Headway – Singing for Health

Pilot Project

Music for Everyone are proud to partner with Headway – a charity that provides long term health & social rehabilitation, help & advice, respite, guidance & support to individuals, carers and families who have been affected by brain injury across Nottingham & Nottinghamshire.

We have successfully completed an 18 session pilot of ‘Singing for Health’ sessions with service users at Nottingham Headway, between October 2020 and March 2021. Sessions have taken place weekly, online and this collaborative project with Nottingham Headway has been jointly funded.

Aim of Sessions

  • To lessen social isolation for Headway service users by providing a regular, supportive group session in which members can communicate and interact with each other.
  • To promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing through the use of music and singing, based in neurologic technique, and through the opportunity to share experiences, issues and support.
  • To offer the opportunity for cognitive development through the use of neurologic music approaches, including perception, attention, memory, sequencing, planning and concentration.
  • To offer support for effective communication, including speech and language functions.
  • To encourage and promote effective relaxation and energising for mobility.

As well as working with our members on these specific areas of singing in health, we were also able to spend time ‘checking-in’ and having conversation, monitoring moods throughout the session, and measuring the progress of each individual through controlled tasks. The sessions were a joy to deliver, and our members gave great feedback. We hope that the project and partnership will be able to continue and develop in the future, hopefully face to face, using the Nottingham Headway premises in a covid secure way.

Breakdown of sessions

Each session comprised: Breathing exercises related to Oral Motor Respiratory Exercise (OMREX) training for relaxation, energising muscle groups and healthy voice production. Vocal ‘warm ups’ and exercises, such as the type used by singers and choirs to enable group members to explore their voices and connect making sounds with their bodies. These exercises were based in Vocal Intonation Training, often used to enable better speech production and control, promote more confident communication and develop self-awareness. Rounds and ‘cross lateral’ movement songs; we learned 12 different songs that incorporated movements to cross the body midline, therefore promoting smooth co-ordination between brain hemispheres and engaging several brain functions at a time. This included songs and chants from around the world. These relate to Auditory Processing Training, which aims to improve sequencing and planning in the brain by concentrating on sensory processing and challenging the senses to handle data more fluently and quickly. Patterned Sensory Enhancement techniques (where rhythm drives the movement function of the brain) were also used to enable group members to achieve better fluency in movements, such as using alternate hands or raising arms. Songs; over the course of the group we learned and rehearsed 10 different songs, incorporating different genres, speeds, moods and using suggestions from group members. Singing songs can put into practise all of the things we worked on so far, as singing even a simple or familiar song engages both brain hemispheres in a number of locations. If the exercises previously have done their job properly, the brain is able to respond to the need to use multiple functions and group members are able to multi-task, for example, remembering lyrics, using correct pitch, keeping the beat, sequencing the song correctly, listening to others, moving, producing vocal sounds.