Transforming Communities


OWL (Observe – Wait – Listen)

Once in the space, there are a few contextual factors to help you read the room and create an initial connection with patients and families:

  • Observe the space characteristics: cubicle, bay, play area, classroom, family room.
  • Intuitively feel the atmosphere in the room.
  • Think about how you may want to use the space: sitting, standing, close by, at a distance.
  • Consider carefully the position of the child: lying down in bed, sitting, up and about, in a buggy, in a chair.
  • Consider and engage with people present in the room other than the patient (family members, nurses, doctors).
  • Be aware of any medical procedures taking place either before or during your visit. Be sensitive and ask whether it is appropriate to stay and accompany the procedure with music, or not.


Communicating with patients and families

How can I create a relationship that feels safe, honest and trustworthy with children and families who are sometimes at the most vulnerable times of their lives?

Music, used as a primary language, can help establish communication and trust with patients and families. Musicians can create meaningful connections by:

  • Identifying patients’ needs through listening
  • Observing expressions and reactions
  • Personalising the choice of instruments to the patients (sound level, timbres, textures)
  • Exploring physical ways to interact and communicate (eye contact, body language, touch)
  • Valuing the simplest contributions and understanding that they can be transformative
  • Developing each child’s potential
  • Responding to changing circumstances
  • Taking cues from patients and families to end a session (respect their privacy and intimacy)
  • Giving the children a sense of “normal life” through musical play and fun

The videos below show musicians Georgina and Hedi interacting through creative music making with two patients.