Man with music therapist

GARETH’s Story

Gareth is 52 years old and suffered an asthma attack in 2012, which caused a brain injuryAs a result of his brain injury, Gareth has limited use of language and is often fatigued, which makes it difficult for him to engage and interact. Music therapist, Lucie has been working with Gareth for some time now, and tells his story here. 

Gareth is 52 years old and suffered an asthma attack in 2012As a result of his brain injury, Gareth has limited use of language and is often fatigued, which makes it difficult for him to engage and interact.  

When I first started offering Gareth music therapy sessions, I would go to his room with just my guitar and voice. He was very withdrawn, only looking up occasionally, and did not seem to get much out of the sessions.  

One of his Rehabilitation Support Workers told me that he had enjoyed listening to the piano in the past, so for the third session Gareth was brought to the music therapy room where he could sit next to me at the piano. I played a series of classical pieces for him – mainly Bach, Beethoven and Grieg  and also improvised in time with the rhythm of his breathing, so that he could sense himself controlling the music. This elicited more positivity and interest, and when asked if he would like some more classical music over the coming weeks he responded with an assured ‘yes 

Over the next three sessions I played classical piano music with Gareth at my side, smiling approvingly and grinning if I made a mistake. He was much less withdrawn and appeared to enjoy the music, even when fatigued.  

The real breakthrough came in Gareth’s sixth session. Another service user was present, and I started with some classical music to welcome Gareth and to relax the other service user present. I then moved into the song ‘Love Me Tender’ which I hoped would appeal to both their tastes. As I began to sing the first line, Gareth immediately lifted his torso to make himself more upright and looked directly towards me. I continued, and as I reached the last line of the verse ‘…and I always will’, Gareth sang it too – every word and perfectly pitched! Before this moment I had only heard Gareth say ‘yes’, and now here he was singing a whole phraseHe sang a few more words as I continued, his body completely uprightWe reached the end and I played on, asking Gareth if he’d like to sing the first verse again. He replied with a keen ‘yeah, and then proceeded to sing almost every single word with me. I repeated the last line but left it unfinished for Gareth to complete. ‘…Always will,’ he sang in a moment of deep connection. 

The two support workers in the room were surprised and elated, and other members of the professional team were amazed when I recounted that Gareth had sustained fifty minutes of active engagement.   

Working with Gareth has been a moving and rewarding journey. The benefits of music therapy for him are transparent: helping him to use his voice and sharing positive, enjoyable, engaging experiences that could not be replicated in a different context. 

Gareth and Lucie sing Fly Me to the Moon