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Inside Hear and Now

Screenshot of Hear and Now taking place over Zoom

Uniting young and old through music and storytelling, Hear and Now is one of our most moving projects.

The flagship intergenerational initiative is grown out of creative collaboration between adults with dementia and their carers, and young musicians from the local community. Through the leadership of Tim Steiner and Philharmonia musicians, each project creates new music based on the shared exploration of participants’ stories. The project has been running online since May 2020, quickly adapting to the new challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic through Zoom sessions for participants across our residencies of Bedford and Leicester.

In Leicester, Hear and Now is supported by De Montfort University, and delivered in partnership with Leicester Musical Memory Box and local primary schools. In Bedford, we produce Hear and Now with Orchestras Live and co-design it with Tibbs Dementia Foundation’s Music 4 Memory and Fusion Youth Singing.

In this blog, De Montfort University student Molly shares her experience taking part as a student volunteer.

Initially, I was drawn to the project as a result of my love for music; also, because my Nan has dementia. Music, especially dancing, makes my nan the happiest she has ever been, and so I wanted to help spread joy to others too.

Whilst on the project, I learned so much more about dementia that I wasn’t aware of before. The only part of the brain that the disease does not affect is musical memory, so it is no wonder that it brought so much joy and cheer to everyone involved.

My particular role throughout the duration of the project was a student volunteer, and I loved every minute of it. With the current climate making us unable to run sessions in person, I was a little concerned that it would be difficult to keep the rest of the participants actively engaged; but the end result was quite the opposite! The project leads were absolutely brilliant. They were fun, vibrant, helpful, encouraging and kept everyone engaged at all times.

With any online meeting, it can be difficult to manage a large number of people; it can be quite easy for everyone to talk over each other and can be quite chaotic. For a project like this one, I expected quite a lot of the above moments. I was wrong.

De Montfort University student Molly

We sang, laughed and danced together creating moments of chaos; but the kind of organised, beautiful chaos. Despite the fact there were so many of us in each session, we all had our moment to shine. Whether playing an instrument, singing, dancing, reading a poem or having the opportunity to lead part of a discussion, we all had an opportunity to be in the limelight.

The most beautiful and magical moments were those where one or two people performed for the rest of the group. Whether a musician from the Philharmonia, a participant with dementia or a student volunteer; everyone listened in complete awe and admiration. For me personally, these were my favourite moments throughout the project. Seeing particular participants grow in confidence and skill was absolutely incredible – it was clear that the project had a huge, positive impact on them.

Overall, the project was an absolute delight and I am honoured to have been a part of it. Acting as a student volunteer and a representative from De Montfort University enhanced my confidence, communication skills and ability to adapt to a particular individuals needs as and when required. It was a real joy to be a part of and I’d personally like to thank De Montfort University’s Music Department, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Leicester Musical Memory Box and Tibbs Dementia Foundation for such a wonderful opportunity and experience. I am definitely looking forward to the next one!

Hear and Now will culminate in a virtual performance on YouTube in April 2021.

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