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Community Music & Therapy Projects in Eastern Europe

What are the Community Music & Music Therapy projects?

Since 2008 a team of professional musicians has been implementing music projects in Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan. This developed out of the inspirational work that the orchestra had already been doing in Hampshire and Wiltshire, with children with special needs and with vulnerable communities.

Emily Blows working with children from Exeter House and Woodford Valley Schools
Emily Blows working with children from Exeter House and Woodford Valley Schools

Typically a project team comprises 2 - 3 professional musicians, a music therapist/trainer and students from British and local Colleges of Music.

We work with local partners and international NGOs who already have a presence in-country. In many cases they have years of working together and this enables us to set projects up relatively efficiently.

To date, we have implemented 3 one-week pilot projects in Tbilisi and Gremi (Georgia), in Chisinau and Bender (Moldova and Transniestra) and in Dushanbe (Tajikistan).

Opera recital, DushanbeA one week project begins with a high profile concert in the capital's Opera House, Conservatoire or Organ Hall.

This is followed by one day of workshops with students from local music schools and colleges. This enables us to enjoy and share in their music making (often on national, ethnic instruments) and at the same time, to offer them alternative, sometimes less rigid approaches to playing.

If a handful of these students are interested in working with us during the week, we invite them to participate in the workshops with the children.

The following 2 - 3 days are spent working with vulnerable children and children with disability (both physical and mental) in a variety of settings such as rehabilitation centres, day-care centres and orphanages. Often these children are excluded from mainstream education and while well cared for physically, they sometimes lack stimulation.

How do the projects benefit young people with special needs?

Sometimes, music can be the only means of expression for some children with disability and those suffering trauma.

'My daughter is able to gain control in a world that often seems pretty much out of control. Too much language overloads her and makes her feel anxious so to have a way of communicating other than with words has had a really positive effect. To watch her be so confident, make up songs and sing to other people - I never thought I would see that...'

Parent in Wiltshire

Lynsey Docherty running a therapy session at the Kishti Centre, Dushanbe - November 2011Although the countries in which we work have a fantastic heritage of song and folk tale, the skills of local musicians are not always applied to the healthcare setting.

While psychologists, speech therapists and educational specialists are employed to work with children with disability, instances of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and art, dance and drama therapy are less common and music therapy does not yet exist as a vocation in Eastern Europe.

In a small way we are seeking to introduce interactive music making to this setting with the long-term aim of skill-sharing and encouraging local practitioners to continue after we have left.

Some of the acknowledged benefits of this type of work include the development of:

• Sensory stimulation and integration
• Increased social interaction
• Self-expression
• Speech and language skills
• Gross and fine motor skills
• Development of own innate musicality and creativity

Our previous projects have shown the impact music making has in developing:

• social interaction and skills, self awareness and self in relation to another including shared play, turn taking, listening and responding to others
• a non verbal and non threatening language to support the participants to develop communication skills
• increased tolerance of sounds and movement
• opportunities to explore a wider range of emotions
• new experiences of play to develop a wide range of skills and abilities
• decreases in difficult behaviour
• relationships and positive interactions with other adults.



Music workshop with children and carers at Centre for Autism, Dushanbe (Nov 2011)

Lynsey Docherty at the music workshop with children and carers at Centre for Autism, Dushanbe - November 2011