It’s been a very busy and exciting first few weeks in my new role as UK & International Programme Manager for Music as Therapy International. The team have been incredibly supportive, patient and helpful showing me the ropes and teaching me about the different and amazing strands of work this charity has been delivering over the last 20 years. It’s a real privilege to be part of such a fantastic organisation and team. I wanted to share some of the insights I have had about our work in my initial weeks:

The first two weeks was a very thorough induction and included attending a quarterly meeting with our Board of Trustees. It was great to meet everyone and hear how invested and committed our Trustees are to supporting and developing our work.

Alexia and I then set to work on planning a weekend of teaching as part of the Distance Learning Programme we are currently running in Romania. Helping to deliver the intensive study weekend material to the 12 “students” (all Romanian teachers, psychologists and care staff) hosted by the University of Bucharest was a fantastic experience as I got to see Alexia in action (wow!) and get a real understanding and feel for the content of this course. I got to meet the students, hear about their work settings (including how they are making music with children) and also make music with them which was very enjoyable. It was a chance to meet Monika Szabo, a longstanding Local Partner of the charity who has stepped in to becoming our local Moderator of the Distance Learning Programme this year – the most recent step towards making this project fully locally-led. I also got to experience a little of Romania, which felt particularly important to my understanding of the charity and its work, given it was the country where it all began.

Here in the UK, I have travelled to Worthing to visit music therapist Hazel Child delivering a skill-sharing project in a Dementia Care home – I participated in a group and was lucky enough to witness Hazel both running the group with residents whilst also training up the staff so they will be able to continue to run music sessions themselves after the project ends. What a wonderful experience to see our work in action! I learnt so much about ‘how’ our projects are delivered by the therapists and the valuable skills they share with care staff. It was great to hear from Hazel that during the final week of the project she was really encouraged by how the staff had learnt through-out the six week process and were able to independently run the groups she had established very successfully.

Following this I spent some time in Fort William, where I met music therapist Clare Reynolds who delivered two skill-sharing projects for us last year – one at a centre for adults with learning and physical disabilities and one in a care home for people living with dementia: it was great to visit both settings with Clare, learn more about the projects and how music sessions are still being delivered by the care staff she trained. We also met with the care home manager Libby who said, “The project has been a great success and has helped to keep staff morale up. Follow-up visits really help keep the momentum of the sessions going.”

Clare and I then visited a new care home in Ballacullish for initial discussions about an introductory training project to help their staff develop what they can offer to the people living with dementia in their care. Here we secured the charity’s first funded skill-sharing project which Clare will deliver later this year. Thinking of different ways to fund projects from projects is something Alexia and I have been discussing so this was very positive and encouraging! We also met with the Deputy Director of a group of 14 care homes in the Highlands and are in the early stages of discussions around delivering a music day to 14 of their care co-ordinators and then developing a roll out programme for our 6-week projects in some of their came homes across the area. Again, this would be income generating which is fantastic because, as I explained to both parties, if organisations are able to pay or at least contribute towards the costs of our projects this ultimately means we have the capacity to deliver more projects in a year and develop our work in the UK further. It also means we can use our charitable funds to support the work being delivered in organisations where there is great need but no money.

Since returning from my travels, amongst other things, I’ve been involved in thinking about how to develop our Interactive Music-Making course, I’m designing a ‘project plan’ for all our strands of work this year moving into 2018, looking at new UK & International skill-sharing opportunities for us to explore, working on a new Music as Therapy International film about our UK work, as well as recruiting for our Rwanda Skill-Sharing Project and Training of Trainers programme that we will deliver this summer. I’ve also been doing a final hand-over with Jane Robbie who leaves us after 17 years of incredible work. She leaves very big boots to fill but I shall endeavour to do my best.

Warmest and with lots of enthusiam and energy for our work!