Music for Small Ears: Insights from parents and healthcare staff

Musician and composer George Higgs has been bringing his Music for Small Ears project to babies and their families in public health clinics in Waterford over the last few months. George, supported by Helium Arts and Waterford Healing Arts Trust, is behaving as a quasi-participant in the waiting areas during BCG and Developmental Clinics.

Over these sessions, George will gradually design a performance apparatus and compose a 15-minute interactive musical performance. The performance will reflect the natural musical dialogue between parent and baby (instinctual rhythmic exchanges, repetition and mirroring of sounds) and incorporate an aleatoric element, allowing for interactions between the audience and performer. George will put on four performances later in the spring, with a view to bringing the piece on a tour of Irish primary health care facilities in 2016.  

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Insights from staff and parents 

The staff at the baby/child development clinics found that the sessions were ‘calming for all, including staff’, ‘mood enhancing’ and ‘entertaining’. The children were curious and the music was seen as a welcome distraction from waiting to see the nurse.

There was a feeling that it was different and that parents initially showed some reserve, which is not surprising as it is unusual to find a musician in the waiting area of a health centre. However, the general feedback from parents was that the sessions were ‘relaxing’ which might demonstrate the musician’s ability to overcome the initial ‘strangeness’ of his presence.

It is worth noting that although the musician is only working in the waiting area, the music also effects the clinic room. As one nurse pointed out ‘There was a calm waiting room for the parents and children and this overflowed into the clinic room.’

Music for Small Ears is produced by George Higgs in association with Helium Arts and the Waterford Healing Arts Trust and in partnership with the HSE. The project is funded by the Arts Council.