Music for Life is a pioneering programme for people living with dementia and their families, friends and carers
Founded by Linda Rose in 1993 and led by Wigmore Hall since 2009, over the course of the past 25 years the programme has continued to develop from working primarily in care settings to incorporating a growing number of projects and events in community settings and at the Hall itself. We are proud to work in partnership with a range of organisations to provide meaningful opportunities for people at all stages of dementia.
Core Projects in Care Settings
The core projects in care settings remain at the heart of the programme, with the ethos and learning from each project continuing to inspire the programme as a whole. Each project provides a unique opportunity to explore new and creative ways of connecting and communicating.
Over the course of 8 weeks, a team of 3 professional musicians work alongside 8 people living with dementia and 5 members of care staff to improvise music together. The programme manager attends and observes each session along with a dementia facilitator who supports the staff development, reflecting on the learning and the legacy of the project within the setting.
Each session is structured as follows:
Set-up meetings take place before each project to ensure we gain a commitment from the setting, have time to explain the project to the staff teams, and can select residents to participate, who are identified by staff as people that would benefit from taking part.
The projects offer three interlinked strands of work:
Music for Thought
In partnership with Resonate Arts and the Royal Academy of Music, we run creative music-making projects for people who are living in their own homes but may be at risk of increased social isolation. Participants are recruited through Resonate Arts, who support people before, during and after each project. Participants are often new to dementia services, and the projects provide safe and relaxed environments in which people can take part in an activity in their local community, as well as providing links and pathways for participants to all the other opportunities that Music for Life has to offer.
The sessions are led by musicians from our Music for Life team alongside students from the Royal Academy of Music, developing the skills of the emerging workforce. Before the music session begins, participants are welcomed for tea and coffee, which encourages social interaction and provides a space for new friendships to form and develop. The sessions are responsive to each group, but typically include a combination of improvisation, exploration of instruments, performances of existing repertoire, lyric writing and singing. Projects often use a theme or topic for creative inspiration, with the sessions recorded in order to create a CD for participants to celebrate the pieces created together.
Music for the Moment
Music for the Moment is a monthly concert series set up by the Royal Academy of Music in partnership with Wigmore Hall, Resonate Arts and St Marylebone Parish Church. The concerts are free, include free refreshments, and are aimed at people living with dementia, their friends, families and carers. Julian West, Head of Open Academy, supports students from the Royal Academy of Music in devising these one-hour concerts, ensuring they are accessible for the audience. Staff and volunteers at both venues (St Marylebone Church and Wigmore Hall) aim to create a relaxed and welcoming environment, and people are welcome to come and go as they wish.
Singing with Friends
As part of the ongoing development of our Music for Life programme, we are delighted to have launched our first choir for families living with dementia in partnership with Resonate Arts.
The group meets weekly and together chose the name Singing with Friends, which captures the essence of the sessions perfectly. There is a strong focus on vocal production and technique as well as exploring an ambitious range of repertoire, from sea shanties to opera. Sessions are led in a responsive, person-centred way, working in the moment to connect and communicate through singing.
Since its formation in January 2017, the choir has gone from strength to strength, sharing many musical moments and successes together including taking part in a recording for BBC Radio 3, featuring in an article for The Telegraph, giving termly performances onstage at Wigmore Hall, being selected as a finalist for a Dementia Care Award in the Outstanding Arts and Creativity in Dementia Care category, and performing at Buckingham Palace.
“It widens the horizons of my life. It gives me a lot of happiness and it keeps me going.”
“I feel there is something very, very good about it and that it’s nice to be alive here.”
“The audience’s standing ovation made me so happy to hear they enjoyed it.”
“Something very good about it, meeting friends we are getting to know.”
“It’s terrific fun when you can sing your heart out. It’s joyous.”
“I’ve never sung in public before and I’m loving it.”
“Wow! I’ve never sung on a stage before.”
“It’s wonderful. It cheers us up.”
“Music is my medicine.”
Each year we run a number of Come and Sing events alongside our Singing with Friends choir. This is an opportunity for people living with dementia and their families, friends and carers to join Singing with Friends for a morning of singing together.
Music for Life: Monthly Sessions
We are delighted to be running an ongoing series of monthly creative music-making sessions for people with young onset dementia as well as their families, friends and carers.
The sessions provide an open space for everyone to contribute in whatever way feels authentic. Together we make music that reflects us as a group, getting to know each other and finding ways to express ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, ideas and those of each other, through music.
Music for Life: Residency
This exciting new strand of work aims to give us the space to become more responsive to the needs of individual care homes, residents, staff, family and friends. It will encompass a wide range of projects and events, including a new community choir, core projects, relaxed concerts and regular bedside visits by musicians in residence. This is a responsive and co-creative project that will develop over a 2 year period as part of our ongoing partnership with Jewish Care.
This July our Learning Director, Daisy Swift, was invited to give a talk on the power of creativity for people living with dementia, for Tessitura Network’s Innovator Series, as part of the Tessitura Learning and Community Conference in Chicago. You can watch a film of her talk here:
We are committed to building a dementia friendly society, with an ongoing commitment to becoming a dementia friendly venue.
Please support the work of Music for Life to ensure that we can continue to reach people living with dementia and their carers. Donations of any size make such a valuable difference. Whatever you feel able to give is enormously appreciated.