Playing the keyboard again – Fred’s story

A case study by Live Music Now

Westbury Court provides a mix of nursing, respite and residential care. As with other homes, we have many residents that have diagnosed and undiagnosed dementias, residents with restricted physical capability and also residents who suffer with lower motivation and confidence. Our Activities programme, aims to increase opportunities for social inclusion, stimulation and engagement in experiences that will yield benefits in confidence and motivation. Sensory stimulation, for those residents who require additional stimuli to yield a benefit in their daily experience of living within the home would naturally include sound and music.

When we were offered the opportunity to be involved in Live Music Now’s programme, we very excited. Over 12 weeks, LMN musicians Sadie Fleming and Julia Turner became friends and welcome guests with our home. They are talented, charismatic and very able to interact well with the mixed communication and interaction needs of our residents.

The sessions were divided by starting with a performance to our residents and moving onto involving them in music making. Our residents were treated to a quality and style of music that was above the usual variety easy listening performance that we are accustomed too. The soul, jazz and blues style of acoustic performance, joyfully delivered was refreshing, relaxing and entertaining. That level of quality of performance was inspiring and engaging.  After a tea break, we had chance to make music ourselves led by Sadie and Julia.

Fred was one of a group of residents who were regularly involved in the LMN sessions. Fred had been with us a month or two prior to the sessions commencing and had been a little unsettled and tended not to enjoy noisy group activity. Fred had been keener to chat one to one, or to sit quietly.

He was an intelligent, articulate and talented man and had always enjoyed good music. He had taught keyboard playing with the Yamaha School of Music. Fred was able to appreciate immediately the quality of music that Sadia and Julia were making and he was able to demonstrate his appreciation.

 Fred and Sadie Flemming

Live Music Now session at OSJCT Monkscroft Care Centre – Photo Credit Evan Dawson 

Initially Fred was saying that he had not played keyboard for years and that he didn’t feel he would be able too now. As Fred relaxed, he began to respond with his great sense of humour, to the music. He would respond to the end of songs with his “trademark hook”; “dum dum de dum dum, dum dum”!

The sounds of glockenspiels were warm and earthy and the hand chimes’, bright and clear. As the residents started to use these instruments to add to the tunes that were being made, Fred and others were smiling and feeling satisfied with what they were hearing.

At the start he appreciated the performance but was reserved about participating, but Sadie was able to tease him into action by playing the flourish on her keyboard. As Fred began to use the iPad tablet interface with a music making app, he was saying that, “at last, he was famous”, as he saw his own image appear on the screen. Playing the mini iPad keyboard and getting a tune from it encouraged Fred and soon he was happy to play the keyboard, often accompanying the singing by other residents, playing along with Sadie and Julia and improvising. When his daughter witnessed him playing the keyboard again, she was moved to tears of joy! Fred was enjoying himself and achieving satisfaction

The staff who were involved had their own chance to explore confidence in performing. Some staff were initially reserved but seeing Fred and others having so much fun and being within such a relaxing space, had a great effect on everyone. Staff were encouraged to overcome their nerves and get involved.

Fred undoubtedly became happier and more fulfilled after the sessions. He seemed to regain a spark, he was more focussed and was seen to play the piano in our pink lounge without encouragement.

Fred, sadly, passed away recently. We have a recording of the performances he was involved in and that is now even more precious when we replay it.


 

About the case study

This case study comes from an Arts Council England funded project called New Age Music delivered by Live Music Now (LMN) in partnership with The Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT)  and Creative Inspiration CIC, in 2016 and 2017. Trained professional musicians from LMN visited 12 OSJCT settings for older people to deliver music residencies. More information about LMN and OSJCT and the project is below.

This case study focuses on the experience of a resident, Fred, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s  in December 2014. He had continued to live in his own home (with a supportive care package and visits to a local day centre twice a week) until he moved into OSJCT setting Westbury Court in Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire in January 2016.

This case study has been written by Stephen Moore Activities Co-ordinator at Westbury Court, one of the settings that took part in the LMN New Age Music Project.


 

Notes

Live Music Now

Founded in 1977, LMN is the UK’s leading musicians development and outreach charity, providing exceptional live music experiences for people with limited access to the arts due to disability, illness or social disadvantage. They receive cultural, therapeutic, social and emotional benefits from engaging with live music – experiences that transform and enrich lives.

In 2016-2017 alone LMN had a 120,000 total audience, with over 300 professional musicians on the scheme and 7,000 performance opportunities. LMN delivered 3400 live music sessions – over 1800 in the Wellbeing programme (mostly with older people) – over 50% of which were in care homes. Working closely with adult social care providers and regulatory and umbrella bodies in the sector, LMN’s older peoples’ work specialises in reaching isolated older people and those living with dementia and training young professional musicians to work in specialist settings including care homes and hospitals.

The Orders of St John Care Trust

OSJCT was established in 1991.  It is a not for profit charity sponsored by the Sovereign Order of Malta and The Venerable Order of St John.  OSJCT’s core activity is providing care for older people of any background, irrespective of race or religion.  Having started in Lincolnshire, running 16 former local authority care homes, the Trust now operates 70 homes and 15 extra care housing schemes, across Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.  Employing some 4,000 staff, OSJCT cares for over 3,500 residents.

OSJCT is dedicated to delivering the highest quality, person centred care.  Its broad range of services includes specialist nursing and dementia care.  It also provides intermediate, respite and day care.  Its ethos of care, which underpins all its activities, is based on its belief that all older people living in its care homes should be given care, both material and spiritual, that suits their individual needs, and should enjoy life in an atmosphere of warmth, harmony and understanding, being cared for by people who appreciate their need for privacy and who will respect their dignity and freedom of choice.

New Age Music

A live music project involving older people living in 18 residential care homes in three regions of England taking part in participatory live music activities, led by pairs of professional musicians on the LMN training scheme. This included interactive participatory performances as well as participatory music workshops. The outputs from the workshops were used by composer Kerry Andrew to create a new piece of music which was performed publically at three festivals near to the care homes in Summer 2017.  We worked in close partnership with care sector partners the Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT), which involved 12 of their settings in the project, and Creative Inspiration CIC (CI), an umbrella arts and health initiative in Shropshire, through which six homes in that area took part.

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