Music in the Third Age

The RNCM hosted an interactive workshop in November dedicated to music in the Third Age, with a particular focus on dementia.

Taking place in the RNCM’s Forman Lecture Theatre, Music in the Third Age: Practice and Research was a free public event to raise awareness of the existing initiatives, activities, training, projects and research on music-making for, with and by the elderly, including people with dementia.

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Guest speakers included Professor Alistair Burns (Vice Dean for the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at The University of Manchester and National Clinical Director for Dementia, NHS England, pictured), Gill Drummond (NW Manchester Mental Health Trust; Dementia Friends), Clare Morel (Singing for the Brain; Vibrant Voices), and Philip Curtis (Prince Claus Conservatoire, Groningen; Music and Dementia), in addition to the RNCM’s Professor Jane Ginsborg (Associate Director of Research) and Dr Martin Harlow (Vice Principal (Academic)).

Professor Burns said: ‘The positive impact that music has on dementia sufferers is widely acknowledged. It is a credit to the RNCM that they are presenting public events such as this to raise awareness of the work already in place, and training young musicians to work in this important area.’

During the afternoon, harpist and music therapist Christina Rhys (pictured) worked with musicians from Manchester Camerata, improvising with RNCM students to demonstrate Music in Mind (Care UK), and PhD student Robyn Dowlen (The  University of Manchester) introduced her work on developing an in the moment multi-sensory music assessment tool for dementia.

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Nick Ponsillo, Head of Learning and Participation at Manchester Camerata, said: ‘This is a great opportunity to cast a spotlight on the ways in which creative participation in music has a unique ability to forge and reinstate relationships between people of all ages and backgrounds.

‘Sharing some examples of Manchester Camerata’s work and the research that underpins, informs and begins to explain our understanding of what actually happens ‘in the moment’ through our research with the University of Manchester and Lancaster University is a fascinating way to think about music and the role of musicians in our communities today.’

The day concluded with a plenary session involving Councillor Susan Cooley, Lead Member of Manchester City Council for Age Friendly Manchester.

Councillor Cooley said: ‘It is wonderful that the RNCM is taking such impressive steps to not only raise awareness of the importance of music-making and older people, but also in its commitment to training students to work with, and make a positive impact on, this valuable section of our community.’

Through RNCM Engage, the College’s learning and participation programme, and training ground for its students in creative and professional practice, the RNCM educates young musicians to work with both older people and people with dementia throughout the North West, and has this year chosen to support the Alzheimer’s Society.

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Ed Gaffney, RNCM SU President, said: ‘The RNCM SU works with a chosen charity each year and the Alzheimer’s Society is one that both staff and students are proud to support.

‘Over the next academic year we will work to raise awareness of the wonderful work the charity does for people with dementia in the UK, and encourage students to become Dementia Friends. The Music and the Third Age workshop was a great way to learn more about the positive impact music can have on older people and those affected by dementia.’