BRITs Blog – meet Holly

We couldn’t do what we do without the generous support of the BRIT Trust. Through the Nordoff Robbins Graduate/ Partnership development scheme, their support allows us to reach more people across the UK and over the next six months, we’ll hear from the music therapy graduates who are benefiting from the scheme.

Holly’s story

After completing the Nordoff Robbins music therapy masters course in the summer of 2015, I was thrilled to start work as a Nordoff Robbins music therapist last September.

I’m working in two special schools, Valley Primary School and Chatsworth High School and Community College. Both these schools support children with a wide range of complex needs, from autism to profound and multiple learning disabilities. Many students experience difficulties with communication, engagement and concentration, and music therapy offers a unique way to interact and work on overcoming these challenges by actively participating in making music.

Music therapy was new to both these schools in September and thanks to the generous support of the BRIT trust they have been able to get started.

I feel incredibly lucky to have jumped out of training and straight into my dream job. Seeing how music can help people overcome a huge range of obstacles in their lives is a joy and a privilege. These schools have an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere, celebrating every success of their students, and it’s a pleasure to join the teams working together to help every student achieve their full potential.

Debbie Thompson, head teacher of Valley School is an enthusiastic supporter of music therapy in the school, saying ‘Music therapy is amazing! You only have to spend a few minutes observing a session to see the value of this work with our pupils – they love Holly’s sessions.’

Ellie is a student at Valley School, and has been attending weekly music therapy sessions since September, in both individual and group formats. She is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy, which severely affects her vision and speech as well as preventing her from moving her arms and legs. Ellie can move her head slightly from side to side, something which takes a great deal of effort for her. Because of her condition, Ellie finds it difficult to communicate, express herself and influence her environment.

In our work together we’ve started using a switch placed at the side of her head. When she presses the switch, Ellie can play the sound of any instrument. We have been exploring a range of instruments and so far the sound of the piano is the one Ellie is most enthusiastic to use. In music therapy Ellie can be very much heard as well as seen, and her contribution to the music is absolutely essential. I accompany her playing whilst creating natural gaps in the music, waiting for Ellie to continue and set the music in motion again.

Ellie’s playing is the central focus of the music; without her working hard to reach and play it wouldn’t be able to continue. The importance Ellieholds in the music, and the necessity for her contribution is an important part of our work together. For someone who finds it difficult to communicate and influence her environment with her voice or movements, being the central focus of the music and responsible for keeping it going is significant. Ellie’s enjoyment of her all-important musical role is evident, with big smiles and giggles, especially when she’s showing off her new musical skills alongside her classmates in our lunchtime group session.

Ellie’s teachers have been thrilled to see her hard work and enjoyment in sessions, commenting that her confidence has clearly grown within the group and they can see her pride in being able to contribute audibly alongside the others. Ellie’s range of head movement has also steadily increased over the weeks, her musical role motivating her to work hard to reach out and play with real determination.

Music therapy has been warmly welcomed both here at Valley Schooland also at Chatsworth High School and Community College. The help and support of the staff has ensured a great start for myself and for the students, and this has been much appreciated. Their knowledge of the students and feedback after sessions remains an invaluable part of the process and the successful integration of music therapy into school life.

I am very proud to work in these two wonderful schools and to see every day how music can help people to overcome challenges and achieve their potential. 

Nordoff Robbins and the BRIT Trust

Find out more about the music therapists who are benefiting from the BRIT Trust Nordoff Robbins Graduate/ Partnership development scheme.