“Expect the unexpected” - Young patients enjoy live music activities

24 May 2022
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From impromptu performances to ukulele tutorials, our Resident Musician, Jelly Cleaver tells us about delivering musical activities with our younger patients and beyond.

What sort of activities have you been running at St George’s?
In the children's wards I teach patients how to play the ukulele and I might even teach them a few songs if they pick it up quickly. I also love performing to patients on the wards, and sometimes getting the patients and nurses to sing along too!

What does a typical day look like for you in your role as a Resident Artist?
The days are very varied. When I work in children's outpatient areas like Dragon Centre and Day Surgery I've learnt to expect the unexpected. Sometimes I'll start teaching some chords to a child and some more children will come over and want to be involved. I also take percussion instruments with me which are often more accessible for younger children. On the wards I'll speak to the nurses on duty about who might enjoy some music or I'll just pop around and see. Sometimes I'll do an impromptu performance for the whole ward or I might get talking with patients about their favourite music or the memories that music can bring up.

Have you noticed your activities have had an impact on the patients you have worked with?
When I work in the children's wards, I find parents appreciate someone keeping their children occupied. It's nice to provide something to distract them during waiting times, especially when they are anxious. Some patients also really enjoy learning the ukulele and have a lot of natural talent for it. Some parents have even promised to buy their children their own ukulele or guitar after our session so they can keep learning! It's also really great to hear from the nurses when I return to some of the longer-stay patients that they seemed to brighten up after I went last time. 

Have you got any favourite moments from your time at St George’s so far?
I've already had lots of incredible moments. Once in the Dragon Centre I was working with a family of three siblings and after teaching one of them a chord on the ukulele they would all start teaching each other until they could all do it. Once in Day Surgery three children ended up sitting around me while I sang them Disney songs and I even got one of the little girls wearing an Elsa onesie to sing 'Let It Go' to me. I've also had some really nice moments in the wards when the patients and nurses start singing or playing percussion along to my music and creating a little scene of joy!

What are your hopes for the rest of the term, are there any activities, themes or projects which you see emerging?
We've just had a very generous donation of more ukuleles from the Ukulele Kids Club to use for group sessions. I'd also love to bring more song writing elements to my activities as I know how cathartic it can be to express emotions through song writing and music. I'm hoping to start encouraging some patients to write lyrics which I can put to music. I'm thinking about more ways I can get people singing along in the hospital - watch this space!

We believe that enabling arts and culture to thrive in our hospitals is a vital part of our work. Find out more about how our arts programme makes a difference to our patients, their families and staff here.

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