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1 March 2008

Saturday 1 March 2008 12:15-13:00 (Radio 3)

Tom Service investigates the links between music and health. He looks at reports on how music can change the lives of people with conditions ranging from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's. Saxophonist Barbara Thompson talks about her battle with Parkinson's disease. Plus news from the Royal Opera House and its workshops for autistic teenagers, and Prof Paul Robertson on the effects of music on the mind.

Links and other useful information related to music and health


45 minutes

In this programme


Photo courtesy of Nordoff-Robbins, copyright of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy
How does music affect our brains, emotions and wellbeing?
In everyday life, music can change mood, make us feel better, relieve daily stresses and offer an escape from negativity and depression. Applied to health environments, music has an invaluable part to play in offering therapy to people suffering from many different diseases, disabilities and disorders.

Projects all over the country use music to help heal people suffering from bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, strokes and autism. Music facilitates communication and community. It is a way for those who struggle to interact through language to relate and share experience through music.

Barbara Thompson, courtesy of Naoju NakamuraWith visits to the Turtle Opera project at the Royal Opera House, which creates opera with autistic and Asperger's children; Singing for the Brain in Newbury, tapping into the associative memories of those with dementia and Alzheimer's; and SMART Music through Nordoff-Robbins, and patients past and present of the Chelsea Mental Health Centre suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders.

To find out what actually happens in people's brains in order for music to have such a profound effect, Tom is joined by Professor Paul Robertson, leader of the Medici Quartet and Visiting Professor of Music and Medicine for the Peninsula Medical School in the South-West of England.

Turtle Opera project 2006, courtesy of Emma WeeDr John Zeisel, President and co-founder of the Hearthstone Alzheimer's Family Foundation and Hearthstone Alzheimer Care Ltd, offers an international perspective from New York.

And to explain the power of music to help professional musicians through illness, jazz saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson tells the story of her battle with Parkinson's disease and how being a musician takes precedence over her illness.
You can hear Barbara perform with her group, Paraphernalia, at Ronnie Scott's on Sunday 2nd March and the premiere of her Piano Concerto Skat will be given at Cadogan Hall, London on 5th March.

Singing for the Brain groupFor some, just listening to music on a regular basis can offer a valuable escape from the torment of mental illness. In Bristol, The Grove Road Music Group, led by Timothy Dowling changes lives through sitting together each week and concentrating on classical music. The participants' own testimonies explain how.

Whether through listening, or performing, it seems that music has a vital role to play in wellbeing.


Alzheimer's Society: works to improve the quality of life of people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Telephone: 020 7423 3500

Association of Professional Music Therapists: supports and develops the profession. The association's members are qualified Music Therapists who have undertaken a recognised post-graduate training course in Music Therapy.

Website: http://www.apmt.org/Home/tabid/68/Default.aspx

Telephone: 020 8440 4153

BBC - Health

Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/

Jessie's Fund: a UK charity helping seriously ill and disabled children by using music as a form of communication and for therapy.

Website: http://www.jessiesfund.org.uk/Frameset.htm

Telephone: 01904 658 189

Live Music Now: takes performances of the highest musical quality to a wide variety of settings across the UK, particularly to those places where experiencing music performed live is rarely part of daily life.

Website: http://www.livemusicnow.org/?pageID=80

Telephone: 020 7493 3443 (London branch)

London Arts and Health Forum: works to promote and support arts in health activity across London and nationally.


Telephone: 0845 602 0825

Mind: the leading mental health charity in England and Wales.

Website: http://www.mind.org.uk/

Telephone:0845 766 0163

Musical ARC: based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and provides opportunities for people to create and perform their own music, regardless of disability.

Website: http://www.musicalarc.com/idex.html

Telephone: 0113 217 2267

Music in Hospitals: mission is to improve the quality of life of adults and children with all kinds of illness and disability through the joy and therapeutic benefits of live music.

Website: http://www.music-in-hospitals.org.uk/

Telephone: 01267 242 981

Musique & Sante: a non-profit organisation advocating and working for the development of live music in hospitals and institutions for the handicapped.


Telephone: 00 33 1 55 28 81 00

Nordoff-Robbins: a charitable foundation which provides music therapy for children and adults in need, training for people who want to become music therapists or further their education, research, and fundraising for the charity.


Telephone: 020 7267 4496

Parkinson's Disease Society: the leading charity dedicated to supporting all people with Parkinson's, their families, friends and carers.

Website: http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/

Telephone: 0808 800 0303

RNCM Music for Health Programme in conjunction with Musique et Sante (Paris): Working in partnership with healthcare staff to bring live music to the bedside in order to humanise healthcare environments for patients, staff and visitors.


Telephone: 0161 907 5414

Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health: an integrated programme of research exploring the possible health benefits of active participation in music making and singing. In particular, the Centre is seeking to contribute to building an evidence base to help justify greater investment in the field of arts, wellbeing and health by NHS Trusts and local authorities.


Telephone: 01227 767700

Singing for the Brain: a group activity managed by the Alzheimer's Society West Berkshire Branch for all people with memory problems and their carers. It provides an opportunity to participate in singing sessions together, in an informal and friendly setting.

Website: http://www.singingforthebrain.org/site/index.php

Telephone: 01635 500869

The Music Therapy Charity: founded in 1969 to support Music Therapists in the UK. Its principal function is to raise money to fund the research which is intrinsic to the development and refinement of the growing body of knowledge used by the profession.

Website: http://www.musictherapy.org.uk/index2.html

Turtle Key Arts: produces, manages and devises performance arts projects with a particular emphasis on original and groundbreaking work.

Website: http://www.turtlekeyarts.org.uk/

Telephone: 020 8964 5060

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