As part of our work in children’s healthcare settings in Sussex, we offer training and apprenticeships to emerging music facilitators who want to bring their skills into hospitals to support the wellbeing of the hospital community. Its been a joy working with 22-year-old fiddle player, Raph kent who joined us at The Alex last Autumn. If you’re a Musician under 25 years of age and want to get involved in our programme, we’d love to hear from you! Email email@example.com.
In June 2021, I had the chance to take part in a training programme with Wishing Well Music for Health, as a mentee healthcare musician at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton. Before hearing about the organisation from a friend, I thought the only way that music and healthcare might overlap was in music therapy. I never knew musicians could go into many different hospital settings and provide musical experiences centered around the patients’ need, in that moment.
Having spent time in hospital myself as a teenager, I had never come across a healthcare musician, but on reflection, I have thought about how I would have found it a refreshing experience, a holistic intervention in the clinical environment that is “hospital”. Having the chance to experience this role has really given me an insight into the ways music can simultaneously affect people’s physical, emotional and spiritual states in a way that shows how music has an important place in healthcare, especially for those in times of crisis.
During my time at The Alex, I had the chance to see a few encounters between children, parents, and carers facilitated by music that were really special. A particular encounter I remember was with a 10-year-old girl who had quite complex needs. She was nonverbal but extremely expressive through facial expressions and sounds. She was very responsive to the violin and she would close her eyes and move her head with the music, joining in with sounds and clicking. I had never seen somebody experience music in such an authentic way and found it particularly moving. Her carer had expressed that she loved the violin and it was very evident as soon as she saw the instrument!
Over the 10 week programme, there were some children who were on the ward for weeks at a time, meaning we had a few sessions with familiar faces. I found it interesting to see children more than once as it was a different experience each time, highlighting the much-needed adaptability of a healthcare musician. Amy, the musician I was working with, took the lead with matching the mood of the room. One week we met a mother of a 7-year-old girl who was just about to have surgery. She was very worried as her daughter was distressed and in pain. Amy and I played the theme of ‘Moana’ softly at the door, allowing space for the girl and her mum to be together, but not alone in their experience.
A week later we came on to the ward to see the little girl sitting up in bed and smiling, with her mum and grandma beside her. I followed Amy’s lead again as we approached in a different way to the week before, playing the same tunes but with a tone that reflected the family’s relief. Her mum thanked us for the 2 times we played for them and it was lovely to see that they remembered us from the week before.
The hospital staff at the Alex were always welcoming to me, and it is clear that the Wishing Well team make a valuable difference in the hospital, both to patients and to staff. This mentor programme was a wonderful experience and a great glimpse into what it takes to be a healthcare musician!