Rudy Music In Hospitals

Rudy strikes a chord in hospital

Rudy is one of hundreds of musicians across the country working with Music in Hospitals & Care - a charity which shares live music with people who may not otherwise get to experience it.


01 April 2024

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Musician Rudy Green beams as he finishes his first performance of the month. The 27-year-old loves live music and says there is nothing more fulfilling than playing for the public.

But Rudy's stage today is not a concert hall or music venue. It's St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London - and his audience are the patients, families and staff of its intensive care unit.

Rudy is one of hundreds of musicians across the country working with Music in Hospitals & Care - a charity which shares live music with people who may not otherwise get to experience it, including those living with dementia, mental health problems, or who are seriously ill in hospital, care homes and hospices.

Rudy has been performing with Music in Hospitals & Care for five years. He first realised the healing power of music when his grandmother Flora was housebound. Having been taught the guitar as a youngster by his musician dad, Tony, they used to visit and play for her.

Rudy said: "My Grandma hadn't had a live music experience in decades. She hadn't been able to get out of the house for years and so it was just really nice to play for her and see her smile. The biggest smile I ever got from her was when I was playing. And so, when I did my first session with Music in Hospitals & Care and saw the reactions and the smiles, it took me right back to that moment, playing for my grandma and the joy she got out of it."

Rudy, from Lewisham, studied music at the performing arts BRIT School in London and it was during his time there that he was first introduced to the unusual instrument that has proved such a hit with patients on his hospital visits - the kora - a west African harp.

Dating back over four hundred years, the typically 21-stringed instrument sounds like a harp but when played in the traditional style resembles a guitar. It's passed down through family generations in countries such as Senegal and the Gambia and so, as such, Rudy is one of just a few hundred players in the UK.

Rudy said: "It's a wonderful instrument. When I was studying at the BRITS, my teacher put on a clip of the kora at the end of one of our classes and I absolutely fell in love with it. It completely transfixed me. The sound was so amazing. I just found it so calming and I was like I would love to be able to play that."

Rudy found a kora teacher at the SOAS University in London - the School of Oriental and African Studies - and went on to study there for three years. He's also spent time in Senegal, learning his craft.

"It's a very natural instrument, made of all-natural materials. The resonance from it is beautiful and that's why it works so well in an environment like an intensive care unit.

"People's reactions when they hear it are lovely. Often, it's instant. A lot tell me they've found it really calming and relaxing and just the exact thing they needed on that day. You get people smiling, swaying their heads or moving or tapping their hands or feet.

"Sometimes people in these settings might be worried or nervous but this helps take them away for that moment and can help make them less anxious or stressed. When I play, even if it's just for five minutes, it can be the changing point for that person on that day. That's what I love."

The Power Of Live Music

The charity boasts connections with more than three hundred musicians, working in 925 hospitals and last year provided around 2,000 hours of live music experiences across the UK.

Players of People's Postcode Lottery have to date raised £800,000 to help ensure more people can continue to benefit from its work.

Barbara Osborne, Chief Executive of Music in Hospitals & Care, said: "Research shows that live music heals. I have experienced first-hand how our musicians share live music that helps people to relax and feel relief from pain. Staff in places like St. Mary's Hospital often talk about how it gives them a moment to take a pause during their shift and helps them to reconnect with the patients they are caring for.

"The support we receive from players of People's Postcode Lottery means we can continue to share professional live music in places you wouldn't normally expect it - improving mental, physical and emotional health and helping people benefit from the healing power of live music."

During Covid, when performances had to be halted, the charity was able to livestream performances so that patients didn't miss out. But for Rudy the joy of coming back was palpable.

"It was heartbreaking when we couldn't perform," said Rudy. "I'm mostly a live musician so everything stopped. Coming back, I forgot how much I missed it. And just seeing people smiling and the instant reaction we got was incredible.

"There was a real buzz as soon as I came into the hospital. I think the staff were even more excited because they knew how rare it was and especially after all that had happened. It was a really special moment in time."

There have been many memorable moments for Rudy - hearing patients singing on their way to surgery after he's played for them, staff coming off shift stopping in corridors to listen, but one patient comes to mind.

"I played for this lady one day and she didn't seem too up for it, but I played and then moved on to another part of the ward. Then, I actually saw her when I came in the next time and she stopped me and said 'I remember you. When you were in the last time, I was on so much medication and there were lots of doctors coming and going around me. But you were the only normal thing that happened that whole day and I remember thinking how beautiful it was that people were coming round, playing music and looking out for us in a different way that wasn't just medical.' That really struck me, that it had had such a positive impact on her."

Alongside working with Music in Hospitals & Care, Rudy runs a social enterprise called Beats Lab whose mission is to increase access to music for young people aged 11-25, running workshops and sessions in community groups, youth organisations and schools. He's seen for himself the power that music has in bringing people together and says the work of Music in Hospitals & Care cannot be underestimated.

Rudy said: "I think it's fantastic what they are doing. I love that they have thought about all types of music. There are guitarists that come in, there are violin players and all different styles. And they've really thought about the settings too and what kind of music or performance works best in each place. It is a form of therapy and it's such a joy to see people's faces. People tell me that it's the best moment of their day when I come in to play for them but their reactions mean it's also the best moment in my day too."