Musicians engaging with people with dementia: perspectives of learning

  • Rineke Smilde (Speaker)

    Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


    This paper will detail an ethnographic research that has been conducted into the practice of ‘Music for Life’, managed by Wigmore Hall in London. The aim is creating interactive music workshops for people with dementia and there carers as a group in residential care homes. Throughout one eight-week project with a particular group of eight residents and five members of care staff, three professional musicians aim to build new relationships and insights using musical improvisation as a catalyst. The project focuses on communication in a broad sense, and musicians and care staff work together as a team, using a range of verbal and non-verbal approaches to support individuals and the group as a whole. The main purpose is to make the person behind the dementia visible again, through music. The research investigated the question of what kind of learning takes place for the musicians and what is required for their learning and development within this practice. One particular eight week project in the UK has been researched; field notes were taken upon observation, narrative interviews were held with the musicians and the staff development practitioner and they also kept a reflective journal throughout the project.Using the grounded theory method for data processing, during the coding process four conceptual entities emerged, being ‘Identity’, ‘Communication’, ‘Participation’ and ‘Development’. These four core categories illuminated the importance of the interaction between the musicians, the care staff and the residents with dementia. The relationship between these four key areas showed a learning process of musicians , care staff and residents which was highly informative, not only for future training of professional musicians who would like to specialize in this field, but also about the way in which society can deal with people with dementia.
    PeriodMar 2013
    Event titleEuropean Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) Annual Conference 2014: Before, Beside and After (Beyond) the Biographical Narrative
    Event typeConference
    LocationMagdeburg, GermanyShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • musicians
    • dementia
    • etnography