Wigmore Hall London, 20 September 2012 - A retrospective
During the past two years the research group Lifelong Learning in Music conducted research into the practice of Music for Life. Music for Life is a project of Wigmore Hall Learning and Dementia UK, in association with Jewish Care, aimed at developing interactive music workshops for people living with dementia and their carers. The outcomes of the research will serve as a basis for the training and development of musicians who would like to specialise in this practice. The research results were disseminated in a symposium hosted by Wigmore Hall in London on September 20, 2012.
Musical engagement can enhance communication and well-being and can make the ‘person behind the dementia’ visible again. How does this practice work? How do the people involved learn? What can be learnt for future musician development in this field?
The research results were presented by dr. Rineke Smilde, leader of the research group, Kate Page, MMus and former project manager of Music for Life, and prof. dr. dr. Peter Alheit (University of Göttingen). After an initial research phase, an on-site research took place into an eight-week project in a residential home in London, led by the organization Jewish Care.
The music workshops were observed, the musicians and staff development practitioner were interviewed, and throughout the project they kept a reflective journal. This led to very rich material that could then be processed by the researchers involved.
This qualitative research, which was aimed in particular towards musicians’ practice development, provided important insights into learning and development of all learners involved: musicians, care staff and people living with dementia. The insights gained can help the musicians involved to constantly improve their practice and nurture their reflective skills. The theoretical results of the research provide insight into different dimensions of learning, relevant for the education of (future) musicians in conservatoires.
Rineke Smilde opened the symposium by giving an overview of the research, its methods and outcomes of learning. Kate Page then gave an in-depth illustration of such outcomes by significant quotes gained from interviews and the participants' reflective journals. Peter Alheit finally reflected on the outcomes in terms of development and implications for the educational practice. Overview presentation research Music and Dementia (Powerpoint)
Three parallel presentations followed the session on the research outcomes:
Workshop 1 Being in the circle
What happens in an interactive musical workshop?
Workshopleaders Julian West and Anthony Robb led an interactive music session replicating key aspects of a Music for Life workshop. The session, with accompanying musicians Rus Pearson and Lucy Payne, was aimed at enabling participants to gain insights into the key areas of the interactive music workshop.
Workshops start and end with a small improvised framing composition. The participants are then welcomed and sung to.
Musicians interact through applied improvisation with participants using a variety of small instruments. This enables people who may feel isolated and disempowered as a result of their condition, to explore, enjoy, discover, reminisce and communicate in new ways, identifying and building on areas still intact.
Workshop 2 Exploring Reflective Practice
Peter Renshaw (member research group Lifelong Learning in Music) led an interactive conversation exploring elements of the reflective practice. The conversation involved the practice between Music for Life musicians and care staff: after each Music for Life session musicians and care staff share a debrief where they reflect together on the session, which leads to a better understanding of the interaction and communication that took place.
Workshop 3 Music a,d Dementia
Padraic Garrett (Service Manager Jewish Care) and Linda Rose (founder of Music for Life and consultant of Wigmore Hall Learning) jointly led a session on music and dementia. The session was supported by Gill Yentis and Hilary De Martino (dementia facilitators Jewish Care) and Caroline Welsh (leader and musician development advisor Music for Life). The aim was to reflect upon the individual journeys that people living with dementia, the musicians and the care staff experience in a Music for Life session.
The symposium ended with a panel discussion, led by Barbara Stephens, Chief Executive of Dementia UK. Panel members were Linda Rose, Padraic Garret and Rineke Smilde. During the panel discussion questions could be asked and discussed and the impact of the work of Music for Life was discussed as well.
Articles about the symposium appeared in two Dutch newspapers and on Scienceguide, an influential news site for higher education in The Netherlands.
Transfer to the Netherlands
Follow-up research and development in the Netherlands will take place between September 2012 and September 2014. It is largely funded by the Dutch foundation ‘Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds’. The research conducted so far will inform the development of modules in master programmes and training for musicians. Pilots will take place during this period in two residential homes. The development group will be led by the research group LLM and will involve teachers from the Prince Claus Conservatoire, Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and musicians from Music for Life, Wigmore Hall.
More about the research