Connection, communication and music

Claire cello EOD 2 (002)

I am passionate about connection, about communication, about music. That’s what drives me forward. I have been playing the cello for over 40 years; I’ve been playing professionally for about 25 years. Having the privilege and honour of playing at the bedside of people who I cared about who were nearing the end of their life changed my perspective on the importance of music. I realised that there was far more to music and to my playing the cello than ‘performing’ – than my ego. I learned that music could touch all who were involved; listeners and musicians alike in a deeply profound way – but I wasn’t sure quite HOW to harness music in an effective manner to insure I was not simply performing. This realisation took me into a wonderful course in the USA – ‘Music and Transitional Healing Program’ (MHTP.org) back in the early 2000s. I found what I’d been looking for – I learned about different types of music and rhythms and modes and when to play them depending solely on the state of the listener. I learned about entrainment and other very important tools in order to better ensure that all important connection with the listener. I learned to meet the listener where they are in the THAT moment – to aim to get in sync with them – and to then respond to whatever happens.

This learning eventually and unexpectedly led me to a PhD studentship at the University of Stirling where I played the cello live and pre-recorded at the bedsides of care home residents with dementia who were in palliative care, and someone who was closely connected with them. I wanted to know how the recorded vs live music might affect the listener’s connection with one another.

During my PhD, I trained in Talking Mats – I have since bought quite a few of the packs available and remain convinced regarding the effectiveness of this simple tool for enhancing connection and communication.

Now I am moving into the virtual world that we all find ourselves in. Lock-down has allowed me to have more time to fully enjoy playing my cellos (I specialise in baroque cello as well as modern cello – and I have a 6-string electric cello as well!). This strange gap in time has also prompted me to finally building a (still evolving) website (https://drclairegarabedian.com/) and to schedule events related to my work with music and people living with dementia (https://drclairegarabedian.com/events/). Although I have previously offered similar events live, this will be a new experience/learning curve in the virtual world!

I am currently managing a wonderful project through the Edinburgh InterFaith Association (https://www.edinburghinterfaith.com/time-to-talk); ‘Time to Talk’ – this Covid-19 listening service is funded Scottish Government funded through July 2020, and provides a skilled, trained, experienced listener for all care home residents and their families living in Scotland (11:00am – 7:00pm, 7 days a week).

I hope to see you at one of my upcoming events – please sign-up on my website for news of upcoming events and offers. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Thanks to Claire Garabedian fro this guest blog and good luck from all of us in her new venture

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