Screenshot from the video Heathlands Village Presents: 8 Days of Chanukah

Collaboration at the heart of Nordoff Robbins partnerships

David Robinson is Nordoff Robbins Head of Music Services (Delivery). David works closely with all our regional teams and is responsible for coordinating the huge variety of sessions which our therapists deliver across the country in many different settings each year, including care homes, day centres, hospitals, schools and our own centres.

Amongst the variety, a consistent theme that stands out is collaboration.  At an organisational level, a spirit of partnership is essential between therapist and staff to create a positive framework within which therapist/client collaborations can thrive.

Music-making enables collaboration between people and, like all relationships, the collaborations between Nordoff Robbins therapists and the organisations we work in partnership with are all unique, flexibly responding to the particular needs of the clients in that organisation and to the characteristics of that particular place.

 

Collaboration during Covid

Over the last year, the Covid-related restrictions on face-to-face contact with clients and partner organisations have tested the strength and flexibility of our collaborations nationwide.  My personal understanding of what collaboration can mean in these circumstances has been expanded through my ongoing work with the residents and staff of Heathlands Village care home in north Manchester.

During the months in 2020 when I was unable to work on-site in the care home, I shared the experience of many music therapists in taking the opportunities and grappling with the restrictions provided by the internet to offer residents sessions online.  Whilst I have always worked closely alongside the fabulous Activities Team at Heathlands Village, online work took our collaboration to a new level.  Since I was confined to a TV screen or iPad, I was completely reliant on the Activities Team to set up the wi-fi connection and provide on-site support to residents throughout our weekly sessions, adapting to the inevitable limitations of the online format.

As the important Jewish festival of Chanukah approached in December, we decided to find a way to to help the wider care home community celebrate Chanukah in song, using the possibilities afforded by recording technology to create an online choir.  This involved collaborating in completely new ways at a time when collaboration between people has been severely impacted by the social distancing and lockdown restrictions.

Using Zoom to meet, the Activity Team and I selected ‘8 Days of Chanukah’ as the ideal song.  Through the verses, four different residents tell the story of Chanukah through their own unique performances.  The joyful, catchy chorus enabled as many Heathlands staff and other residents as possible to be recorded individually and in groups by the Activity Team, singing and dancing to the well-known traditional melody.  The enthusiasm and commitment of the Activity Team resulted in many more recordings than we originally expected, all of which were remotely transferred online to me.

I then combined all the virtual performances to create the song, making sure that everyone who contributed was included, and I also re-recorded my musical accompaniment to adjust to the varied individualised timings of all the performances.  This meant that each person’s solo or group musical contribution, although separately recorded, was ultimately accompanied as would happen in the live music-making situation.

I sent the final edit of the song to Heathlands Village during Chanukah, and it was released on the care home’s Facebook page on 14th December.

It has since been viewed 1,000s of times not only by residents and staff, but also by families of residents and other supporters of Heathlands Village, who were at that time unable to visit due to Covid restrictions but could share the sense of community, musical connection and joy embodied by the song.

The whole-hearted commitment, individuality and active collaboration that every resident and staff member brought to the song is inspiring.

The collaboration between myself as the temporarily ‘off-site’ music therapist in liaison with the on-site Activity Team, the active collaboration of every resident and staff member involved, and the process of performing this song collaboratively yet individually brought a sense of hope, personal agency, and contribution to the greater good at a difficult time in the life of the care home.  This was particularly significant in the context of Chanukah, which is traditionally a time to celebrate connection and hope in the Jewish community.

I am now back on-site at Heathlands Village, working as closely as ever with the Activity Team and residents as we build musical connections together through collaboration. I’d love to hear about your experiences on the theme of collaboration. Get in touch by emailing David.Robinson@nordoff-robbins.org.uk