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Music and Health

World Alzheimers Day

The Healing Power Of Music

Transforming Lives During Alzheimer’s Awareness Week

It’s World Alzheimer’s Day and we are joining the conversation sharing stories of resilience, connection, and wellbeing.

Stories of people like Jean, an older lady living with vascular dementia, who found solace in the soothing power of music.


The Impact of Music: Transforming Care Environments

Jean's Story: A Remarkable Encounter with Music

Jean’s story is a testament to the incredible impact that music can have on individuals living with dementia. She would often call out in distress, searching for a connection with her loved ones. However, her story took a heartwarming turn when Mary (our Associate Musician) sat down beside her and offered the gift of music-making.

As Mary played, Jean’s cries of distress gradually softened. The calling out became less agitated, and moments of serenity emerged. What made this experience truly remarkable was the power of a shared voice. When Jean cried out, “God help me!” Mary transitioned the piece into the soothing melody of “Amazing Grace.” As Mary played, Jean began to join in. Singing the last line with clarity, bringing a smile to her face.

Mary played other hymns which provided a welcome distraction as the nurses administered Jean’s medication. A close friend of Jean’s visited, and joined in as they all sang “Amazing Grace” together. Jean mouthed the words along with them, relishing the moment of connection and joy.

The story of Jean is just one example of the profound impact of music on individuals living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As caregivers and healthcare professionals have observed, music can bring remarkable changes to care environments. 

Music offers the space for connection, it can create a communication without words, reaching neural pathways that fire subconsciously and can ignite memories once forgot.

"A long-standing patient has got great comfort from the music and singing. The patient who has dementia usually gives no eye contact and will just shout out and screw up her face. Today this patient has her eyes open, the most beautiful smile and is humming along to the music. We need more of this on the wards. Today our ward is so calm due to the music. Seeing the positive response by patients has brought a tear to my eye."
Nurse
University Hospital


Take Me As You Find Me: A Song by OPUS Music

In our quest to raise awareness on World Alzheimer’s Day,  we wanted to share our song “Take Me As You Find Me.” You can listen to it here. This song portrays the experiences and emotions of the response to our practice within dementia care. It reminds us of the importance of empathy and understanding.

"It really changes the atmosphere; while they're playing you don't hear all the coughing and beeping; it makes the patients more comfortable. We deal with lots of patients with dementia, and you often see them dancing to the music and playing along. You can learn a lot about a patient's history and find out more about them. It's so important when it comes to individualising care. How can you care for a patient holistically if you don't really know them?"
Nurse
University Hospital


OPUS Music's Commitment to Dementia Care

In addition to our musical contributions in health and care settings, here at OPUS Music we are making a meaningful impact in the community. Thanks to Arts Council Funding, we are running a series of workshops in Bolsover for families living with dementia. Our new team of community musicians are bringing music to families and facilitating music-making sessions that support their health and wellbeing. This initiative exemplifies the positive change that can be achieved through the healing power of music.

As we commemorate World Alzheimer’s Day, let us be inspired by stories like Jean’s, where the simple act of sharing music can bring comfort, connection, and joy to those living with dementia. Music is a powerful tool for transforming care environments and enhancing the quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Join us as we continue to explore the healing power of music and work towards a more inclusive and compassionate world for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and the broader initiatives to support individuals with dementia, you can refer to the following resources:

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/world-alzheimers-day

https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources

https://www.alzheimers.gov/life-with-dementia/resources-caregivers

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-dementia-resources-for-professionals

Together, we can make a difference and create a more supportive and understanding society for those living with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2023

Creativity and Wellbeing Week

The 15th to the 21st of May 2023 hosts Creativity and Wellbeing week, and Mental Health Awareness week. We are joining the conversation on mental health and sharing ways in which we support our own mental wellbeing.


For many of us creativity can be a way to express our feelings and boost our mood. This may be through music making, singing, dancing, painting, and a host of other practices. Sometimes it can be the creativity in the world around us that inspires us and offers a space for calm reflection. This week we’re asking, ‘What do you do to support your mental health?’

How are you mindful of your mental health?

Nick

I’m lucky that I live in a place that is surrounded by countryside. From trails cutting through the countryside, often relics of now disused railway lines, to parklands, once open-cast industrial sites now abundant with developing flora and fauna. I’m also lucky that our family includes a walk and water-loving Labrador who gives us the ‘excuse’ to explore these places frequently.

