BRITs Blog – meet Sarah

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.

Sarah’s story

Thanks to the generous support from BRIT Trust, I have been working in two new SEN schools in the Manchester area since September, one primary and one secondary.

Since graduating from the Master of Music Therapy programme Nordoff Robbinsprovide in July 2015, it’s been amazing to be able to call this work my day job, and see children day-in-day-out having wonderful experiences through music-making, helping them develop in a multitude of ways, ranging from cognitive, physical and behavioural development to social and emotional development.

Keisha is 13 years old and has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a visual impairment. She attends Heaton School in Stockport, which supports children aged 11-19 with Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD) andProfound and Multiple Difficulties (PMLD). Keisha is non-verbal, but vocalises and sings throughout the day. As someone who is almost entirely blind, Keisha relies on her others senses much more, and therefore what she sings and hears is a crucial aspect to how she lives and communicates day-to-day. As her parents say, “…singing is Keisha’s way of communicating with the world…”. 

Keisha began music therapy in September 2015, and I have worked with her singing to offer her an opportunity where she can be listened to, be expressive, and most of all communicate what she wants musically. There is little that Keisha can control or influence in her life, but in music therapy – as a child-led approach – she can regain some of that control she misses in other contexts, and subsequently a level of independence as well as creative expression. 

Her parents are keen for Keisha to access as much music provision as possible, and her mum says:
“Music therapy helps Keisha to improve on communication and she listens carefully to when it’s her time to join in. I think music therapy is fantastic and benefits Keisha in so many ways, and develops more vocal sound for her.” 

Beyond singing, Keisha also loves to play the piano and strum the guitar, allowing her to direct the music as I follow her pulse. The music therapyhighlights and develops what Keisha can do – away from what she struggles with in her everyday life – and this is therefore an extremely empowering experience for her.

Having witnessed the work of Keisha and other children through viewing and discussing video footage, Jo Chambers-Shirley, Headteacher atHeaton School, says:
“What has struck me about the sessions is how they open up the students’ world and allow us in. They are empowered and free to set the pace and to express themselves in their own unique, interesting and beautiful ways. The structure allows them to explore (and for us to see) their creativity.”

As well as working directly with the children, however, music therapyallows staff to experience their students in a new light, and can in turn support and strengthen working relationships within the school community. Jo further stated: “The music therapy sessions are wonderful in themselves, but they are more than that, they build relationship and communication between students and staff during the rest of the week”. 

Music therapy, although at this school for just one day a week, clearly has numerous knock-on effects, which enhance the school community and relationships within it every day, further raising the quality of life for both students and staff alike. Work like this is often only possible with the support of funders like the BRIT Trust, and we owe our thanks to them for helping us to help children like Keisha every day across the UK.

Nordoff Robbins and the BRIT Trust

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