Impact case studies

Music and wellbeing

Blending research and practice to understand the value of music for healthy lives.

Professor Karen Burland and Dr Freya Bailes

School of Music

Impact Summary

Researchers in the School of Music are working with the North Yorkshire Music Therapy Centre to map the range of therapeutic music activities in the region alongside the populations which are most/least well served by their services and those offered by other providers.

This mapping exercise has led to a comprehensive and much-needed insight into the gaps in provision and has informed and supported future research development plans.

Central to the plans is the assumption that engagement in musical activities has a direct positive impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing.
Participation in music-related activities gives people pleasure and meaning and as a result, they experience better quality of life and are likely to play a more active role in society and the economy.

The research team, led by Professor Karen Burland and Dr Freya Bailes, are also working with therapeutic music practitioners in North and West Yorkshire to understand the challenges and opportunities they face in their work.

A series of symposia and meetings with a variety of stakeholders led to plans for the creation of the Music for Healthy Lives Research and Practice Network, in collaboration with Nordoff Robbins, the UK’s leading independent music therapy charity.

The Network, due to be launched at the Collaborative Approaches to Music and Wellbeing Research Conference at the University of Leeds in November 2018,  is committed to providing evidence to support the existing knowledge in this area; to promote and connect music practitioners to healthcare providers; and to increase cooperation and collaboration.

Underpinning Research

The first phase of this new research was supported by a grant of £2000 from the Cultural Institute at the University of Leeds, enabling researchers to develop the collaboration with the North Yorkshire Music Therapy Centre.

The success of this collaboration led to numerous events where, alongside therapists and therapeutic music practitioners, Burland and Bailes have identified key research questions that have shaped their future research strategy.

Understanding the value and potential challenges of collaboration between academics and external partners is central to the research and early collaborations reveal that although this type of working is engaging and energising, often providing rich insights and new ways of thinking, it can be challenged by the logistical pressures of professional life and routines.

To date, the key findings arising from the research relate to an identification of the range of ways in which these kinds of collaborations can be mutually beneficial for all stakeholders and these have been disseminated at academic and industry events, including a one-day symposium, Music Therapy in Action: Context, Access, Communities, in June 2017 and at the British Association for Music Therapy Conference 2018.

The researchers have specifically identified several key priorities which apply to aspects of infrastructure in North Yorkshire - including access to services for those in rural communities and the challenges associated with the administrative management of therapeutic provision – and by working with the Network, aim to find meaningful and workable solutions.

Although this work is in its early stages, Network members report new collaborative approaches with other practitioners and renewed insights into how working with the academic sector can enhance practice.

The Network and partnership with Nordoff Robbins will enable Burland and Bailes to develop their research.

Their ambition is that the collaborations emerging from the Network will enable them to identify research questions and challenges grounded in the experience of a variety of stakeholders which will become the focus of future projects.

This research has been led by members of the School of Music’s Music and Science research group