Notes of Hope as Music Therapy Helps Rebuild Lives

Article excerpt

WHEN Graham Andrew lost his memory after falling into a coma, it was through music that he put the pieces back together.

He had enjoyed a successful career as a professional pop guitarist, appearing on stage with Sir Cliff Richard and performing in London musicals such as Hair and Joseph.

But at only 28 years old he was struck down with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain which left him unconscious for three weeks and caused permanent damage.

When Graham awoke in a London Hospital, all memory of his past life had vanished. He did not recognise the family and friends who gathered at his bedside. He did not remember anything, not even the songs he had composed as a musician.

Terror gripped him as he realised every trace of his life had been wiped out.

That was 15 years ago. Now aged 44, Graham is living in sheltered accommodation in Moseley, Birmingham. He can play the guitar again, and remembers scant details of his past. Short term memory remains severely impaired. Graham often can't recall what he has just said and is prone to repeating himself.

Living with his condition often leaves him frustrated, even suicidal.

"I know I had encephalitis and was in hospital but I can't remember what happened," he said.

"I forgot everything. But I now know I was a musician and that my sister Susan had quads and lives outside London. I remember when I was born and that I was married to Barbara, who I met whilst I was working as a care assistant at a hospital. We split up, then I got ill."

Two years ago Graham was referred by his carers to the Birmingham Centre for Arts Therapies and embarked on rebuilding his life with music therapist and executive manager Angela Fenwick.

The centre, based at the Friends Institute, Moseley Road, Moseley, treats people who are dysfunctional through illness, trauma or disability.

Music is one of four art therapies on offer - art, drama and dance therapies are also used.

Unlike Graham, clients referred for music therapy often have no knowledge of music and cannot play an instrument in the trained sense.

But therapy sessions are a vital way of reaching emotions through artistic expression, as Graham explained.

"I learned how to play again and now I remember things about my family. …