figure out where to place him at the Hollywood Rock Academy. He first played with a group of younger, less experienced kids. My son had never played in a band and his drumming experience was limited to his weekly drum lessons. Matt asked him if he would come back the following day to play with some older kids. We walked in the next day to find a group of 13 and 14 year olds who had been playing together for some time and were quite serious about their music. My sweet boy looked completely intimidated but with Matt’s amazing way, my son felt comfortable enough to join in and spend the next hour with the group. We walked out of the studio committed to this group, trusting that Matt knew what he was doing. The others in the group, I’m sure, were less convinced than Matt was, but we trusted Matt right away. What happened from then on, in this mom’s humble opinion, was magic. My son had to step out of his comfort zone every week. He didn’t want to let the “guys” down, he didn’t want to let Matt down, and finally he really wanted to push himself, for himself! The transformation was amazing. The confidence he gained in his own ability was also amazing and has spilled over to everything else that he takes on. My son has been a part of HRA for only a year. He isn’t nervous when he walks into the studio now but, is always ready to work hard and push himself harder. The other guys don’t worry about his ability or think about the fact that he is only 12 years old either. He plays at home all the time and is on fire when he finishes playing with the band. What Matt is doing for these kids, is priceless. I played music when I was younger, as did my husband. If we had been blessed with a Hollywood Rock Academy or a Matt Wilczynski in our lives, there’s no telling where our music would have taken us! Matt takes kids who are alone at home playing their instruments and makes them a part of something bigger that they can be proud of. What a lesson to learn about music and life! To be a part of a team and being responsible for the group, not just yourself, is invaluable. It’s such an important thing to learn. My son had to learn to trust Matt and himself. The other members of the band had to trust Matt and my son. Wow. I can think of a million ways you can apply that lesson to life in general, not just mu- sic. It is an amazing program. I can’t say enough about its impact on our lives. To watch Matt go into the schools bringing music into the lives of kids who aren’t as fortunate as my son, is inspiring. Every child should be so lucky to have been touched by this program.
– Luann Williams
Standing in front of the stage at last Sunday’s concert, it was hard to believe that the drummer in the band was our son. Even harder to believe was that it was less than a year ago that he nervously sat in on his first jam session at Hollywood Rock Academy. He had reason to be nervous—he couldn’t play. Fortunately for him, that wasn’t a criteria of yours. Barely able to keep a steady rhythm, and months away from his first official drum fill, you put him in a band! That is when Wednesdays became his favorite day of the week—band practice day. Two hours where you challenged him, inspired him, and most importantly, believed in him. Some kids find that experience on the sports field, some find it in academic achievements or drama or dance, but most unfortunately, miss it all together. Who knew that we could find a “Leave it to Beaver” character building program in our neighborhood rock and roll recording studio?! (cont.) Matt, more than the ability to be able to do a drum fill, we thank you for the life lessons that you are teaching our son. By your example it is cool to work hard, to listen to other’s ideas, to compromise, to focus, to make mistakes, to be flexible, to be dedicated, to set ambitious goals and to make a plan to achieve them. It is even cool to respect parents and to give back to your community. From a parent perspective, learning to play drums is just icing on the cake! We thank you for the amazing year Rob- bie has had with you and the Hollywood Rock Academy and we look forward to many more.
– Barbara and John St. Thomas
We are writing to tell you how amazing the June 3rd HRA concert was. Sarah and her band, Seconds to a Lifetime, have come so far over the course of the past year, and working with Matt Wilczynski has been the catalyst for it all. When Sarah started with HRA last March, she didn’t know how to play much guitar, and she had had limited singing experience. She also didn’t know any kids who wanted to be in a band. After placing Sarah in a band that was the right match for her socially and musically, Matt took her inexperience and shy personality and he pushed, cajoled, taught, motivated and inspired her. At the June 3rd concert, Sarah was an accomplished guitarist, singer and song writer as well as a confident entertainer. She has loved the whole experience. We are thrilled for her. Matt and his crew are amazing with all that they do – band photos, show posters, the recording of their original songs, and the very professional concerts at the end of each session with sound, lights and backstage passes. In addition to all of that, the “super group” performances that Matt puts together each June have blown us away. This year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the kids choir was so well done, and last year’s performances of “Comfortably Numb” and “I Am the Walrus” with the kids orchestra were superb. Matt is great with the kids because he knows how to be on their level without being condescending. His ability to play every instrument impresses the kids (and the parents!) along with his vast knowledge of rock ‘n roll. Although he claims he’s not sure how he’ll be as a parent, his love for the HRA kids is very apparent. Okay, so he is a Red Sox fan. We’ll forgive him for that!
– Leonie de Picciotto and Mitch Rose
Luann Barry-Goldman is our Parent Liaison and is a Board Member of the HRA Foundation. She is more than happy to speak with you or answer any questions. Please feel free to contact her at 310.474.2439.