Bethanie had experienced many years of very challenging medical issues when she was referred to our Music Minds teenage mental health programme. As a result, she had very low mood and confidence, and there was a concern this may escalate due to her isolation and ongoing physical challenges. She was, and continues to be, educated through the Hospital Education Service who work with her at her home, which is where Misha Law, music leader, worked with her on a weekly basis for 10 weeks as part of our Music Minds programme. Here, Misha tells the story of Bethanie’s journey through Music Minds, including comments from Bethanie’s Mum, Nicky.
Bethanie has always loved music, playing flute and ukulele which she was given at Gloucester Hospital which is where I first worked with her many years ago. But when I arrived for our first Music Minds session, Bethanie was feeling low and didn’t seem very motivated. She was in pain and needed a hot water bottle to hold. Although she did some playing on keyboard and ukulele, she appeared quite indifferent to what we were doing.
“Beth was tired and in pain as her nutrition levels weren’t stable,” remembers Nicky. “The hot water bottle is used to try and relieve pain because Beth can’t take anything orally, like pain killers, and she can’t eat or drink.”
She continues: “Letting someone into her home after what she had been subjected to for three years in hospital was a big step. Although she had known Misha whilst in hospital, she had been let down by so many adults it was hard to know who could be trusted, so she had to spend the initial few weeks trying to weigh up how she felt about the situation, also getting used to being back in her own home after so long.”
During the following weeks she began to light up a bit more. A real change happened when we began working in her room rather than in the living room. She seemed to feel happier there and it was quieter too. As the sessions progressed we began to find our groove. Although I knew Bethanie had written songs with me on the hospital ward, she said she didn’t want to write songs together, preferring to sing songs she knew, learning ukulele parts online to accompany herself.
We started learning new songs most sessions which we would then perform for her mum and some of which she would film. Bethanie mainly played ukulele and sang while I accompanied her with guitar and backing vocals. We began experimenting, initially using the Acapella app to layer parts, and then moved on to Garage Band where we recorded a version of Lorde’s ‘Royals’.
As the sessions continued I noticed her becoming much more expressive, motivated and confident. She was practicing songs during the week which we then developed in sessions. I often suggested songwriting but she was still very clear she wanted to sing pre-existing songs.
We began working on vocal technique as Bethanie wanted to strengthen her voice. She became increasingly more settled in her own singing style, making the songs her own by adding embellishments.
Close to the end of our time together Bethanie’s mother suggested she sing one of her songs which she had written for ukulele and vocals. It transpired she had been writing songs alongside our sessions for a while, and they were amazing! She had known that she needed to write her songs without anyone else contributing.
Bethanie was given the opportunity to audition for a well known talent show which she did with her original song, travelling and staying in a big city overnight. She attended one of our weekend music sessions and has continued to write songs and develop her skills.
“The ten weeks Misha did with Beth at home were great. It gave her social time with another person. Just moving from sessions in the living room to the bedroom showed great progress. Beth’s room was decorated as soon as we were back from hospital, she wanted to have a space that was fresh and new, untarnished by her negative experiences. So to let someone in who had a link to hospital, was a positive step. She looked forward to Misha coming, she had fun, built her confidence up again and was able to focus on something other than hospital.”
(Nicky, Bethanie’s Mum)