What We Do
George’s Rockstars was set up inspired by George’s experience with music therapy to make children in hospital smile through the power of music therapy.
“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Anderson
Why Music Therapy?
George was fortunate enough to benefit from music therapy sessions while in isolation during his bone marrow transplant at Bristol Children’s Hospital.
Music therapy was the highlight of George’s week during a very tough time and George’s parents saw how happy the children on the ward were when the music therapist came around. It gave a then 4 year old George a way to express his feelings of frustration.
What Is Music Therapy?
Music is part of all of us – in our heartbeats and movements, our laughter, crying and singing. Music Therapy uses music to help children and their families live creatively and resourcefully in the face of illness, disability and trauma.
Music Therapists know that being in hospital or living with a long term condition might bring up lots of different feelings and can be difficult and scary. Music therapy is an amazing way to help both children and their families explore and express their feelings without having to put them into words – and it can also be lots of fun!
Our Music Therapists
George’s Rockstars have a small team of Music Therapists who are professionally qualified and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and have many years of specialist training to support children, young people and their families.
The therapy team is led by Cathy Birch who trained at Nordoff Robbins and qualified in 2014. She has many years of experience working in children’s hospitals and is also the Co-Chair of the Paediatric Network for the British Association of Music Therapists.
Our Work So Far
We started Music Therapy in 2021 in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth and within a year grew to cover 4 hospitals across Hampshire including Basingstoke, Winchester and the Piam Brown Children’s Oncology ward at Southampton Children Hospital.
We are now on a mission to bring music therapy to more wards at Southampton Children Hospital, our regional specialist children’s hospital, including neuro for children with acquired brain injury, the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, kidney dialysis unit and cardiac unit for children with congenital heart conditions.
Beyond Southampton, we have a waiting list of children hospital wards that want us to bring the power of music to the children on their wards.
Our first official charity film!
We are so proud to show the difference music therapy has been making to children in hospitals across 4 Hampshire hospitals in George’s name. George’s little sister Bella especially was very proud to see how she is helping children like her brother smile during filming.
We couldn’t help these children without your support so thank you! Please share and help us grow support for the charity and reach more children like George through music and meet the huge demand we have.
Huge thanks to Ollie Uglow – Freelance Filmmaker for helping us show the world what we do and working so hard to create this and to all of the families involved in the film.
Who We Work With
George’s Rockstars provides music therapy for children in hospitals across Hampshire. Many of these children have serious and life limiting/ threatening illnesses or mental health challenges and spend a large proportion of their time in hospital. This can impact them in many ways, from the physical challenges they face due to their condition to missing time with friends and family. For many they have to come to terms with the long term impact their condition will have on their day to day life, or that their condition will be life limiting.
As well as their condition specific challenges, the hospitalisation of children has been shown to have a negative and lasting impact on the motor, cognitive, emotional and social development of the child.
Music therapy uses music to help children and their families live creatively and resourcefully in the face of illness, disability and trauma. It can be used to support children and their families to explore and express their emotions without having to put them into words, to encourage them to engage in activities and support their treatments, to help meet developmental goals, and build positive memories of time in hospital.
Research has shown music therapy to be beneficial to children in hospital settings in a wide range of areas of care – for example pain management, intensive care, procedural support, palliative and end of life care, brain injury rehabilitation, respiratory care, medically fragile children in low awareness states and with both premature and full term hospitalised infants. (Bradt 2013 Guidelines for Music Therapy Practice in Paediatric Care)
George’s Rockstars works with children, young people and their families across the age range – from supporting newborn infants and their parents, through boisterous toddlers, to thoughtful teens. Each of their needs is specific and individual and we use our knowledge and experience to tailor programmes to support them, whether as individuals, family groups, or with their peers.
With it’s largely non-verbal nature music therapy can reach the widest range of individuals, including those with profound and multiple learning difficulties, those for whom English is not their native language, and those who’s traumatic experiences have created barriers to their engagement with people and services.
Children We Have Helped
We met Tona aged 16. She had already beaten cancer twice, however the harsh treatments which destroyed her cancer also destroyed many of her body’s functions. Tona and her mum spent the next year on the children’s ward, with regular trips to the regional PICU.
