27.08.2019 Music

The sound of healing in stairwells.

While there may be a stack of live music venues closing around the country to many people’s dismay, there is still one place you can guarantee to find a regular gig. Nope, it’s not your local pub, if you live in Brisbane, it’s your local hospital.

Bet you never thought you’d be serenaded in a cancer unit…

In Brisbane and surrounds, this is very likely thanks to a local arts initiative, The Stairwell Project.

Since 2015, students, graduates and lecturers from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Queensland University of Technology, the University of Queensland and the Queensland College of Art (Griffith University) have been involved in the not-for-profit troubadour movement that brings beautiful music to hospital stairwells… and hallways, and cafes, and well, anywhere they can fit, really.

The Stairwell Project is an initiative from the Queensland group, Juggler’s Art Space. But it was Peter Breen, a former radiographer, who came up with the idea. He wanted to find a novel way to help alleviate patient anxiety, bring calm to families, and also to help staff destress when working in such high-pressure situations.

The first group of musicians involved in the trial were tucked in a stairwell where their music could gently waft through the corridors, and staff on duty could enjoy them running between floors. Hence the name of the project. But now you might find them playing anywhere throughout the hospital, including an outpatient cancer treatment ward.

The musicians, who play in the hospitals for free, are driven by the evidence-based concept that music is essential for healing and wellbeing of both patients and staff in hospitals and medical centres. And, according to group members and hospital staff, the response is extremely upbeat and positive.

The group is made up of 20 trained musicians who master a wide range of instruments including harp, flute, piano, classical guitar and hand pans. They squeeze themselves into stairwells and the like to infiltrate their special kind of ambience through the wards in a non-invasive way. Member of the group, classical guitarist, Michael Knopf, calls it “sonic care”.

Michael told ABC Radio recently,

“We know how stressful hospitals can be, so when you hear this music it creates a new environment and ambience for people to relax in and absorb the treatment better.”

And it’s not only the staff and patients that are rewarded by the project, but the musicians themselves also find great joy in being involved.

Knopf explains,

“Part of a musician’s conviction is the value of music for its own sake. Aside from the aesthetic or artistic experience, which does something for your soul or heart, it has been proven beyond doubt that it assists psychological conditions and helps stress and anxiety.”

Just beautiful. You can read more about The Stairwell Project and donate to their cause at http://www.jugglers.org.au/stairwell-project

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