Playing up a storm with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra


Participants with stroke and acquired brain injury conditions cooked up a musical storm as they celebrated the finale of a programme with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO).

The  event at the Wighton Centre was organised by ST/ART, a creative engagement project for stroke and acquired brain injury participants across Tayside, NHS Tayside and the RSNO’s Learning and Engagement programme in Dundee, which is supported by Northwood Charitable Trust.

Participants from the Headway Tayside group and the Tayside Speakability Group have been working with four musicians from the orchestra for the last eight weeks. The sessions were led by orchestra flautist Helen Brew for the RSNO Learning and Engagement Team.

During the programme, the participants practiced on a variety of instruments and were then encouraged to develop a number of different approaches and musical outcomes with the support of the orchestra members.

The group developed rhythm pieces, reinterpreted a traditional Dundee song and established an experimental structure for improvising together. Some new participants were picking up a musical instrument for the first time in their lives, while others were re-engaging with instruments and music after a long gap.

Samantha Wright, Head of RSNO Learning and Engagement, said, “The musicians have taken the group through a number of planned musical forms using a variety of instruments and have watched them develop and grow.

“It has been particularly satisfying to see how quickly previous participants regained and increased their confidence. What’s exciting for us is working this way to allow people with varied musical experience to engage and contribute. We have also explored how to build work with a large group of participants, which creates a social and interactive activity.”

Chris Kelly, THAT project co-ordinator, said, “This has been our second programme with RSNO and it has been a real step forward for the group. They have risen to the challenge and had enormous influence on the way the sessions have developed.

“To partner with Scotland’s national orchestra has given our participants access to an elite level of musicianship and opened a new perspective on music and the thrill of playing together.  We are all learning so much from the partnership that we hope to be able to develop it with other groups in the future.”

The RSNO programme is one of a range of art programmes for people with long term conditions currently being delivered by Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust, which promotes creative engagement with the arts to enhance participant’s health and well being.

For further information please contact Chris Kelly on 01382 835507 or email

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