Music therapy became such an important part of their life that when Taylor went home for end-of-life care she requested the therapist visit to make music around her with her siblings.
After her death Tona’s mum told us, “In order for children to get better, or to even accept treatment, the child needs to trust and feel safe. Children, particularly those who are in for a long time, get fearful. People like music therapists – who don’t expect anything from them other than to play, to have fun, to make music – are those connections that get children to feel better, to sit up, to accept treatment.”
More quotes from Tona’s mum, Eve…
“Very special, to be able to pitch at different levels. To make huge amounts of noise with little ones, but still manage to break the ice with a teenager who didn’t want to connect or engage with anything”.
“The last couple of months Tona knew she was going to die, and she’d made such a connection she wanted the music therapist to continue supporting her and her siblings when she came home for end of life care. Tona was barely conscious, but hearing the therapist was there bought a lot of comfort and she was one of the last people outside the family to see her. A really special connection”.
From Tona – “George’s Rockstars has supported us emotionally throughout this, and I’ve really seen how they’ve helped my mum which means a lot to me”.
Ernie was two years old when George’s Rockstars first met him. Usually full of beans and keen to explore the world, his metabolic condition unfortunately means he has frequent periods of illness and regularly spends a few weeks in hospital. At his young age he gets very bored and frustrated, but doesn’t yet have the language to talk about his emotions or fully understand why he has to be there.
Every time he sees the trolley of instruments coming he is so excited to join in and uses the music to let everyone know how he is feeling. The therapist thinks carefully about which instruments to use and the music they create to help Ernie learn and develop – all whilst having a lot of very noisy fun!
“Thank you SO much for all you do! I cannot tell you what the wonderful session meant to Hope who suffers with huge anxiety around certain parts of her stay. In turn making my day a whole lot better too.
The therapist was just wonderful and seemed to understand Hope straight away. I would give you the world if I could for that session made Hope on cloud 9 for the rest of the day. It is so much more than just the music and it’s suitable for every child, no matter of the need or illness. Super inclusive. Thank you so very, very much.”
Sophie was diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma in September 2020. Sophie has music therapy while at Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth during strict isolation for COVID-19, meaning she was unable to see any of her siblings for the majority of her time in hospital or leave her hospital room.
Sophie’s mum Charlotte told us “It’s just invaluable, it’s priceless in a way. Sophie didn’t go to school in that whole time, and you are separated from everyone and you feel apart from everything. The impact on your mental health is huge, and services like music therapy that George’s Rockstars offer has a huge impact, improvement on their mental health.
Cathy just works her magic, but the child is in full control over what they are able to do and I think so often throughout their treatment or time in hospital they have no control over anything. And actually having control of something, even if it is a piece of music gives them something to hold on to really.
What was really pivotal about Cathy’s timing was that Sophie was dying at the point that we had our sessions and actually she had one in the last couple of weeks of her life and I think that to be able to give her something during that time when she knew she was dying and she had only just turned 10, I think was quite an uplifting piece and quite calming, the videos we have just look quite peaceful.”
Aila spent many months in Piam Brown Children’s Cancer ward after being diagnosed with leukaemia at just 4 months old and had lots of music therapy sessions with us.
Aila’s mum has shared her story.
“When we found out we were pregnant with Aila, one of our first thoughts was we were so excited to show her our love of music. Both myself and Jason play guitar and piano, we couldn’t wait for Aila to play alongside us one day.
Aila was diagnosed with Acute myeloid leukaemia at four months and faced a six month stay in hospital for intense chemotherapy. Our world of music turned into worry and stress of being on a hospital ward with a critically ill baby.
One day we had a knock on our door and it was Cathy, a music therapist from George’s Rockstars. She came in with every instrument from pianos to a shaky egg, this was clearly Aila’s favourite!
For the first time it felt like we had our dream of music back and the session flew by. Each Monday Cathy came, with different instruments and songs and Aila always loved it.
We are now home having finished treatment and are back to playing our instruments and even attended a music festival.”