Steve Cardownie: Music therapy strikes a chord with so many

Nordoff Robbins' music therapy sessions can help children with a variety of health conditions
Nordoff Robbins' music therapy sessions can help children with a variety of health conditions
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I had a very interesting conversation at the weekend with Carolyne Nurse, fundraising director of Nordoff Robbins Scotland. She took the time to explain to me what the organisation does and its effects on participants in their various programmes.

Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins carried out experimental musical work with many of the most disabled and unreachable children who had suffered distress and self-harm in their short lives. The children were enthralled by specifically chosen harmonies, rhythms and melodies and with their participation in the music, they started to develop self-awareness.

Lord Provost Frank Ross will chair this week's full council meeting. Picture: Greg Macvean

Lord Provost Frank Ross will chair this week's full council meeting. Picture: Greg Macvean

The therapist uses music through a wide range of instruments including simple percussion and voice to connect to the person and engage them in music to respond like a conversation using musical instruments rather than using just words.

The aim is that the participant leads the session and has control – and for some people it may be the only part of their life where they do have control and this boosts their self-confidence.

Carolyne said: “How someone plays an instrument can reveal their emotions – loudly for anger or frustration or softly for anxiety. Music is universal and affects us all in different ways. It is not a cure and it can take a number of sessions to have an impact, depending on the person’s diagnosis and situation.”

After more than 20 years in this country Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Scotland is coming up for its first year in Edinburgh. Every week in its head office at 4 Logie Mill, Beaverbank Business Park, 20 people receive music therapy. They range in ages from under-fives to 60-plus and the therapy helps them with health conditions which include learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy and complex neurological conditions. In addition a team of five therapists work in schools, special units, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and the Royal Blind School.

Five-year-old Hannah has a rare and challenging genetic disorder and struggles with speech and engagement. She has been receiving music therapy every week for a year.

Her parents, Lesley and Justin, have seen a remarkable transformation in their daughter in terms of self-expression and interaction as a result of music therapy.

Hannah loves the nursery song The Wheels on the Bus. Lesley explained: “She didn’t just sing it back, copying what she had heard, but she used her own words about what she did that day. It was incredible.

“That hour on a Friday when she is in music therapy is the happiest hour of the week.”

The process of referral is simple, and can be through a relative, health professional, teacher, social worker, support worker or indeed by self-referral. A fee is charged but a bursary fund is in place to ensure people can access music therapy if they need it. Tom Ponton, chairman of Nordoff Robbins East of Scotland, said: “Fundraising is essential to ensure that full costs are covered. We undertake a number of fundraising events and will be holding a major fundraising dinner at the Prestonfield House Hotel on March 23, 2018.”

At a time when many of us are enjoying listening to music at the Festival just for the sheer enjoyment it is fascinating that through the medium of music so much can be done for those who desperately need it.

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To be Frank, this will be a long meeting

This Thursday’s city council meeting promises to last a great deal longer than most and may be a sign of things to come.

With 25 written questions, which may be followed up by verbal questions if necessary, and 12 motions up for discussion it looks like Lord Provost Frank Ross (who chairs the meeting) will have his work cut out ensuring that business is dealt with in an efficient – and I am sure that the LP will handle the meeting in an exemplary manner.

Nevertheless, adding appointments and eight reports into the mix means that it is likely to be a long day.

One of the reports to be discussed is the Programme for the Capital: The City of Edinburgh Business Plan for 2017-22, which is the coalition’s plan for the next five years (if it lasts that long). The plan contains five strategic aims (and 52 commitments) – A Vibrant City; A City of Opportunity; A Resilient City; A Forward-looking Council and an Empowering Council.

The leader of the Conservative group, Councillor Iain Whyte (a man not noted for searching for a bushel under which to hide his light) has already lambasted the Programme as “lots of grand plans and meaningless statements” and Councillor Scott Arthur has questioned the expansion of Gaelic Medium Education (surely as a member of the Labour group he would have been consulted on the draft document?). This item promises what should be a lively debate.

Readers can attend the council meeting in person or watch the webcast.

High finance and low politics

Three City of Edinburgh councillors were recently reported as being in financial arrears with the local authority and steps are being taken to resolve this issue.

However, one group may have come up with a novel solution for one of their members, and that is that the group/party will settle the arrears (if they have not already done so), ensuring that any embarrassment is kept to a minimum.

This will also provide a bonus (perhaps the real motivation?) in that the elected member will be so grateful that any thoughts about potentially “crossing the floor” to one of the other parties will be put on hold – for now at least.