Therapy sessions help aid recovery at Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital

There are all kinds of motivations for picking up and learning an instrument. Some people aspire to be like their heroes, the guitarists and DJs which fuel our passion for music in the first place. For others, music is simply an effective way of making a bad mood good.

Have you ever considered the power of music and its proven health benefits though?

We know from our own research that people place a lot of stock in the powers of playing music to improve career prospects, parenting ability and even attractiveness to a potential partner. However, thanks to a new partnership with the music therapy team at Liverpool’s famous Alder Hey children’s hospital, Dawsons was able to see up close the positive effect playing an instrument can have on the health of patients.

Alder Hey runs a dedicated music therapy unit, which supports patients through providing them with access to musical instruments and tuition to aid in their recovery. The hospital employs 16 play specialists, as well as offering mentoring for young musicians like Jack, from North Wales.

Jack, 15, suffered an injury while competing in a karate championship and as a result lost feeling down one side of his body. Normally an active, sporty lad, Jack was faced with the reality that his promising future as a martial artist was now unlikely to come to fruition.

However, it was a chance trip to a record store with his father that started him thinking about something entirely different…

“We were looking at records one afternoon,” he said; “My dad showed me the cover of Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced album. I knew instantly that I wanted to play the guitar. Hendrix just looked so cool, and it sparked something inside me.”

It was during his treatment at Alder Hey that Jack began working with Melanie Thomas, Alder Hey’s resident music (not musical, that’s something entirely different…) therapist.

Melanie saw that Jack had an innate level of drive and will to succeed, but also how life-changing his injury had been. His new-found interest in the guitar offered the perfect opportunity for a project on which Jack could focus, something he could dedicate himself to which would aid his recovery and rehabilitation.

Dawsons heard about Jack and were keen to help. It put together a starter kit containing an electric guitar, amplifier and accessories, and presented the gear to Jack with some homework – a copy of AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ for him to learn.

“The guitar has given me something to focus on,” said Jack; “Learning to play proves I can do something, and can achieve success. I want to be the best guitar player in the world, and now I have the tools and I can really dedicate myself to it.

“Mel has been amazing. She has helped me to cope at such a difficult time, and has given me the confidence and encouragement I needed to start learning. I cannot thank her enough for her help and support.”

One thing Jack isn’t short of is determination. While his fretting hand works normally, so those quick chord changes won’t pose a problem, movement in his strumming hand is limited as a result of his injury. He wasn’t going to let this get in his way though, and came up with a unique plectrum with the help of some elastic bands and his dad’s credit card. This new contraption, borne out of a desire to progress, will enable Jack to begin playing his new guitar and aid his rehabilitation as he works to regain movement in his arm.

It’s an exciting time for Alder Hey too; the hospital is undergoing a £237 million redevelopment which will see an entirely new hospital built on land adjacent to the current building. Alder Hey in the Park is scheduled for completion in 2015, which also marks the hospital’s centenary year.

The revolutionary new building will feature all kinds of opportunities for music to benefit patients. Performances spaces, arts projects, dedicated therapy spaces and even a recording studio will all be accessible, while specialist music tutoring is also on the cards.

Alder Hey Children’s Charity supports Alder Hey Children’s Hospital which sees over 270,000 young patients and their families every year. The charity is urgently trying to raise £30m to make Alder Hey a truly world-leading place. Watch their inspiring new video to find out how.

The hospital’s work with music therapy highlights just how important music can be, over and above its traditional benefits, proving that music can indeed be a force for good. Seeing Jack and his determination to better himself in the face of adversity will also hopefully inspire others to start learning too.