Drums at Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy

Supporting people through music despite Coronavirus

“Music is [my] anchor point for normality.” *

Like many charities we’ve been assessing the impact that the Coronavirus outbreak is having on our ability to answer our mission which is to provide music therapy, train the music therapists of tomorrow and carry out research within music therapy to find out how we can do more to support the people we work with. We’re adapting to the new situation we all find ourselves in.

In March when the outbreak first struck and a national lockdown was put in place, we took the decision to temporarily stop all our music therapy sessions with immediate effect across the UK. This affected our work with individuals and with partner organisations such as hospitals, care homes and schools as all of our work was face to face and many of those we work with are now in the shielding category as listed by the UK Government.

The health and wellbeing of those receiving our music therapy, our colleagues, and students was our number one priority then and it continues to be our number one priority now.

We’ve been working over the past few weeks to assess ways in which we can continue to provide some form of musical support for those we work with. We’ve been listening to what people need from us at this moment in time to ensure we’re as responsive and useful as possible. As a result, we’ve:

  • Started offering music therapy as one-to-one or small group sessions online (where appropriate for the individuals) – online delivery is only suitable for approx. a quarter of those we usually work with
  • Developed an inclusive online choir and musical resources suitable for all ages and abilities
  • Started working with our partner organisations (schools, care homes, mental health referral units to name a few) to understand how we can restart face to face music therapy sessions when appropriate.


When the outbreak started back in March we moved our education and training of the music therapists of the future online to protect both our students and tutors. We continue to provide our Masters and PHD programmes online and are in the process of moving our short courses online as well. We’re working closely with our validator, Goldsmiths University, and taking advice from the Health Professions Council (HCPC) to ensure in this adapted way we’re still delivering these programmes to the very highest standards.

In addition, we’ve taken the hard decision to pause our music therapy research work for the time being. This includes our current primary project on music therapy in education settings. Meanwhile, our MPhil/PhD research students continue to work on their projects with support from our supervisory team, even though face-to-face data collection is not possible at the moment. Their projects include looking at music therapy in an open prison, choirs for people with learning disabilities, cultural dimensions of music therapy within psychiatric services, ways that musicians adapt their playing and identities in response to injury or chronic illness, the role of music therapy within a primary school, and music therapy for groups of families.

More than ever we’re seeing that making music matters; it can unite people and lift spirits in a way few other activities can, helping people connect with themselves. And so we’re doing everything we can to respond to the growing need in our communities for ways to help people cope with social isolation and maintain their mental wellbeing. This has seen us create digital resources for people to make music together at home, including an exciting collaboration with the children’s TV show, Clangers.

Chief executive Sandra Schembri said: “We know our music therapy is a vital lifeline to many of those we work with and their families so we’re determined to find ways to continue to provide support to those who need us most during this national lockdown and beyond. We’re doing all we can to meet the wider social needs that are being created by this pandemic, particularly to help people maintain their mental wellbeing during this time. We’re also planning for when Government restrictions are lifted and the safety of those we work with can be assured so we can get back to providing a more comprehensive face to face service as quickly as possible as well as developing more of our digital support.”

Should you or your organisation be interested in music therapy at this time, please get in contact via David.Robinson@nordoff-robbins.org.uk

This web page will be regularly updated with any further developments.

“Music therapy is the most human contact I’ve had all week, and I’ve been looking forward to it all week.” *

 *Feedback from individuals we’ve been supporting through online music therapy