I often find snippets of songs and melodies in my head as I walk. Sometimes I think set off by the rhythmic motion of walking, but often inspired by the surroundings. As those who know me well, I love to make up a lyric about the situation at the drop of a hat, something very useful in our Healthcare Musician practice. The melodies that come into my head usually stay in there for a while, inspired knowingly or sub-consciously by something seen or heard. They are often forgotten by the end of the walk as the next thing becomes more ‘important’, and that’s OK with me. It’s not about any kind of artistic end-result, but the impact of the journey (or the walk in this case). These moments of calm and creative solitude are really important, and often leave me ready to tackle the next challenge, to complete that piece of work that’s been weighing heavily on my mind, or to continue in the creative vein with some music-making. I think our work often creates a space for people to escape into that moment of creative ‘calmness’, so important for our health and wellbeing.

Take One Day

This video, created for our Take One A Day programme towards the end of 2020 was an attempt at capturing the results of this creative inspiration during a walk, before it was lost.  It was inspired by a White Egret who’s rock I borrowed to sit and play out the tune that followed.

Molly

Similarly to Nick, I find music can transport me, and help get my feelings out. I often find myself creatively inspired when I am frustrated, sad, or something eventful has happened. Creating music helps me to work through these emotions and events and make sense of them. I also love putting on my favourite songs in the car, or when I am at home and sing and dance (not in the car!) to boost my mood, and get all that energy out.

Last week I was delighted to receive a video from a patient showing Nick and Rich singing to a newborn. That sharing of music not only supported that family in that moment, but came to me at a time when I really needed it, and totally changed my day. The effect music has on us is amazing. To me, the sharing of music is such a generous and special experience. Although we talk everyday, we forget we can use our voices to sing, and express words with more meaning.

As a sociable person, I love spending time with my friends and family and find that talking through things that are on your mind always helps. Even if it is something very trivial, if you are a happy listening ear, others will often reciprocate. It can be useful to go for a walk and have a chat with a friend. By walking you are mirroring the conversation moving forward, working things out step by step, and hopefully coming to a conclusion by the end. I always try to check in on my friends and family and drop them a text or call to see how they are doing and remind them that someone is thinking about them. Sometimes it is just the acknowledgement that you are there that can help someone when they feel isolated.

Take a Breath

I created this video to help us all take a minute, breathe and be mindful of ourselves and our surroundings in this moment.

 

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is often used as a therapeutic technique, and helps calm and reduce stress.

 

Watch the video and find out more about Mindfulness and the ‘STOP’ technique.

Oli

Our mental health today feels more important than ever before to look after, care and nurture it regularly, similar to our practical health considerations. For many of us, the pandemic really challenged our mental health and the stability of wellbeing, with everyone of us navigating a different route through the lockdowns. Whether it be connecting over Zoom or Teams or simply meeting up with our chosen 1 person in which to chat and refresh that sense of belonging. 

For me, as a Healthcare Musician, I really lost that sense of playing for and with patients in real time and in person. However I felt very lucky, being a musician, having the ability to channel my loss of interacting with others into a more creative output of writing pieces of music with different intentions, to share online and hopefully aid someone else’s wellbeing that day. This in turn supported my own wellbeing and mental health too, giving me a sense of purpose again.

I think sometimes it is easy to forget the power music can have on peoples lives everywhere, regardless of whether they are a musician or not. Music can act as a wonderful blanket of comfort in that time of need, whether it be a particular song with powerful lyrics that speaks to you or a particular ear worm tune that you just can’t help but hum or sing. So if there is a particular pressing thought that is pressing on your mind, its always worth turning to your musical blanket to seek some comfort in your own wellbeing and mental health.

Sarah

This musical video was created as part of our work at Hopewood CAMHS unit in Nottingham in Dec 2022, creating online resources for young people to listen to, engage with and perhaps play along to.

I decided to put together a very simple chill-out piece using the instruments (Ukulele, HAPI drum, Xylophone, and Tar Drum) that we usually use in our practice in hospital settings, and also wanted to include soft vocal textures.

The visuals were collected throughout lockdown, as I, like so many, found new things and places to focus my time on, and found great comfort in the natural landscape around me.  Most of them are of outdoor scenes on walks around Derbyshire – some a little further afield when we were allowed to.

