Music in Mind began in 2012 with a simple ethos: use the power of music to help those with dementia to stay connected to the people around them.
Manchester Camerata Orchestra, alongside music therapists and care home staff, delivered participant-led music making workshops in which the dementia residents had free range to enjoy the music in whatever way they wanted.
Lizzie Hoskin, Head of Camerata in the Community said: “It’s based on improvisation – making eye contact, making connections through beats/rhythms/smiles, encouragement – there’s no right or wrong way to play an instrument. Even being there counts as an interaction.”
Already boasting best practice in Japan and Taiwan, this scheme has been extremely successful prior to the pandemic, but as it was dependent on face to face contact, the program had to change.
Music in Mind has set up an online platform full of resources for carers to use to enable them to conduct music workshops, including instructional videos on group music-making techniques, and live video feeds of sessions led by Manchester Camerata’s specialists.
Care workers are trained by Manchester Camerata in the methodology of the project, for example how to tell if the residents are positively responding to the music without using words.
Camerata Musician Naomi Atherton, who has been with Music in Mind since 2012 said: “The beauty of the project is that most of it is done non verbally, we do all the communicating non-verbally so those that have lost most of their verbal skills to dementia can play and have a kind of conversation.”
To ensure the project is a success, weekly zoom calls alternate between one to one sessions with Camerata music therapists, and group sessions where the success and downfalls of the weeks can be celebrated and fixed.
Each resource is specially made to assist the carers in getting the most out of the project for their residents and this weekly communication is vital.
Lizzie Hoskin said: “We want to empower these care workers, shine a light on them, continue to create the benefits of Music in Mind and support them in their role to enrich care home life through music.”
CEO Bob Riley said: “Increasingly we are realising that what we are making is aimed at supporting carers as much as the people that are living with dementia, they are also responding very positively to it.”
After recently being granted £50,000 by the Innovate UK fund, Manchester Camerata are keen to spread this hugely successful project worldwide, and have already had positive feedback from organisations in China and the US.
Bob Riley said: “They are quite frankly bowled over by the fact that we in the Orchestra are doing this, the quality and the level we are doing it at, and that we want to try and make a sustainable business out of it. They think it is fantastic.
“It is a great great tribute to Manchester musicians that they have created this. These musicians are for everyone, from any background, for any reason.”
Supported by research and a report from the University of Manchester, this project is becoming increasingly respected and its success stories are rising, but sometimes it’s the small things that really matter.
A recent activity co-ordinator of an online Music in Mind: Remote session said; “Even if we can only make a difference to one person we’ll be happy.”
For more information on this project visit: https://manchestercamerata.co.uk/