Musician Sadie Fleming reflects on her journey with Live Music Now…
I started as a musician with Live Music Now (LMN) in 2014. I had just put a new album out and done a little tour. I had been performing in care homes and community settings for a while, and was keen to do more of this work. I saw an advert for LMN and thought I would give it a go.
I was so excited to get through the auditions and meet other musicians on a similar journey at the induction. I had no idea what to expect, or how much of an impact it would have on my life and my work.
Like all LMN musicians, I have made so many amazing memories through this work – in care homes, hospitals, hospices, special schools and community settings. Performing to people in their last hours. Singing for parents and babies in neo-natal intensive care units. Making music with kids who don’t engage with anything else. Singing with people with dementia, who knew more lyrics than I did. Hearty singalongs with veterans. Singing and dancing with people in hospital (who were meant to be in their beds!) Staff joining in and having fun during long shifts. Participants talking after sessions, for the first time in months. So many extraordinary moments and beautiful interactions that will stay with me for a lifetime.
Music can have such an impact on people, and bringing music to these settings is such a wonderful opportunity.
Two particular memories stand out from my early days with Live Music Now: one, where I was doing a New Age Music residency with Julia Turner at a care home in Gloucestershire. We were told that one of the men with dementia used to play piano. After a few sessions, he was inspired to try out the keyboard on the iPad, then progressed to jamming along on my keyboard – he was incredibly talented and his music came flooding back. Staff and his family hadn’t seen him like this in years! The power of music was amazing to see, and I still remember a little riff he taught me.
The other time that comes to mind was performing in a hospice in Taunton. I had played some songs in the day centre and in the corridors, and a couple in one of the rooms asked to hear some music. The husband was in his last days. I asked what they liked and they both said artists from the 60s and 70s so I suggested The Beatles and Bob Dylan. When I started the second song, I noticed tears streaming down his wife’s face – I had picked it at random but it turned out to be ‘their song’. It was heartbreaking but they were both so happy to hear the song, and were holding hands and beaming at each other through teary eyes by the end.
The training and mentoring programmes with Live Music Now have been brilliant.
The training supported me to become more flexible, adaptable, resilient, and helped to develop my ability to meet different needs, abilities and preferences on the fly. I found the Makaton and music technology training particularly useful, and still use a lot of this in my work. The Practice Forums and dementia training were so inspiring, including this video of Henry (Alive Inside) that made us all cry!
The Inspire programme influenced my career most significantly – once I started working in special schools, I felt this was the direction I wanted to go in. I did levels 1 and 2 at Claremont School in Bristol, then undertook two separate year-long residencies in schools in Bath and Yeovil. These were the most joyful, challenging and rewarding experiences – I loved that every session was different and you would never quite know what was going to happen! Having time to share ideas and experiences with other musicians on the level 3 was so beneficial too.
Live Music Now supported me to do the Sounds of Intent PGCert (Music and Children with Special Needs) alongside the second residency. This was an incredible opportunity, and has had a huge impact on my practice. I now use Sounds of Intent to underpin my provision, as well as to plan, differentiate and reflect upon sessions and developments in all my work.
Working with LMN has certainly opened doors and led to more work in this area. I now work in special schools, community settings, with families and online to facilitate music sessions, predominantly with disabled people. I work with Soundabout, The Amber Trust, Evolve Music, The Music Train and Electric Umbrella – as well as working as a mentor for Live Music Now, all thanks to LMN taking a chance on me! It is a real joy to see the insanely talented musicians starting out in their Live Music Now careers – and I’m particularly pleased that Chris Webb and Holly Carter are on the roster, after highly recommending LMN to them.
It was a treat to bump into Holly and Evan [Dawson, former Live Music Now Executive Director] at Claremont School in Bristol a few weeks ago. Holly was doing a wonderful performance in the hall, and I was on a break from music sessions with the pupil premium students. Claremont was the first special school I played in, and sparked my love for this work. I was reminded of the most magical improvisations with two pupils in the first session there. They were completely immersed in the music – smiling, moving, conducting us and joining in with vocalisations and ThumbJam. Their teaching assistant was very moved by their responses and interactions – she said she had been working in the school for years and had never seen them respond in this way. She still works there, and still remembers it, 9 years later.
I know every LMN musician has a different journey – I am so grateful for mine. Live Music Now has changed my life for the better and I couldn’t be happier. It has been lovely to reflect on my time with LMN – thanks for asking me!