Andrew Lloyd Webber music programme offered to mental health patients

The pioneering Andrew Lloyd Webber music programme is being trialled in hospital schools in an effort to offer the benefits to mental health and wellbeing of learning music to some of the NHS’ youngest and most vulnerable patients.

Classical music education charity, Music in Secondary Schools Trust (MiSST), is providing patients aged 4 to 18 at Chelsea Community Hospital School (CCHS), west London, access to free instruments and its unique tuition (both in-person and online).

The aim of the 12-month pilot project is to stimulate and support sick children with the many personal and emotional challenges they face during the pandemic. CCHS provides places for children and young people who cannot access mainstream school due to their medical conditions.

Student leaders of MiSST, who have benefited from the scheme themselves, alongside a hospital volunteer will help deliver the NHS’ first classical music education initiative. If successful, the scheme could potentially be rolled out to other hospital schools across England.

Like many sectors, hospital schools have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, making normal operations impossible. Some have been forced to close entirely while others have had to limit their offerings.

The charity’s annual concert which took place on the 1st March was dedicated this year to raising funds to buy hundreds of more instruments for this new scheme and expand its remit to transform young people’s lives through classical music. MiSST solely relies on the generosity of philanthropists, corporate organisations and general donations.

Rachel Landon, CEO of MiSST, said: “There’s a ticking time bomb of stress with the pandemic, putting relentless and immeasurable pressure on individuals and organisations. We know first-hand the benefits young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can gain from learning music. We saw a real need in hospital schools and wanted to help support this vital service, ensuring that children and young people have their rights to education preserved while in hospital”.

Janette Steel OBE, Headteacher of Chelsea Community Hospital School , added: “Receiving the violins was so very exciting – they are beautiful. It felt like the Christmas we missed – and more. There was so much pleasure in their faces as most had never held or even seen a violin before. Others had been in an orchestra and had sadly left that dream behind when they came into hospital. So this is a second opportunity to follow their dream of playing again.”

One such pupil is Rosslyn, who attends CCHS. Steel said:  “Rosslyn played the violin prior to being admitted to the ward. She was progressing well but upon being admitted to CCHS, had her instrument taken back by her old school, as it was not her property. As soon as the violins arrived, Rosslyn began tuning a violin and spent time with another pupil who had never held nor touched a violin before. What a wonderful day.”

All instruments that are donated by MiSST become the property of the pupil, and so will never be taken away.

Lala Arslan, Learning Mentor at CCHS, commented: This wonderful new project has given us all an exciting new challenge to take on together with our students. Learning to play the violin alongside them is going to be such a lovely experience and an important one to share with them. You’re never too old to learn or take on a new challenge; returning to a position of not knowing and being new to something is one of the most exciting and fruitful positions we can put ourselves in, being curious to learn.”

Martin Dixon, Music Teacher at CCHS, said: “Staff and children are all thrilled with our new music partnership with MiSST. I’ve taught music at the hospital school for over twenty years, and I know just how transforming playing music together can be in children’s lives, particularly when they are coping with time in hospital. This new initiative will enable our children to both receive their own violin and access professional teaching – such a great opportunity.”

One of the pupils Kadina, aged 16, said: “I am really excited to learn the violin. I hope I don’t break it!”

Facts:

It costs £250 a year for a child to learn music through MiSST’s Andrew Lloyd Webber programme. Over Key Stage 3 it comes to a total of £750 (11 to 14-year-olds).

MiSST

MiSST works with 17 secondary schools in and around London, Warwickshire and Oldham. The charity helps secondary schools that have disadvantaged and challenging student in take by providing not only funding for classical instrument but also support in the form of regular tuition, opportunities to perform and a programme of excellence that is unrivalled in the UK.

MiSST also provides ‘Pathways to Excellence’ programmes for promising students, with access to ensemble and orchestral playing. This includes Saturday Music School, Leadership Programmes, and 4-day intensive Radley College Residential courses.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation

Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation was set up by Andrew in 1992 to promote the arts, culture and heritage for the public benefit; since inception Andrew has been the principal provider of funding for all its charitable activities.

In 2011, the Foundation embarked on an active grant giving programme and has now awarded grants of over £20 million to support high quality training and personal development as well as other projects that make a real difference to enrich the quality of life both for individuals and within local communities. Significant grants include £3.5m to Arts Educational Schools, London to create a state of the art professional theatre, £2.4m to the Music in Secondary Schools Trust, £1m to The Architectural Heritage Fund, $1.3m to the American Theatre Wing and over £350,000 annually to fund 30 performing arts scholarships for talented students in financial need.  The Foundation is also a founding supporter of the Get Into Theatre careers website www.getintotheatre.org

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