Making a difference through music
Joe Jezard is a music therapist who works with patients at the Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead. Joe leads weekly music sessions encouraging patients to pick up an instrument and play music. David Thompson is an outpatient with larynx cancer and is one of the group's regulars.
Bringing music therapy to life
Joe: “As a music therapist my role is to draw people into musical experience with a focus on active music making. No matter what a person’s life circumstances or limitations we can find purpose in music and work together musically. I aim to meet a person where they are and start with how they approach an instrument (of which we have many to suit various different situations) or with any personal preferences they may share.
“We may start tentatively on an instrument or with some humming and grow from there. At a time when a person may sense a loss of skills and abilities many people I work with are often surprised with what they can do and experience in music. Even if all a person wants to do is tap a drum, we can build from this and we’re making music.”
David: “As well as group sessions that can lead to performances in the main lounge area of the hospice, Joe also goes around the wards to see in-patients and plays for people – that’s not an easy thing to do. And he does it very well.
“He works hard to open up the sessions to everybody and make absolutely anyone feel welcome, involved and included.”
Joe: “The music therapy provision here is provided by Nordoff Robbins, which is the leading music charity in the UK. It grew out of the pioneering work begun in the fifties and sixties by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. They worked with music initially as a way of engaging and purposefully interacting with vulnerable and isolated children.
I became interested in music therapy during my University studies. I came across a piece of research that was written by a therapist in America who trained with Nordoff Robbins.”
“The author was going in and actually playing music with people; not trying to make music in order to facilitate a discussion afterwards and the musical focus of this approach really struck me. I looked into it and applied for the same course. As well as working in other organisations I’ve been working one day a week at the Hampstead hospice since I qualified.”
David: “I used to play a lot of gigs and concerts, including folk rock gigs with 2,000 people in the crowd. For many years I was unable to play the guitar due to an injury – the muscles in my right breast had fallen completely, and I suffered with arthritis.
“Eventually through physical therapy I managed to strengthen the muscles so I’m able to play again. It’s very tiring now, but with the classes there’s a strong group empathy and I’ve helped to teach others too.”
Being in the moment, together
Joe: “I believe music therapy fits well with the person-centred care that Marie Curie is built upon.
“Everyone has a particular connection and individual relationship with music. At the hospice, we work with people’s potential and interest in music, and their ability to communicate no matter what their health circumstances.
“There’s a lot of value in spontaneity, and people can experience that through music. Through sessions like this when someone is playing an instrument they can enjoy living in the moment.”
David: “People like myself can often fall into their illness and it can consume you. It’s difficult, but it’s important to be well with your condition. There are facilities here at the hospice that cater for your therapy so you can do that. Joe leads these sessions and encourages the people there; you look round and there are all these beaming faces.
“Now I’m nearly dying, I’ve become more concerned about living! I’ve become more myself through music and art therapy, and have since started working every day on creating both.
“It’s good for me, and it makes me feel good about others. Because these sessions are held in a group, they let me focus on other people. It’s not just “me, me, me” and that really helps – that feeling of all being together.”