skip to main content

Orchestras In Healthcare Report

First comprehensive review reveals orchestras contribute more than £1.6m to the public health sector. Almost two thirds of professional orchestras are working in health, wellbeing and social care across the UK.

Published: 04 March 2021 | 4:10 PM Updated: 06 May 2021 | 12:48 PM
Two double bases are left leaning against chairs in what appears to be an orchestra setting.
The report highlights the wealth of participatory music-making happening in health, wellbeing and social care contexts up and down the UK. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Orchestras in Healthcare, a brand new report published today offers the first comprehensive picture of the creative and financial contribution made by professional orchestras to the health, wellbeing and social care sectors across the UK.

Conceived by Sarah Derbyshire (Chief Executive, Orchestras Live), Fiona Harvey (Education and Youth Ensembles Consultant, Association of British Orchestras) and Matthew Swann (Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia) the report seeks to understand the scale and impact of the work orchestras delivered in a range of public health contexts between April 2019 and March 2020.

From interactive music workshops for people living with dementia on hospital wards in Edinburgh, to a creative expression and social interaction project for adults recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in Bristol, live performances in specialist cancer facilities in Northern Ireland to composition workshops with young people from across London and the South East living with severe mental health and psychiatric conditions, the report highlights the wealth of participatory music-making happening in health, wellbeing and social care contexts up and down the UK.

The reports key findings

Drawn from a survey of 54 ABO member orchestras, opera companies and choirs, the report reveals the geographical location and type of healthcare settings in which the work takes place; orchestras' motivation for their involvement in the healthcare sector and the role health and wellbeing delivery plays in their business models; as well as exploring the impact of Covid-19 and the role orchestras and musicians aspire to play in the UK's recovery from the pandemic.

Key findings:

  • Almost two thirds of professional orchestras surveyed (63%) deliver work in health, wellbeing and social care settings across the UK. Of the remaining 37%, most stated that they wish or have plans to do so in the future.
  • 50% are working in hospitals (31% in acute settings, 19% in chronic settings)
  • 22% are working in mental health settings
  • 31% are working in social care settings
  • This contribution is significant: representing a net gain of at least £1.6m to the public health sector of which 93% (£1.48m) was raised by orchestras themselves
  • Chamber orchestras are at the forefront of developments in health and wellbeing activity and partnerships
  • There is great pride in this work: 53% of orchestras identified health and wellbeing work as central to their business model in serving wider audiences and making a positive impact on society
  • There is considerable geographical unevenness in provision: particularly across the English regions. It is notable that Scotland and Greater Manchester - two areas where orchestras have formal links with a social prescribing programme - each operate devolved health authorities.
  • A robust infrastructure for social prescribing to better connect the culture and healthcare sectors is developing apace - as noted by James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy of Social Prescribing: “enabling people to connect to music…is recognised by the health and care system as being valuable to its future.”
  • It meets an orchestral sector ambitious to play a greater role in a range of health, wellbeing and care contexts as the nation emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the report in full on the ABO, City of London Sinfonia and Orchestras Live websites.

This recognition is an incredibly positive development

Janet Fulton, Freelance Percussionist and Principal Percussionist at Manchester Camerata, commented on the positive benefits which the report highlights:

"Coronavirus has given orchestras time to step back and reflect on their purpose. Moving onwards from this point, their identity, if to be meaningful, has to encompass the challenges society now faces, offer and share the gifts that the musicians have to serve that society.

“Mental health and wellbeing is now, thankfully, a forefront issue, and the orchestras can enable communication, support and the joy that music offers in numerous settings. Listening and responding to the expression of people's needs, working alongside health and wellbeing partners, we have a duty to build each other up, and have the means with which to do this in a myriad of ways and skill sets.

“It has to be at the centre of an orchestra's work, on and off the platform, otherwise we will be irrelevant to society and the needs of today. We are more than capable of offering world class support for each other, and the more we can do to help the better. Let's go for it!"

Jo Laverty, MU National Organiser Orchestras welcomed the report:

“The value the work of our members in orchestras bring to health and social care settings is immense. For that now to be recognised and quantified in this vital report is an incredibly positive development.

“The MU commend the publication of this report and the work of Orchestras Live, the ABO and City of London Sinfonia in bringing this to fruition.”


Can a UBI keep music live?

The idea of a universal basic income has been around for centuries. Now, the MU and many others believe its time has come.

Can a UBI keep music live?

Continue reading

Two young female street musicians, one playing acoustic guitar and the other an accordian.

Deadline Approaching for Funding From Alan Surtees Trust 

The Alan Surtees Trust makes up to four awards of £2,000 annually to support performers aged 16 to 30 with projects rooted in, or influenced by, folk or traditional music of all cultures. The deadline for applications is April 30.

Published: 15 April 2024

Read more about Deadline Approaching for Funding From Alan Surtees Trust