I hope the end result is a trance-like piece of music with accompanying scenes that will draw you in. Watch and listen out for the stars of the show – the grouse and the robin! Both the relaxing feel of the music and the chilled pace of nature in the videos is designed to soothe the soul and give you time out for about 6 minutes.  I really hope you enjoy it…

Ben

For me, maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing means knowing when to pause, redirect or stop. Being able to spot the signs of overwhelm, anxiety or stress within yourself and then having something purposeful to do until the feelings pass is essential. I enjoy going for a walk at those times – what works for you?

Comfort and Connection through Quiet Confidence

Comfort and Connection through Quiet Confidence

Towards the end of February, we were working our way through the hospital and we came to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Rich and patient and healthcare staff
"OPUS music are fantastic! As staff, we are so relieved when we see them walk through the unit doors. Today they came to the unit, we had a delirious patient that was hearing sound. They asked if now was a good time and we welcomed them greatly. OPUS music started playing and immediately the patient settled and relaxed back into their bed. They continued to play and calmed the patient so much that they fell into a deep and comfortable sleep ... They are so welcome and needed. They bring calm and positivity with them and help to make our jobs easier. They always manage to make the patients and family experience happier and nicer."
Healthcare Staff

Rich Kensington and I were suddenly called on by staff attending a young patient who was experiencing delirium and demonstrating distress at various sounds in the room. The situation appeared quite urgent. The staff stated that medical and nursing interventions were not working and they felt sure we should try some music. There was a sense of immediacy in the request and the staff seemed confident that music would be an effective alternative. We considered what to play / sing and how to deliver the piece.

We began purposefully and quite upbeat, with intensity to match the young person’s tempo and distress. After a few lines of the song, the young person connected with the music and a few changes were observed. Their own vocal noises lessened, movements became smaller, and they paused every now and again to listen. Rich moved the piece to a slower and more gentle tempo, but still with a strong vocal connection. Through this time we noted our own heartbeats racing, as a result of the intensity of the situation, and we realised we needed to bring our own internal energy levels down to assist the young patient.

We brought the pace right down singing a well-known lullaby song and keeping the vocal tone strong, open and connected. We reflected afterwards that this strength and consistency of voice may provide a focus for someone struggling through their own delirium to hang on to for a comfort and a way out.

Through the development of our practice over the years, we have constantly reflected upon the importance of being able to deliver strong, confident, quiet playing in hospital settings – to be able to match the volume of the environment suitably, but to sound positive in doing so. This situation reaffirmed that learning and caused us to really consider the impact of warm and present vocal tones and open-hearted singing in such a sensitive healthcare environment.

Eventually the young person relaxed so far, that their parent could allow their previous restraint to become a soothing embrace, and they finally fell into a deep sleep. We moved a little further away from this person’s bed area and playing our last gentle piece for the whole room to relax and gain a calmer inner state again.

This proved a powerful experience for the musicians too and one which has stayed with us both.

"This service is absolutely invaluable. Today they arrived and immediately calmed an incredibly delirious patient. It was exactly what was needed ... it is invaluable to provide holistic patient care. Thank you again for today your timing was absolutely perfect. Medical and nursing interventions were not helping, but this provided an immediate effect."
Healthcare Staff

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National Portfolio Organisation

OPUS Music becomes National Portfolio Organisation

OPUS Music CIC is delighted to become part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from 1 April 2023

OPUS Music has been awarded £145,000 per year over the next three years by Arts Council England. This new investment reflects the significant role that OPUS plays locally, regionally, and nationally in the delivery, training, and advocacy for the use of music within health and social care. 

The funding will support the development of three new communities of practice based within the Ashfield, Bolsover, and Nottingham regions with a specific focus upon supporting people experiencing mental health challenges.

 It will allow OPUS to reach a wide range of musicians and participants, building an increasingly diverse and inclusive approach to the use of music within health and social care.

“We are delighted and hugely grateful to have been chosen as one of Arts Council England’s new National Portfolio organisations over the next 3 years This investment comes at a time when we are increasingly recognising the power that music can have on our lives, especially when we are experiencing health challenges. We are looking forward to working even more closely with these three communities, developing more, and increasingly relevant opportunities for people of all ages to both lead and to engage in music and music-making. We are excited to be working with them to create opportunities to explore how music can play an important part of the health and wellbeing of themselves and of their communities.”
OPUS Music Team
Nick Cutts
CEO

Re-Connecting

Re-Connecting

The morning’s Healthcare Musician practice had joys that ranged from the first smile of a very young baby in the Neonatal Unit to the last song of an older person’s life.

