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Graduation stories – bringing music into hospitals

23 September 2015

Jason Sweeney spent his final year researching how live music can transform the experience of people in care homes and hospitals, inspired by playing music for his disabled brother.

To study at Abertay he took four years out from a successful career running a financial advice company, determined to explore his passion for music – and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives.

What inspired your research into using music in hospitals?

“I was heavily inspired because of a personal connection. I have a disabled brother Kevin who is completely dependent on 24-hour care. Kevin can’t talk or do anything for himself apart from smile and laugh.

“When I play music for Kevin something happens that either calms him or changes his mood when he’s down, so to see what music can do for people who require care deserves more research.”

How can music help people in palliative and long-term hospital care?

“I believe, through my research, that it provides some sort of relief or escape. Music helps facilitate bringing back memories and helps encourage positive experiences.

“I saw this first-hand when I was playing at an elderly end-of-life unit in Stirling. One of the nurses started crying while I was chatting to one of the residents after playing a Johnny Cash song. I was a bit taken aback as I had no idea what was going on.

“After the concert I spoke with the nurse and she said that she had been trying to communicate with the woman for weeks with no results. She then told me that she realised that music was the medium to use to communicate.

“It was a powerful moment to realise that the songs that we had been performed took the woman back and let her talk about her memories and what she knew about Johnny Cash.”

Jason Sweeney

Can you tell us about the concerts you organised through Music in Hospitals Scotland?

“Music in Hospitals is an amazing charity which brings musicians to care homes and hospitals for people who can’t make it to live venues. I have met so many great people in care who just want to talk about music and sing, tap their feet and join in.

“There have been times when the atmosphere was almost electric and the feedback has been amazing from the care units on the difference the visits make.”

What's your favourite memory of Abertay?

“I loved every minute, even the times when I felt like giving up because the going got tough. The positive experiences outweighed the tough times, but the opportunities to study and the facilities are amazing.

“It was really amazing to get a First Class Honours degree, and being recognised by the university for my contribution to music in the community was just unbelievable.”

Do you have a message for students starting university this year?

“Be clear on what you want to get out of it, believe in the end result and chuck everything at it. This is a great investment of your time and stick at it through those hard times when you feel like it’s too much.

“Use all the facilities, the meetings, the advice, the contact with other students and you will come out at the end with a huge smile!”

To find out more about studying at Abertay, please visit the School of Arts, Media and Computer Games courses page.

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