Music is Martha's best therapy

Musician Martha Thompson
Musician Martha Thompson

Music graduate Martha Thompson has started the new year with two ambitions - to set up a music therapy practice in the region and to possibly start a new choir in Longridge.

The former pupil of St Cecilia’s in Longridge and Runshaw College in Leyland is nearing the completion of her training as a music therapist. She is now determined to help other people experience the healing power of music.

Martha Thompson in a music therapy session with a young patient

Martha Thompson in a music therapy session with a young patient

Martha, who lives in Grimsargh, has also worked as a community musician.She graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire where her flute performance degree gained her a BMus hons and has studied for her MA in music therapy at the University of the West of England in Bristol.

She is currently completing her dissertation for submission in January.

She said:“It’s looking at the effects of music therapy and music on palliative care with adolescents.”

Martha continued: “I’ve interviewed music therapists working in children’s hospitals mainly, which is something I think I would like to go in to.”

She is also determined to stay in the North West: “I want to be a music therapist in this area because there is so little provision compared to other parts of the country.

“Music gives people a safe space to explore their emotions. It’s basically like therapy but we use music as a communication tool and that way it’s not scary. We work with people and try to talk at their level wherever they’re at. There’s no pressure. If you don’t want to play music and just want to listen that’s totally fine.”

With such variety in music Martha believes there is music to communicate with everybody and to allow everyone to communicate.

She said: “Everybody is musical. In everyday life we are musical. We hear a beat – the way we walk with a rhythm, even if you have a limp.

“Everybody has a reaction to music either positive or negative. It’s just something that can connect us.”

Martha also plays cello, guitar and ukulele and says she also uses a lot of percussion instruments in her work.

She even taught guitar to one of her clients and said: “My approach is to be client led, it’s really case by case.”

But of one thing she is certain: “I would never put on a CD. If we listen to music it would be on Spotify or YouTube – something they wanted to show me.

“Sometimes it takes a lot of time for someone to build their confidence as well. It’s about helping them have that confidence to play.”

Sometimes a client will listen to Martha playing and sometimes there is the joy of seeing someone who says they cannot concentrate for five minutes becoming fully absorbed in a session so that after half of an hour of therapy they are reluctant to leave.

One of her placements during her music therapy course was with Music Without Borders in Rwanda.

She said: “The opportunity came up to go and I had to fund raise to get there. Music Without Borders is a fantastic charity – they do great work.

“There was a lot of community music and I was able to do therapy as well. That was my final placement which I did really well on. I went there for a few months.

“A lot of the traditional Rwandan music has lots of traditional rhythms, also the young people were really keen to show me what western music they knew as well. It was mainly guitars and drums and a couple of keyboards. There were different venues. I was based in an HIV clinic. But we went all over, every single day we went somewhere different.”

Each year Martha and a colleague, known as “M and Em music”, also visit a special children’s camp in the UK to work with children with additional needs.

She recently set up a new choir in Blackpool with the British Lung Foundation (BLF) for people with lung problems.

She explained how she became involved with the Blackpool project: “I was on a training course with the BLF. The idea is it will improve your lung health through singing. The exercises you do and the way you learn to sing in a choir it helps to improve your muscles and your capacity breathing and helps you learn to control your breath.”

She stresses it is not just the physical benefits that are a bonus, but also an individual’s social and emotional wellbeing is improved by joining such a choir.Martha said: “Everything we do is through a fun activity... you make friends and you meet people in the same position as you.”

The lung conditions of choir members can range from asthma to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).