Ceri’s musical magic in line for award

The work of a music therapist who found her dream job enriching the lives of people living with dementia is in the running for a top award.

Ceri Rawson said she found her niche working in residential homes reigniting joyous memories in the minds of elderly men and women through the power of music.

Now the project she undertook on behalf of Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (William Mathias Music Centre) with the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham has been shortlisted for a prestigious Arts and Business Cymru Award 2024.

A delighted but modest Ceri said: “The fact that we have been shortlisted for the award is also all the wonderful staff at Pendine who have helped make this project a success story.

“Their dedication is beyond compare and their commitment to those in their care is clear to see every time I visit.
“The staff are so engaged and great at energising the residents to ensure they are getting the most benefit from every music therapy session.”

Ceri, from Bylchau, near Denbigh, started visiting Pendine Park as part of a partnership between the acclaimed care group and Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias which offers high quality music training and performance experiences for people in Wales.

The two organisations were brought together via the innovative CultureStep programme established by the charity Arts and Business Cymru which forges and facilitates collaborations between businesses and the arts in Wales.
In this case Pendine Park signed up to sponsor the Wales International Harp Festival which takes place at Galeri Caernarfon arts centre.

In return the music body agreed to task Ceri with leading the much enjoyed therapy sessions for residents at Pendine Park’s various care homes in Wrexham.

Ceri qualified as a music therapist 15 years ago after previously working for several years as a music teacher. She has worked with mental health organisations, hospices, rehabilitation programmes, and forensic secure units.

But she said it was not until she started working with people living with dementia that she really found her calling.
She said: “I am loving every minute of my time working in care homes. When I became involved with this valuable project at Pendine Park I found it so rewarding from the very first session.

“It was clear to me that the staff are fully on board with the music therapy sessions and they totally get how important music can be in triggering emotions and memories in people who are otherwise struggling with their short term recall of important times, people and places.

“Research has shown that music has the power to unlock long term memories, so that people with dementia have the joy of mentally re-connecting with some happy times in their past lives.

“I have seen for myself how family members have been able to better converse with their loved ones as the person with dementia begins to remember people and incidents closely linked with the music we play.”

Pendine Park Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards praised Ceri’s remarkable ability to open up the pathway to happy memories among elderly residents in particular.

She said: “The sessions have been a pure joy to see. I don’t know how she does it but Ceri remembers every resident’s name and their likes and dislikes.

“She instinctively seems to know the style of music which individuals may react to and she chooses songs which suit their mood in the moment.

“She can slowly elicit a smile from someone who may have been feeling a little lost or sad just a few moments earlier.

“As a care organisation we feel grateful to Arts and Business Cymru for helping us set up this programme through its CultureStep funding programme. We are also hugely grateful to Canolfan Gerdd William Matthias for introducing us to Ceri and her wonderful work.”

“When we learned that the project was shortlisted in the Arts, Business and Health category of Arts and Business Cymru’s annual awards we couldn’t have been happier. It is absolutely just reward for Ceri and all the hard work she puts in on behalf of Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias. She currently does two 45 minutes sessions a week for us and they have a massive impact on residents who love to attend.”

She added: “I am really proud that we have been shortlisted for an accolade. It is a tribute to everyone who has worked so hard to set up this scheme.”

Tracey Smith, who manages Pendine’s Highfield care home, said: “I am delighted this lovely project is being recognised for the very real difference it is making in improving the quality of life for our beloved residents and staff alike.

“The arts in general and music in particular are at the heart of everything we do at Pendine and Ceri’s magical sessions chime perfectly with our long-held ethos.”

Gwenno Angharad, the North Wales Partnerships Director at Arts & Business Cymru, said: “We are delighted that the 2024 Awards Judges shortlisted this project in the Health category. Congratulations to both partners for establishing such a meaningful collaboration.

“We were pleased to support the project through CultureStep, an A&B Cymru Investment Programme which strengthens and extends creative partnerships.

“The A&B Cymru Awards exist to encourage, acknowledge and celebrate exemplary partnerships between the private sector and the arts. Winners will be announced at the black-tie dinner and ceremony at ICC Wales, Newport, on Thursday, July 4.”

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