My personal journey into this world of music and care began as an interest in the power of music to connect people, to provide a platform for communication without the need for the usual awkward conversational rules of engagement – at which we Brits are frighteningly proficient!
Beginning as an occasional volunteer musician at a children’s hospital, I was fortunate enough to gain a place on a European programme led by the incredible French organisation Musique & Santé, to train as a Musician in Healthcare and later as a Trainer for this practice. This experience fed my passion for the use of music to connect people, whatever their circumstance, and led to my ‘mission’ of providing cultural encounters in clinical environments.
As Chief Executive of OPUS Music Community Interest Company, I’m now surrounded by a team of brilliant musicians/trainers who share in this skill and passion. Together we work in healthcare environments with people of all ages, from babies in neonatal intensive care, to teenagers in mental health settings, to people living with dementia and those nearing the end of life.
Over the past eight years, OPUS has trained many people in the use of music in healthcare. Our courses and apprenticeships for musicians have led to the formation of many new organisations and programmes of practice across the UK. Building this network through conferences and symposia has resulted in the formation of the National Alliance of Musicians in Healthcare which fed into a recent governmental inquiry into the impact of Arts and Health. This inquiry now inextricably connects the UK governmental departments of Health and Culture, imploring them to work together with the shared understanding that the Arts (including music) keeps us well, aids our recovery, and supports longer lives better lived.
So when I first met with Bev Foster back in late 2017, I was excited to hear about the wonderful work of the Room 217 Foundation. For many years, care staff have been inspired by the impact of our practice, and asked for support in continuing purposeful music-making with their patients outside of our visits. We were always happy to provide ideas, to help them explore their own musicality, and to find their own way to use music within their scopes of practice. But now, suddenly here was something carefully researched and designed, something with structure, something to provide a standardised progressive training for carers, something with a name – Music Care!
Over the past year, my team and I have been incredibly fortunate to shadow Sarah Pearson and Chelsea Mackinnon during their delivery of Music Care training in the UK, and to take on this mantle for ourselves. Our first course, in partnership with Nottingham University, took place in November 2018 and was wonderful to deliver and to watch our participants grow in confidence and excitement at the prospect of taking new music care initiatives back to their own settings. This is just the beginning of a process of rolling Music Care out across the UK, a process which OPUS is excited to lead in partnership with Room 217 Foundation.
And now, at the beginning of 2019, I am preparing for a trip to Toronto and to the home of Room 217 in Port Perry. I’m excited to be meeting with other Music Care trainers, to sharing ideas together for the continued development of this curriculum and training, and to connecting through music-making with this incredible group of people. Exciting times ahead!
Nick Cutts is Chief Executive, OPUS Music Community Interest Company