Music in the community: investigating the effects of group music making programmes on older adults and higher education music students

Paolantonio, P. (2022) Music in the community: investigating the effects of group music making programmes on older adults and higher education music students. Doctoral thesis, Royal College of Music.


This thesis examines the potential of music-based interventions involving residents in nursing homes and higher education music students. While a large amount of research suggests that engagement with music can have positive effects on the health and wellbeing of older adults, many questions related to the access to and the meaning of music for residents in nursing homes are still unanswered. At the same time, recent studies indicate that community-based musical activities can also improve the health and wellbeing of the musicians providing them. However, research addressing higher education music students’ involvement in such activities is still at an early stage, and very few research projects have included the perspectives of both the recipients and the providers of music-based interventions in their investigations. This thesis addresses these gaps through four qualitative studies, employing thematic analysis, carried out in Southern Switzerland. The PERMA model (Seligman, 2011) was used to assess the impact of group music making experiences on the participants, and the concept of mutual recovery (Crawford, et al., 2013) was considered to observe whether the encounter between residents and students generated mutual benefits. For Study 1 (Chapter 5) 20 residents (13 women and 7 men, aged 71-99 years, mean = 84.6, SD ± 7.3) of 6 nursing homes were interviewed about their access to music and the role and function music plays in their lives. The findings revealed that residents, regardless of their musical background, considered music to be an important life resource. Music was linked to their identity and could improve their wellbeing by promoting positive emotions and facilitating social interactions. However, many residents had less access to music than they had in the past and felt that more musical experiences in their daily lives would be welcomed. Study 2 (Chapter 6) focused on a 10-week programme of group music making carried out in four nursing homes. Each session was led by an experienced music teacher from the Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana (Lugano, Switzerland) supported by 9 students trained to act as music facilitators. Residents were engaged in singing and drumming with appropriate instruments and were interviewed at the end of the programme about their experiences and what effects they perceived on their health and wellbeing through taking part. Residents of three nursing homes (N = 22, 16 women and 6 men, aged 72-95 years, mean = 83.6, SD ± 6.9) reported positive emotions, engagement and anticipation of the sessions, as the programme offered opportunities to learn and to interact both with peers and highly skilled musicians. Moreover, the opportunity to approach unfamiliar repertoires and to listen to students’ short performances were considered rewarding. Study 3 (Chapter 7) investigated how the 9 students involved (7 women and 2 men, aged 19-26 years, mean = 23.1, SD ± 1.9) experienced the programme and the effects they perceived on their health, wellbeing and career preparation. Data were collected through interviews before the beginning of the training and at the end of the programme, and through an oral diary updated at the end of each session. The results highlighted the students’ appreciation of the humanitarian and innovative components of the programme, which had positive effects on professional and personal spheres. Students reported that this experience enlarged their competences and provided new insights into teaching and audience engagement, as well as encouraging them to question their tendencies towards perfectionism. Moreover, they perceived psychological and physical benefits and experienced meaningful interactions with the residents. Study 4 (Chapter 8), based on the same data collected for Study 3, aimed to understand the shortcomings experienced by the students in terms of their preparation, and their thoughts about how to improve the training they received. The findings suggest that the students at times felt a lack of preparation in interacting with residents and the need to improve teamwork and to be trained further to develop some musical skills. As a consequence of becoming more familiar with residents session by session, and of some changes made to the programme in the second academic year, the shortcomings and the problems experienced by students diminished considerably. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that the encounter between residents and music students generated mutual benefits, and it provides new understanding about the meaning of music-based interventions for both recipients and providers. The thesis highlights the importance of facilitating access to music in nursing homes, and it also describes an activity that can improve the role of musicians and music institutions in the community.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item