Like most, Nicole O’Malley had no idea what she wanted her future career to look like when she was young. When her band teacher asked the class to combine two of their passions to imagine their dream job, she chose teaching and music. These two passions ultimately led her to a career in music therapy. Possessing an M.A. in Music Therapy from Berklee College of Music and a B.A. in Music Therapy from Anna Maria College. Nicole was frustrated after her studies when she was unable to find a job in her field. Instead of switching careers, Nicole decided to create her own company; one year after receiving her degree from Anna Maria, Nicole founded Hands in Harmony.
Hands in Harmony is the first company to use neurologic music therapy in Rhode Island. Their mission is to help all people reach their true potential using proven music therapy interventions grounded in neuroscience to overcome a range of physical and psychological problems. When Nicole began the venture 13 years ago, she didn’t realize she had started a business. “It wasn’t until a conversation with my accountant when she first referred to me as a sole proprietor that I realized I was an entrepreneur.”
Although Nicole is equipped with a breadth of knowledge in the field of music therapy, entrepreneurship presented a new frontier. She quickly realized that she needed business mentorship and was even contemplated a move to New York to find it. Thankfully, she was put in contact with volunteers at SEG in 2007 when we were still called Social Venture Partners. Her arduous experience seeking mentorship highlighted how important it is for local businesses to have a supportive ecosystem. Nicole credits us with helping her write her first business plan and providing her with the mentorship she needed as a new business owner. “Between the Health & Wellness Accelerator and the mentorship I received at SEG, those invaluable experiences helped me to position myself as an entrepreneur.”
Now with the tools, networks, and support she needed to run a business, she began to mold her company to meet the needs of so many patients using the skills and knowledge she had developed as a student.
The American Music Therapy Association describes music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional.” While the field is well researched and proven to be effective, when she was starting the venture, Nicole realized that there is a need for awareness of music therapy and advocacy for its use as a legitimate treatment, which is a critical component to the business. Over the past 13 years the field has come a long way.
Hands in Harmony patients include people with autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, chronic pain, substance use disorder, and much more. Hands in Harmony sees more than 1500 patients a year (up from from 3 patients in 2003 and 85 in 2007).
Another component to the organization’s success is Nicole’s belief in collaboration and partnerships. The company partners with hospitals, schools, rehabilitation facilities etc. so that they can integrate additional services in much more accessible community locations. “From the beginning, our mission has been to provide quality services while working collaboratively to optimize overall treatment and progress,” says O’Malley, “Working collaboratively with other businesses is beneficial for our patient in hopes that they’ll only need to use one resource to access their care.”
While Hands in Harmony mission has remained consistent for nearly 15 years, the company continues to innovate. “Moving forward, we want to continue to collaborate with other ventures and form sound partnerships,” said O’Malley, “We want Hands in Harmony to be a one-stop shop resource for our patients.” As Hand in Harmony continues to expand, Nicole hints to look out for big news coming soon. “We’ve been moving towards this transition for a while so we’re looking forward to finally sharing this exciting news with everyone!”
Zara Salmon, Communications Coordinator
Zara is a 2018 graduate of Wheaton College where her majors were English and Political Science. During her junior year, she went abroad to Senegal, Italy, and China to study African migration and entrepreneurship. It was through this experience that she fell in love with the field of social entrepreneurship. As the Communications Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, she will be working alongside the wonderful Crystal Rosatti helping to build and maintain SEG’s relationships with universities, organizations, and other institutions across the state.