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Welcome to the Recording of MEC Seminar:

The Impact of Music on Health and Wellbeing

Thank you to all who participated in this event. We will share the transcript and invaluable resources from the conversation here soon.

With the recent launch of the ‘National Academy for Social Prescribing’ and the ‘Thriving Communities Fund’, new strategic partnerships are bringing together NHS England, Sport England, Natural England, the Office for Civil Society, the Money & Pensions Service and NHS Charities. Many arts and music organisations are also finding a place in this new collaborative ecosystem.

Although the idea that music can enhance the life experience supporting a general sense of wellbeing is not new, evidence of the beneficial effect of music on, for example, clinical care and mental health is now widely accepted. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has 3039 evidence papers covering everything from ‘Music for Insomnia’ to ‘Using Prescribed Music to Enhance the Quality of Life for People with Dementia and Their Carer’.

‘The Impact of Music on Health and Wellbeing’ seminar looks at current best practice in ‘Arts and Health’ and explores how music can best support the advancement of social prescribing through promotion, collaboration and innovation.

  • John McMahon, Arts Council England, Lead for Arts and Health
  • Daisy Swift, Learning Director, Wigmore Hall
  • Barbara Eifler, Chief Executive Officer, Making Music
  • Fiona Harvey, Education and Youth Ensembles Consultant, Association of British Orchestras
  • Sarah Derbyshire, Chief Executive Officer, Orchestras Live
  • Matthew Swann, Chief Executive Officer, City of London Sinfonia
  • Phil Castang, Director of Creative Learning & Engagement at Bristol Beacon, Chair elect MEC
  • Natalie Ellis, Head of Arts, Cambridge University Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sarah Paine, National Academy for Social Prescribing, Regional Lead for the Midlands

10am Welcome by Fiona Pendreigh, Chair of the Music Education Council

10.05am Introduction to seminar theme by Phil Castang, Chair Elect of the Music Education Council

10.10-10.30am Thriving Communities and the National Academy for Social Prescribing with John McMahon and Sarah Paine 

“At the heart of our strategy ‘A Social Revolution in Wellbeing’, launched last spring, lay a sincere belief that connecting people to the arts, physical activity, nature, and personal support, was vital for maintaining health and wellbeing. Our experiences of the pandemic have, and continue to, reinforce to us just how much these essential aspects of life matter to us all”. James Sanderson CEO NASP

There are many music organisations, charities, freelance music practitioners, therapists, ensemble and choral leaders whose work sits in, or on the fringe of arts and health and would like a better understanding of the environment. In this session, John McMahon sets out Arts Council England’s commitment to funding arts and health work and we explore the emerging landscape for those that are not sure where they fit in. The discussion will explore:

  • What type of activity does arts on prescription cover?
  • How Thriving Communities partnerships are forming and what types of organisation are joining
  • How partnerships are mutually supporting each other
  • The role of the link worker and how commissioning happens
  • Other routes to working with the NHS

10.30-11am Orchestras in Healthcare and Q&A

Orchestras in Healthcare is the report of a survey – initiated and conducted by Sarah Derbyshire (Orchestras Live), Fiona Harvey (Association of British Orchestras) and Matthew Swann (City of London Sinfonia) – to provide a comprehensive picture of the contribution that orchestras (including those integrated in opera companies) currently make in the public health sector. The report draws on responses to the survey from ABO members across all four UK nations. Findings focus on geographical, financial and musical aspects, the type of healthcare settings in which the work takes place, orchestras’ motivation for their involvement in the healthcare sector, the role health and wellbeing delivery plays in their business models, and finally the impact of COVID-19 on orchestras’ current and future plans.

11am-11.50 The Impact of Music on Health and Wellbeing Panel Session and Q&A

Chaired by Phil Castang, this panel session explores the impact of music on health and wellbeingDiscussion will touch on best practice, commissioning, and partnerships. It will also look to the future and ask, what is the potential for music in the ‘social revolution in wellbeing’ and how does the music sector best support this?


  • Barbara Eifler, CEO at Making Music,
  • Daisy Swift, Learning Director at Wigmore Hall,
  • Natalie Ellis, Head of Arts at Cambridge University Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust
  • John McMahon, Arts Council England, Lead for Arts and Health
  • Sarah Paine, National Academy for Social Prescribing, Regional Lead for the Midlands

11.50 Next Steps: How to join the MEC Music, Health and Wellbeing Network

MEC Seminar: Youth MEC, curated by young musicians on Thursday 15th July plus AGM

MEC Seminar: Music and Social Justice on Thursday 14th October

If you are a member of MEC you can:

  • Nominate yourself for MEC’s advisory group. Further information on this process will be sent to members shortly. The advisory group will meet (physically or virtually) twice per year with the group suggesting topics to discuss. It will be an opportunity for all to reflect on what is happening in the sector, identify key issues, seek future solutions and inform policy makers
  • Update and widen your personal expertise and knowledge by hearing and learning from experts in the wider MEC community
  • Take part in debate and discussion on matters of policy
  • Take part in education events and discussion on a wide range of relevant areas of practice
  • Take part in working groups and joint activity to take forward some of the key issues identified
  • Build your professional networks through meeting other MEC members and using our online directory
  • Access exclusive content on our new members site


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The Music Education Council (MEC) acts as a medium for bringing together in a working relationship those organisations and institutions in the UK involved in music education and music education training, thereby creating a common meeting ground and opportunities for the exchange of information and the promotion of joint or connected activities.

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