As I take a few moments to reflect upon what it means to be back in hospitals making music, I am once again overwhelmed by the human connection and depth of emotion tapped into by musical interactions in person.

As OPUS musicians, we profoundly felt the frustrations of not being able to be involved and to be present within the spaces at all for the last three years. It has taken such a lot to come back to work, and we are so delighted to be doing it once again. As the crisis of COVID-19 slips a little more into the past, we now find ourselves as Healthcare Musicians able to bring something of connective humanity into these difficult and delicate spaces once more.

We took our time in choosing the right moment and piece of music for the new family in the NICU. Twinkle Twinkle was chosen. The parents videoed their little one as they seemed to be sleeping. Then, just gradually, the first little smile appeared across their face. Then once and twice more before the final verse was sung. How special it was as Dad went back through the video and froze the frame where he saw his little one smile for the very first time. How wonderful to play this intimate role in helping to make memories for this family from such an early age.

For the older person we met later that same morning, it seemed hard to choose the piece to play to begin with. What would have the right content for this human being who had lived a long full life and was nearing the end of the journey? Having spoken with the relative, who had enthusiastically beckoned us in, we settled on Diamond Day – a lovely gentle piece including elements of descriptors of the countryside, the horses passing, the crops growing, and the people that you meet as you go through life. We were then told that they had owned a cart horse when very young and had often spoken about this. We had, fortunately, picked something truly connective and meaningful for this family experience.

Another older patient videoed us playing and singing Edelweiss all through. At the end they said “Aw, that was romantic! We do need a bit of that right now, don’t we?!” I think I know just what they meant…

It is important to reflect that these in person experiences are potentially powerful and meaningful for both the patients AND the Healthcare Musician. It is part our chosen professional musical world, and for the last three years there has been a definite void…

– Sarah Matthews

Recruiting OPUS Board Members

Recruiting OPUS Board Members

We are looking to recruit at least 2 additional board members (voluntary) to support our ambitious plans for the development our organisation and practice, our engagement with the health and social care sector, and our relationship with our communities with whom we co-produce improved health and wellbeing outcomes. ​

Please consider joining us in taking the next steps of our exciting journey!

More information about OPUS Music CIC is available in the linked document: OPUS information February 2023

Board member (Voluntary)

Main Responsibilities

 
  • Ensuring OPUS Music CIC complies with legislative and regulatory requirements, and acts within the confines of its governing document (Articles of Association), company law, policies and other relevant legislation or regulations.
  • Maintaining sound financial management of OPUS Music CIC’s resources, ensuring expenditure is in line with the organisation’s objects, mission and vision.
  • Contributing actively to the board’s role in offering strategic input to OPUS Music CIC in partnership with the artistic and production teams.
  • Evaluating outputs against agreed goals and targets.
  • Safeguarding the good name and values of OPUS Music CIC.
  • Promoting and developing OPUS Music CIC in order for it to grow and maintain its relevance to society.
  • Interviewing, appointing and monitoring the work and activities of the Chief Executive and other members of the OPUS team as/when required.
  • Ensuring the effective and efficient administration of OPUS Music CIC and its resources.
  • Acting as a counter-signatory on charity cheques and any applications for funds, if required.
  • Maintaining absolute confidentiality about all sensitive/confidential information received in the course of board members’ responsibilities to OPUS Music CIC.

In addition to the above statutory duties, each board member should use any specific skills, knowledge or experience they have to help the board reach sound decisions.

This may involve:

Leading discussions
Focusing on key issues
Providing advice and guidance on new initiatives 
Evaluation or other issues in which the board member has special expertise

Members are expected to attend all board meetings unless under exceptional circumstances. Board meetings are held four times a year and usually take part online via MS Teams (in person at least once per year). Papers are distributed a minimum of one week in advance of the meeting.

In exceptional circumstances, board members may be called to extraordinary meetings. EGMs are held for the consideration of non-recurring business that requires approval by the board and will be held online.

Board away-days may be held (a maximum of two per year), at which members are encouraged to attend where possible. Away-days are held in person and focus on discrete areas of development or of significant relevance at the time.

Board members may claim out of pocket expenses incurred in travelling to meetings.

We warmly welcome applications from those who are significantly underrepresented in our organisation and sector, including disabled people, and individuals from LGBTQIA+, Black, Asian and Global Majority Communities.  We are particularly keen to hear from members of the communities we serve or work alongside.

