Mind Music | The Northern Chamber Orchestra

“A social return on investment of between £4 and £11 has been calculated for every £1 invested in arts on prescription.”

In recent years, the intersection of arts and healthcare has gained significant attention due to its potential in promoting well-being and improving mental health. Among the various initiatives, the Mind Music project by the Northern Chamber Orchestra (NCO) stands out as a pioneering endeavour aimed at exploring the profound effects of live music on individuals living with dementia. By fostering awareness about dementia and delving into the therapeutic potential of music, the project has not only touched the lives of those directly involved but also made significant contributions to the field of cognitive research.

The Mind Music Project

The NCO embarked on the Mind Music project with a primary mission to bring the transformative power of live music to individuals facing the challenges of dementia. Recognising the potential of music to stimulate memory recall, improve cognitive function, and enhance emotional well-being, the NCO set out to implement a multifaceted approach. From high-profile fundraising concerts to interactive therapy sessions in care homes, the project sought to understand the nuanced ways in which music impacts individuals with dementia.

Concerts in Care Settings

One of the core aspects of the Mind Music project is the regular performance of concerts in care settings across the North West. These captivating live performances provide a sensory-rich experience for the residents, often eliciting emotional responses and memories long forgotten. The presence of music creates a nurturing environment that transcends the limitations of dementia, fostering moments of connection and joy between patients, caregivers, and musicians alike.

Collaboration with CDL

Central to the success of the project has been the support from CDL, a Stockport based software company. The collaboration between the NCO and CDL has enabled the project to expand its reach to various care settings, offering an enriching musical experience to an even wider audience. The involvement of CDL’s staff in nominating the performance locations has facilitated a community-driven approach, ensuring that the music reaches those who need it the most.

The Academic Link

The NCO’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge led to a productive partnership with the Faculty of Health, Psychology, and Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University. By engaging with academic researchers, the project not only received valuable insights but has also provided students with the opportunity to work on real-world projects in the context of arts and healthcare. This collaboration has paved the way for a more holistic understanding of the impact of music on cognitive function, opening avenues for potential therapeutic interventions in the future.

Engaging with the All-Party Parliamentary Group

Mind Music’s dedication to raising awareness about the benefits of the arts on health and well-being did not go unnoticed. The project has had the privilege of working alongside the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health, and Wellbeing. By sharing their experiences and findings, the NCO contributed to the group’s mission of promoting the integration of arts in healthcare policies. Through this collaboration, the project has the potential to influence policy decisions, fostering a more inclusive and holistic approach to healthcare.

The Social Return on Investment

Quantifying the impact of arts interventions in healthcare settings can be challenging, but the Mind Music project has made strides in this aspect as well. A Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis revealed that for every £1 invested in Arts on Prescription through the Mind Music project, the estimated return ranged from an impressive £4 to £11. This quantifiable impact further underscores the significance of integrating arts-based interventions in dementia care and highlights the immense value brought about by the NCO’s efforts.

The Mind Music project by the Northern Chamber Orchestra serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration, showcasing the transformative potential of live music in improving the lives of individuals living with dementia. By engaging with various stakeholders, from caregivers and academic institutions to parliamentary groups, the project has carved a path for the integration of arts in healthcare policies and research. As the initiative continues to grow and flourish, it will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the realm of arts in health, leaving behind a legacy of compassion, connection, and healing through the universal language of music.

The loss by members of the Orchestra of close family members or friends led the NCO to create a programme of music written by composers who either had dementia or were influenced by their experiences of it.  This led to a highly regarded CD, conducted by Stephen Barlow, Artistic Director of Buxton International Festival. You can read more about and purchase the CD here, and proceeds will help support the work of Parkinsons UK.

Nicholas Ward (NCO Artistic Director), Tom Elliott (NCO ex-General Manager), Chloë Hanslip (violin) and a PSPA volunteer

The Stoller Hall fundraising concert

Tom Elliott (ex-General Manager of NCO) presenting a Parkinsons UK fundraiser with a cheque following the Stoller Hall fundraising concert