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Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1752-6299
  • E-ISSN: 1752-6302



Music making in a paediatric hospital offers new pathways to communication. Children become the leaders of musical interaction, as musicians carefully observe moods, emotions and the smallest of responses in order to be able to ‘listen’ to and respond to a child. Opportunities for music-making are created by the bedside and on the way to treatment. Medical professionals and families engage with live music and musicians, as a natural part of hospital life. Musical vocabulary is developed between musician and child patient to include music made with breath, mouth sounds, vocalization, hands and fingertips. Sense of time and space expand and contract in moments of music creation. Trust between musicians, patients and staff is gained through carefully paced musical interaction, ensuring a gradual exposure to musicians, live music and shared music-making. Songbirds, a two-year musicians’ residency in a children’s rehabilitation ward enabled children experiencing long-term hospitalization and their families to participate in regular music making sessions with myself and a colleague as part of their process of recovery. Many of the children were non-verbal and music making became an important element in supporting cognitive and social development and in reducing anxiety. In this case study of my practice as a musician working in a hospital I reflect on how the experience of making music with children informs and inspires processes of interaction and creativity, and how observations made during music making influence a musician’s reflection and consolidation of practice.


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