How to apply

In the first instance, please get in touch with Nick Cutts, Chief Executive, OPUS Music CIC for a conversation about becoming a board member.

07786 157515
nick@opusmusic.org

OPUS’ return to music-making at Leicester Children’s Hospital

An impactful return to music-making at Leicester Children's Hospital

We’re delighted to be back at Leicester Children’s Hospital on a weekly basis, making music for and with patients, their families and visitors and the wonderful multi-disciplinary team of healthcare staff.  Whilst we’ve been working at the hospital since 2012, our visits have been on hold during the COVID pandemic.  21 September 2022 saw our long-awaited return to practice, and it’s been wonderful to witness the impact so far.  It’s great to be back!

We are extremely grateful for the support of Leicester Hospitals Charity in enabling our return to practice at the Children’s Hospital.

musiccareconference

Music Care Conference - Presented in Hybrid format from Vancouver, Canada

10 Reasons to Come to Music Care Conference 2022

  1. Learn and experience how music supports your health and wellness
  1. An amazing group of speakers (see below) explain how they are using music in care
  1. Hear Susan Aglukark, named 2022 Junos Humanitarian of the year, tell her story
  2. Meet Dr. Corene Thaut, co-founder of neurologic music therapy, and the impact of her work
  1. Great value! $130/person, seniors/students $75 including lunch and refreshments
  1. Amazing location! – at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, across from the Sky Train
  1. Hybrid! If you can’t attend in person, come virtually – $75/person – 9-4:30 PST
  1. Exhibitors and music store on site
  1. Network! Make some new friends who share your interest in music and care
  1. Discover current research on music and health topics
 
note published times for this conference are in PST (8 hours behind GMT

Marketing and Communications Manager

We're recruiting: Marketing and Communications Manager

Download: Full details including person specification
Download: OPUS Music CIC background information 

OPUS Music CIC (OPUS) is looking to engage a dynamic, forward-thinking person to manage OPUS’ marketing and communications. This role is offered initially for a period of 2 years and is offered on a flexible, self-employed basis of 80 days per year. The role is supported by funding from Youth Music’s Recharge Fund. We hope to both expand and extend the role over the 2-year period subject to further funding.

Role Purpose
• With support from Chief Executive Nick Cutts, to continuously develop and enact OPUS’ marketing and communications strategy

• To engage stakeholders and audiences in dialogue through appropriate methods and platforms in order to capitalise upon partnerships and expand OPUS’ reach

Operational Responsibilities

• To create and post marketing and communications content (with support from the Chief Executive and artistic team) to ensure that the messages and stories of OPUS’ practice are heard by a wide variety of stakeholders and audiences
• To work alongside marketing and communications teams within partner organisations to ensure that communications are appropriate, collaborative and impactful
• To promote training and other opportunities to the Arts/Music and Health/Care sectors utilising media/platforms as deemed appropriate (with support as required from the Chief Executive and/or artistic team)
• To ensure that OPUS’ web-based content is up-to-date and refreshed appropriately
• To develop marketing and communications materials (with the support of the Chief Executive and Creative Team) as appropriate
• To engage in networking, gathering contacts and connections for OPUS through a variety of channels
• To keep informed on current developments within this rapidly developing area of work and respond to these in a timely manner

Role/Fees
The role is offered on a on a flexible, self-employed basis with a fee available of £150 per day for 80 days per year (nominally 2 days per week for 40 weeks of the year).

Place of work
You will need to work from your own base and provide all facilities such as own computer, printer, broadband connection and telephone. No additional fees are available to cover costs associated with equipment/ office base.

Contract
The appointment will start as soon as possible with the role currently anticipated to run for a minimum period of 2 years. The contract will include a 3-month probationary period, at the end of which either party may terminate the contract.

Equality and Diversity
We welcome applications from all sections of the community, particularly those currently under-represented within OPUS Music CIC and the Arts and Health sector.

How to apply
Please send a letter of application detailing how you meet the person specification (no more than 2 sides of A4), with an accompanying CV, including the names of two referees to nick@opusmusic.org

Please direct any questions to Chief Executive Nick Cutts:
nick@opusmusic.org
Tel: 07786 157515

Your application should arrive no later than 5pm on Wednesday 26th October.
We will inform candidates who have been shortlisted for interview on Friday 28th October.
Interviews will be held via MS Teams on the morning of Friday 4th November.