Case Study: Musical Mentoring at Alder Hey Hospital
Musical Mentoring is a partnership project with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool that aims to inspire and develop children and young people who are long term patients through music making, whilst simultaneously improving the experience of being in hospital. Launched in March 2015 with funding from the National Foundation for Youth Music, the project has also trained and supported four Live Music Now North West musicians to develop their skills and practice of delivering music sessions in a paediatric healthcare setting.
When the Musical Mentoring project began, Sian was a sixteen year old long term patient at the hospital, who had complications with her insulin production and was prone to collapsing. She also suffered from depression and anxiety and had been home schooled. In June 2015, she started having regular sessions with LMN percussionist Delia Stevens. Sian had previously played the clarinet but struggled with her self-esteem and confidence. When Delia began working with her, it became apparent that Sian had a natural aptitude for music but needed support and mentoring to give her confidence and belief in her own abilities. The pair worked together to extend Sian’s musical knowledge, try different drumming techniques and create compositions based on Sian’s favourite music genre, heavy metal. They devised soundscapes using rhythms of Sian’s favourite bands and layering them up, and finally a whole composition which they performed to her mum, sister, staff nurse and teacher.
During sessions, Sian opened up to Delia that she struggled with confidence and that music with Delia lifted her mood. It was a great distraction, helping to clear her mind. She really wanted to have a musical career and questioned Delia about her career and musical journey.
Following many months in hospital, Sian was discharged from hospital only to be readmitted in February 2016. Her sessions resumed with Delia, and this time, they worked together to create a composition which would be performed in a musical celebration event, the culmination of this project. At this, Sian performed with five other professional musicians in the main atrium of the hospital, playing both guitar and drums, and performing her own composition to around 70 people in the audience. This was a hugely successful event and for Sian, a sign of the great steps she had taken.
“It was really cool performing in the main atrium and it was also scary. I was more confident with the guitar than the drums.”
During her time away from hospital, Sian had been so inspired by working with Delia that she started having both guitar and drumming lessons. She had also joined a metal band, writing original material and playing guitar and drums.
“I’ve been in Alder Hey a lot but this is the first music project I’ve participated in. It has really helped me to be here. I was very inspired by Delia and started having music lessons. Music is my life. It’s my distraction and coping mechanism for being here. I looked forward to the music sessions. For example, I was on a fast, having lots of bloods taken but having the time with Delia helped me to forget all that. Awesome! Doctors look at the physical side but don’t necessarily consider the mental. I’ve struggled with my mental health but music helps me to manage this. Music is definitely a confidence builder.”
For LMN musician Delia, the project was also significant:
“These sessions also meant a lot to me as I felt it became an equal, creative partnership in an unlikely environment. Time passed incredibly quickly as we were always bouncing ideas off each other and were so engaged in what we were doing. I am pleased that I got to learn about her interests and that we could tie this in with the music making.”
Sian was one of many patients at Alder Hey who received significant benefit from the Musical Mentoring project. 76% of patients who took part in the project during 2015-16 said that it enabled them to forget about their illness or condition and 85% of patients felt that the hospital experienced had been significantly improved due to music making. Musical Mentoring enabled Alder Hey to deliver musical engagement on an unprecedented scale and has clearly demonstrated the value and benefits of music making within a paediatric healthcare environment.
For a shorter version of this film visit https://vimeo.com/187189046