Ellie Fletcher uses the unique power of music to help children with life limiting illnesses express their feelings and connect with friends and family. Since joining ellenor as a music therapist a year ago, she has seen huge benefits for patients and their families.
Her clients range from children living with life limiting illness, and those undergoing treatment for medical conditions, to bereaved youngsters who need to express their grief. She works at the hospice in Northfleet, in schools in the local community, in people’s own homes and online.
“Music therapy gives children a chance to be listened to and responded to,” she said. “I think all of us, regardless of what we face in life, can appreciate music in different ways. It can help you to be creative and motivated, but it can also help you to remember or to relax. It can also be a celebration. You can express a complexity of emotion and connect with others through music.”
Ellie qualified as a music therapist in the summer of 2020 and is employed by the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Charity, which uses music to enrich the lives of people with life limiting illnesses, disabilities or feelings of isolation. She spends two days a week with partner organisation ellenor.
She said: ““The work I do with each child, or each family is completely unique. You don’t have to be musical to benefit from music therapy. I work with what a child can do, and what they enjoy, responding to them musically. It may be as simple as responding to a child’s breathing through music. Or maybe a child moves in a certain way to music or enjoys exploring instruments. Perhaps a child will have a piece of music that reminds them of someone they have lost. We could learn to play or sing that together. Through listening, and responding, I work to enable each child to be an active participant in the music and to experience the benefits that music offers.
“Everyone referred to me has a different set of circumstances and faces different challenges. It’s all about adapting and responding, shifting and evolving.”
Referrals come to Ellie from other members of the Children’s Service, maybe through a nurse or a member of the respite team. She also works closely with ellenor’s play therapist.
She said: “Referrals can also come through the adult service, when they have a child who has lost someone. Schools often contact us too about pupils who may have been under our care or had a family member under our care, who could benefit from our therapies.”
Ellie, who is married with two children aged ten and 12, learned to play the violin from the age of four and the piano from the age of seven, and is now also learning to play the guitar.
She said: “I started so young because my mum was a musician and a music teacher. I can look back on difficult times in my own life where I have found music to be an expressive outlet – often when words will not suffice.
“I originally did a music degree, which included a module about music therapy, but then I became a primary school teacher. After having my own children, I started to read a lot about music therapy and did an evening course, then I decided to see if I could train as a music therapist. It seemed to build on my past experiences in music and teaching and I went on to do a master’s in music therapy with Nordoff Robbins.