Case study

How Rachael is using music to help people

Singer Rachael Philip knew she wanted to use her talent for music to help people. All she needed was the right course to allow her to fulfil her dreams. Studying Therapeutic Arts at Derby has given her the foundation to build her future.

Being inspired

Rachael has sung with Scottish Opera - and in her local church – but her inspiration to become a music therapist started closer to home. She explains: “Growing up with an autistic older brother, I got to witness music therapy sessions first hand. I started volunteering at the schools and charities, shadowing play and music therapists as they engaged their clients in all sorts of activities.

“I noticed how well I was able to engage with everyone, and what I was doing benefited so many people.

“At the other end of the age spectrum, our church consisted of mainly of elderly people. Whenever I’d perform, either as part of the choir or as a solo, I’d have them come up to me and discuss how the song reminded them of their youth.”

Rachael knew she wanted to specialise in either in the field of Special Educational Needs (SEN)/Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) or Dementia care. She says: “These were the two groups I knew I wanted to learn more about and work with, so the course was the perfect opportunity.”

The right course

Rachael, who has a grade 8 singing repertoire, and also plays the flute and piano, took her time to find the right course. "I knew I wanted to focus on the therapeutic and practical use of music,” she says.

“I found myself applying to music colleges, universities, and conservatoires across the UK, however, they only had one module dedicated to music therapy, whereas I wanted more of my course to revolve around the therapeutic practices of music."

She found our Therapeutic Arts course was the only one that fitted her aspirations - and would give her the chance to gain valuable placement experiences. Students on our BA (Hons) Creative Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing course are supported in finding a suitable placements through our established partnerships with arts groups, hospitals, schools, charities or organisations supporting adults and children with disabilities. They get the chance to apply their knowledge from the course to work creatively using multiple art forms to make a difference to the lives of their participants.

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This course helps you to achieve your best work as you are given the freedom to express yourself through multiple mediums, the emphasis being on the process rather than the final product.

Rachael Philip
Therapeutic Arts graduate

A big step – at a young age

Rachael moved from Aberdeen to start her course at Derby when she was just 17. “It was the way that school years worked out for me in Scotland,” she explains. “I missed the majority of the first year Fresher’s events as I only turned 18 two weeks in to my time in Derby. I didn’t mind this as much and I got stuck in to the non-drinking socials – and during that time joined the Musical Theatre Society.”

The University also ensured Rachael’s accommodation was in an all-female flat with an en suite room. She says: “The residential assistant and staff were all very helpful and encouraging as I got to grips with university life.”

Growing up in a big family in a big city, Rachael was keen to strike out on her own and take more control of over her life. Derby provided that fresh start she was looking for.

“The energy of the University of Derby just clicked with me,” she says. “I felt a great sense of belonging. Moving countries promoted independent thinking and living. And using the wellbeing services provided helped me deal with feelings of homesickness and doubts in my abilities as a young Scottish woman in England.”

A journey of self-development

Rachael has also appreciated the support of our Therapeutic Arts teaching team. She says: “My lecturers have instilled a lot of faith in myself. I went through periods of high self-doubt. They have done an excellent job at reassuring me and inspiring me to continue to grow and learn.

"My learning experiences within Derby have been culturally rich. Starting university at age 17, and graduating before turning 21, my age challenged me to prove myself as a strong creative facilitator and this course has paved the way for my future.

“Through this new independence, this course has helped foster self-confidence and challenge the way I perceive myself. I can say now that I am a lot more confident as a leader and have the faith in myself that I’ll be able to portray myself as such."

Having graduated, Rachael is now planning to undertake a Music Therapy MA to build on her skills. And she has a clear message to anyone considering studying Therapeutic Arts at Derby.

“You will be challenged to think creatively and have multiple opportunities to practically apply that creative thinking. This course fosters independent learning through valuable support groups and workshop running, putting you in charge of your own learning. Within your first year you will learn skills and facilitation techniques which you can later apply in second and third year.”

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