MEET THE GCMT TEAM!
REBECCA J. FROMAN FREIMAN, MA, MT-BC
DIRECTOR & TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Originally from the Chicago area, Rebecca has been a clinician since 2005. Rebecca's undergraduate studies in music performance as an oboe major and in psychology were completed at the University of Michigan and she earned her Master's degree at University of Iowa in music therapy. As a music therapist, Rebecca has worked as a leader in the culture-change movement and staff member in residential long term and sub-acute care , established and implemented a music therapy program for a hospice care agency, and has facilitated music therapy individual and group sessions for a variety of clientele in many different settings as a private practitioner. She has made many contributions to the fields of health, eldercare, and the creative arts therapies including:
- • Presenting at national and regional conferences as well as for local organizations about music therapy with older adults, dementia, neurological disorders, collaboration across disciplines, as well as multicultural awareness and competency in practice.
- • Providing training for the Alzheimer’s Association National Headquarters, the Illinois Alzheimer’s Association, the Illinois Activity Professional Association, the American Society on Aging, and guest lecturing at colleges and universities.
- • Supervising and mentoring several students in the fields of music therapy, dance/movement therapy, and art therapy.
- • Publishing research in the hospital setting and about multicultural music therapy practice.
In recent years, Rebecca became an ambassador volunteer for Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry, and has worked with this organization as well as Gift of Life to help build this important resource. Rebecca is a board member of Northwest Compass in Mount Prospect, IL. One of her most important roles has been being a carepartner within her own family.
MIA ILIOPOULOS KRINGS, MM, MT-BC
CLINICAL SUPERVISOR & TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Originally from the Chicago area, Mia Krings graduated from Western Illinois University with a Bachelor of Music in music therapy and has a Master’s of Music in music therapy from Colorado State University with an emphasis on neuroscience-informed music therapy. Additionally, she is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. In 2017, Mia completed her music therapy internship with Park Nicollet Health Services in Minneapolis, MN. There, she created a pilot music therapy program using harmonicas with patients with COPD, other chronic lung diseases, and Parkinson's disease. The success of this program led to it becoming a permanent funded program. In addition to pulmonary rehab, she also worked in hospice and palliative care, The Frauenshuh Cancer Center, medical and surgical inpatient units at The Methodist Hospital, and Struthers Parkinson's Center.
Mia began her career as a staff member in a memory care community and helped a local hospice establish a music therapy program. Later in 2017, Mia began working at Vitas Healthcare, a nationwide hospice and palliative care company, in the Southwest Chicago suburbs. There, she built a very strong music therapy program and was awarded the Vitas B.E.S.T. award in 2019 and 2020 for Building Excellence, Satisfaction, and Teamwork. In 2018, Mia joined the Greater Chicago Music Therapy team and transitioned to a full-time team therapist in 2021. Working with GCMT allows her to advocate for music therapy on a larger scale and provide services to clientele she is deeply passionate about serving. In addition to supervising team members, Mia also supervises interns and practicum students from surrounding Midwest universities.
Currently, Mia serves as President of the Illinois Association for Music Therapy and the IL Representative on the Great Lakes Region (GLR) of the American Music Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Executive Board. Additionally, Mia serves as a GLR Representative on the Assembly of Delegates of AMTA, which serves as the voting body of the Association, and an Assembly Representative on the AMTA Board of Directors. In March 2023, Mia was awarded the first Nancy Swanson Service Award from the Illinois Association for Music Therapy for her dedicated service to the profession. She has also previously served on the regional conference planning committees and is a frequent presenter at conferences and at surrounding Midwest universities on topics including music therapy with older adults, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and in hospice care, harmonica protocols, and becoming a new professional.
ERIKA COWHEY, MA, MT-BC
TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Erika earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Theory and Psychology, with a minor in Honors Humanities at Azusa Pacific University. She went on to pursue her equivalency and master’s degree in Music Therapy at the University of Iowa. During her time at the University of Iowa, Erika worked with preschoolers, young adults with intellectual disabilities, adults on an acute psychiatric unit, and older adults with dementia. Erika also assisted with research on an National Institutes of Health (NIH) program investigating music perception and enjoyment for cochlear implant recipients at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics Music Perception Lab. She conducted her own research about protecting and preserving hearing and presented her findings at a national audiology conference in February 2022. In May 2022, Erika completed her music therapy internship at Niles Township District for Special Education where she worked with neurodiverse students with multiple disabilities. Erika has been applying her unique training and skills as a full-time music therapist with Greater Chicago Music Therapy since June of 2022. Seeing the impact of music therapy on the social-emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual wellbeing of clients, Erika seeks to provide this support to her clients.
JESSE THIELSEN, MT-BC
TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Originally from the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, Jesse graduated with his Bachelor of Music degree in music therapy at Illinois State University. While on campus, Jesse had opportunities to work in a number of individual and group settings with a variety of clinical populations, such as children in early intervention to older adults in hospice. Jesse completed his music therapy internship at Expressive Therapies Utah in Salt Lake City in the fall of 2018 working with clients in mental health programs, addiction recovery, hospice, adults with ID/DD, specialty care hospitals, and children’s hospitals. An opportunity to stay in Salt Lake City for a brief time after earning his music therapy board certification allowed Jesse to continue working in hospice, children’s hospitals, and to facilitate support groups for LGBTQ+ teens and young adults.
Jesse returned to Illinois in April of 2019 and joined the staff of Brookdale Hospice as the music therapist covering the Chicagoland area. Shortly after starting, he took on the additional role of bereavement coordinator, providing grief support and resources to patients and their families pre- and post-bereavement. The creation and facilitation of support groups, memorial services, and special care community remembrance events was central to Jesse’s work as music therapist and bereavement coordinator. In February 2023, Jesse joined the Greater Chicago Music Therapy team full-time where he fulfills his goal of providing quality and compassionate care to his clients while focusing on each person’s individual needs and strengths.
