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.

Joe (left) plays piano to accompany David; who is also an experienced folk musician.

Bringing music therapy to life

Joe: “As a music therapist my role is to try to draw people into being more active in music during our sessions. That might be through song choices – say someone’s particularly limited in what they can do – or it might mean going through the instruments and finding something that works for them.

David turns his hand to the xylophone

“It might start with saying “Oh let’s play an instrument, let’s use this”. A lot of the time I’ll suggest using a drum because if you can hit something to a beat, you’re already there. Even if you can just hum something, you’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.”

Getting involved

Joe: “The music sessions that here are organised by Nordoff Robbins, which is the leading music charity here in the UK. It grew out of the pioneering work begun in the sixties by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. They started using music initially as a way of engaging with vulnerable and isolated children.

“I became interested in music therapy during my University studies. I came across one piece of research that was written by a musician in America who trained as a Nordoff Robbins music therapist.

Joe encourages anyone to join in with the music sessions and to pick up an instrument

“This musician was going in and actually playing music with people; not necessarily just trying to make music and have a discussion following it. I looked into it and applied for the same course. 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.”

David, Dudley (a  fellow out-patient) and Joe play a lively rendition of 'Hound dog'

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.”