Students hold music sessions with terminally ill adults for wellbeing

25 July 2016

Terminally ill adults, their carers and palliative care staff at the Pilgrims Hospices, Canterbury, have taken part in a series of music sessions with students at Canterbury Christ Church University to enhance their quality of life.

Applied Music students in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing and Dr Maria Varvarigou, Senior Lecturer in Music at the University, lead the sessions, which aimed to improve patients’ wellbeing and help support students’ learning and employability as music facilitators in health care settings.


Music students performing at the Pilgrims Hospices

The day sessions consisted of physical and vocal warm-up exercises, singing repertoire that was familiar to or requested by the participants and live music performances of songs that the students were working on for their university final pieces.

John, age 79, is one of the patients at the Canterbury Pilgrims Hospices, he told the students that the music activities helped him ‘to reconnect to the person he used to be’ and gave him ‘a positive outlook’ knowing that he was able to be himself.

The benefits of the sessions for the patients were diversion and enjoyment, as well as benefits to their breathing, mood and wellbeing. For families, it was the development of lasting memory of a shared experience with a person they love. This programme illustrated the Hospices’ commitment to addressing the holistic needs of its patients to all staff and volunteers.


Dr Maria Varvarigou

Dr Varvarigou, said: “This programme gave the students a unique opportunity to understand how their musical and interpersonal skills can be used in a health setting to enhance the lives of patients directly. It also offered them an alternative career perspective to that of a music teacher or music performer.

“The programme allowed me to nurture a student-tutor partnership in learning. In preparation for the sessions the students and I co-developed the structure of the music sessions and the students had absolute autonomy in the choice of repertoire and exercises. After the programme we were very reflective on what worked well and what we need to improve, to continue the sessions in the future.”

Canterbury Pilgrims Hospices Manager, Annie Hogben, was a great supporter of the music sessions, she said: “Any opportunities for young people to understand and experience first-hand the benefits their chosen skills can achieve are vital in the future workplace. I also believe a joint Pilgrims Hospice and Canterbury Christ Church University project provides a real opportunity to change the perception of palliative and hospice care in the future.”

The music students enjoyed the experience and felt the sessions had a profound impact on their music training and their career development. Harriet Shortall is an Applied Music student and clarinettist, she said: “This experience has helped largely with my people skills, especially with older people, and feel that when it comes to running my own sessions, I will be better equipped to work with them.”

Mia O’Hara, Applied Music student and double bass player, said: “In September I will be training as a primary school teacher and I hope that I will be able to transfer the skills and knowledge, that I gained during the sessions, to my teaching. My ultimate goal will be to introduce intergenerational music-making into any future school that I may work at.”  

Trixie Collins who is also an Applied Music student, as well as a guitar player and a composer, has been working at the Pilgrims Hospices as a nurse and has been offered a new role as the lead for music-making workshops for the hospices in Kent.

The programme will continue next year with five more music sessions, with the students returning to coach the new cohort of Applied Music, Health and Wellbeing students.

Last year, Dr Varvarigou collaborated with St Nicholas Special School, a community day school providing education for over 190 children aged between four and 19 who have profound and complex learning difficulties. Music students facilitated workshops and arranged and performed songs from the Lion King at the school’s summer concert.

Notes to Editors

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 23:11:00