ANN FIENUP, MA, MT-BC
TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Chicago transplant Ann Fienup is a board-certified music therapist, holding a Masters of Music Therapy from the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Music in music education from the University of Minnesota. In January 2020, Ann completed her music therapy internship at Oaknoll Retirement Community in Iowa City, IA, and remained on their team leading music therapy groups and individual sessions across their entire continuum of care, including the nursing care unit, assisted living, and memory care. Ann also facilitated recreational music opportunities for residents such as guitar lessons and worked with the Oaknotes, the Oaknoll community choir. After leaving Iowa, Ann continued to work across the Midwest as a music therapist with neurodiverse individuals and people with disabilities through Indiana’s Medicaid waiver program and on staff with a hospice team facilitating music therapy for patients and their families. Ann’s approach to music therapy focuses on striving to meet life goals, improving quality of life, and supporting well-being. In July 2023, Ann joined the GCMT team and looks forward to continuing music therapy work across the Chicagoland area.
AARON KRINGS, MM, MT-BC
TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Aaron is a board-certified music therapist and professional musician. He received his music therapy degree from Western Illinois University in 2016. Upon finishing course work, Aaron completed his internship at TrustBridge Health in Southern Florida where he worked with hospice patients, their families, and the interdisciplinary team. After his internship, Aaron continued to study music and received his Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from Western Illinois University. Aaron performs professionally, has toured nationally and internationally with the renowned Glenn Miller Orchestra, and teaches music lessons in addition to working with the Greater Chicago Music Therapy team. Aaron's expertise lies in using his dynamic musical background and skills to connect with his clients and create opportunities for connection, communication, creativity, and expression.
K-RAE KNOWLES, MMT, MT-BC
TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Born and raised in rural Northern Illinois, board certified music therapist Kearsti-Rae (K-Rae) Knowles (she/her) obtained her undergraduate degree from Illinois State University in Normal, IL, and her Master's Degree in Music Therapy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI. She also earned an advanced specialization, Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow, through the Robert F. Unkefer Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy located in Toronto, Canada focusing on the application of music in the areas of memory, attention, motor control, emotions, perception, executive function, and language. In 2014, K-Rae completed her internship at Giant Steps, a therapeutic day school in the Chicago suburbs, where she continued working full-time for the next 8 years, creating a second internship program at the site and guiding 5 music therapists to their new professional status. Upon the birth of her son, she began working full-time at another therapeutic day school closer to home.
Across her 9 years of full-time and private practice experience, K-Rae has worked with individuals with varying diagnoses including autism, Down syndrome, Parkinson's disease, dementia, PTSD, fragile X, cerebral palsy, Rett syndrome, emotional/behavioral Disorders, ADHD, CAPD, apraxia, and those receiving hospice care. She has experience in co-treating and consulting with certified occupational therapists, social workers, speech-language pathologists, special educators, and behavior specialists.
K-Rae's mission is to harness music's innate power to promote change, create joy, and bring people together. Her vision is to walk with people of all ages and abilities on the journey to feel comfort, experience growth, and build connections.
MELISSA HOWARD, MT-BC, SBD
TEAM MUSIC THERAPIST
Melissa is a board-certified music therapist. She received her music therapy degree from
Western Illinois University in 2007. Melissa completed her music therapy internship at
University of Illinois at Chicago working in inpatient and outpatient behavioral health with both
adults and adolescents. This internship also provided experience in various areas such as
rehabilitation, pediatrics, maternity, and neonatal intensive care. Since her internship, Melissa
has been providing music therapy services in the areas of hospice, bereavement, mental health,
and senior wellness. Melissa is also a certified stillbirthday doula, assisting families through
childbirth in any trimester. Melissa is currently working on her Masters in Clinical Mental
Health Counseling from Governors State University with an anticipated graduation in 2024. A
member of professional organizations such as American Music Therapy Association (AMTA),
and Illinois Association for Music Therapy (IAMT), Melissa has been an active member serving
as continuing education chair since 2009.
TEAM ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
Laura Kuper is a current Music Therapy Master’s/Equivalency at the University of Iowa. She graduated from Miami University in May 2022 with bachelor degrees in Psychology and Vocal Performance and a minor in Spanish. Laura works as a research assistant at the University of Iowa under Dr. Kate Gfeller, where she explores the efficacy of music therapy with children with cochlear implants. Furthermore, Laura serves as the president of the Iowa Music Therapy Student Organization. For her Master’s capstone, Laura is conducting research on reminiscence and music therapy with the spousal caregivers of individuals with dementia. As an administrative assistant, Laura supports the GCMT team and clients behind the scenes!
MUSIC THERAPY INTERN
Growing up in Northern Indiana, Heather earned her bachelor's in Vocal Performance from Ball State University. She went on to earn a master's degree in Vocal Performance from Belmont University in Nashville, TN. While in Nashville, Heather sang professionally for The Nashville Opera Company and the Nashville Symphony Chorus. She also debuted a featured role in "Frederick Douglass: The Making of an American Prophet" by Grammy Award winning songwriting Marcus Hummon. Heather is a private voice teacher and also teaches early childhood music classes throughout Chicago and its suburbs. She also sings for the non-profit organization, Songs by Heart, that involves interactive music making in various memory care units throughout Chicagoland. Heather is currently a music therapy student at Saint Mary of the Woods College. She is eager to learn and grow as an intern at Greater Chicago Music Therapy, Inc.