Collective Power: Making Musical Bridges, Intergenerational Music Making

| Anna Eaton

This year we’ve been delighted to partner with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) on their first ever annual awards. We’re excited that the awards have now been rearranged as a special online event on Friday 20th November – get your tickets here!

We are part of CHWA’s Collective Power Award which aims to recognise a project or programme in which partnership working has improved the health and wellbeing of individuals or communities using the arts and culture. 

We are big believers in collaborative working and the power of doing things together. There is so much to gain when we pool our time, resources, networks, ideas and imaginations. But we also know it isn’t always easy. We are running a blog series up until Christmas featuring reflections and information about each of the brilliant projects shortlisted for the Collective Power Award. People from the heart of each project tell us in their own words what they’ve learnt along the way, what surprised them and what have been their favourite parts.

The third in this series is Making Musical Bridges from Intergenerational Music Making.

Intergenerational Music Making is the first Music Therapy intergenerational organisation bringing together the old and young to tackle social isolation and social exclusion whilst improving the mental health and wellbeing of both generations through unique music projects. Making Musical Bridges brought together targeted Year 5/6 children with residents living with dementia from their local care home Bernard Sunley in Woking, Surrey for weekly music therapy sessions.

The sessions were a collaboration between school children and care home residents as well as undergraduate music students from the Academy of Contemporary Music, care staff from the care home and volunteers from Age UK, Surrey. 

The care home residents who took part said they felt a stronger sense of purpose and the school children enjoyed getting to know the residents, learning their names and remembering the stories they’d shared.

Charlotte Miller, the Director of Intergenerational Music Making and the session facilitator for this project told us more about it:

What has been your favourite thing about the project?

My favourite thing about the project was seeing the joy on the residents’ faces when the children would turn up each week. Plus the excitement from the children in seeing the residents.

The music making, laughing, talking and sharing of stories were all just magical, making the relationships meaningful and purposeful.  Sharing stories from school, family life and the weekly sessions really did provide a conduit for musical heritage. The children were exposed to different songs from the residents; likewise, the elderly population were exposed to new songs and games. Seeing the elderly residents learn, be inspired, be physically active and be motivated was also very moving.  

The project was successful in creating a space where the elderly people could have fun by creating opportunities to be creative, to learn, to physically interact with the children, to learn new music and games and to explore music and instruments. Residents had the opportunity to become more active and to have their roles reversed and to be treated as equals. 

The impact on the elderly was beautiful to see. It livened their day, it gave them something more to look forward to and it also gave them a chance to experience music in a positive environment with a younger generation. The care home manager stated, “the children and Charlotte have been​ absolutely amazing they have encouraged so much participation from our residents…. the residents talk about the sessions for days after and so look forward to joining the group each week.”  

Also the sessions had a positive effect on young children. The children were speaking more, had developed strategies to connect with post-verbal people, developed connections with residents, took more risks, learnt new music repertoire, learnt to collaborate with a unique team (old and young) and learnt about boundaries, empathy and resilience. Seeing their confidence develop was a huge part of the project and each week they really came out of their shell.

Have you made and learnt from any mistakes along the way? 

The project was for a short time and looking back now, it would have been wonderful to have had the opportunity to expand the sessions over a longer period of time.

Has anything surprised you during the project?

There have been so many things that have surprised me from the project. The fact that the children still write – call – send in pictures and videos to the residents plus the fact that the intergenerational project has naturally developed and been embedded into the school and care home life and curriculum.

After this project the residents were invited to the children’s Christmas Show and further school events such as tea parties – reading workshops etc. Lastly, we were able to take the children and the residents up to the Albert Hall to perform at the health conference and showcase to an audience their songs and sharing of their stories.  This was a very emotional performance.

IMM have been continuing their work during the pandemic as they know it is vital for intergenerational connections to remain strong and active. They’ve had to be creative about the ways they can deliver their work and bring the old and young together. This video captures what they’ve been up to this year:

To find out more about Making Musical Bridges and Intergenerational Music Making, check visit their and follow them on social media: Twitter: @IMMusicmaking Instagram: @immmusicuk Facbook: @IMMCaretoCreate 

Photo provided by Intergenerational Music Making

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