It seems like yesterday. Now, 22 years later, it still feels like one of the best things I’ve ever done.
When I was asked to join the fundraising committee of the newly set up charity Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland, I had no idea what to expect.
I had never heard of music therapy, let alone Nordoff Robbins, but it took only the one short meeting with the then chairman, music publisher Stuart Hornell, to convince me that this was a charity I wanted to be part of.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I signed up and became one of its most active supporters, enlisting support, raising funds and promoting the benefits of music therapy, which uses the power of music to enrich the lives of people affected by life-limiting illness, isolation or disability.
As a musician, club owner and music promoter, the charity was a perfect fit and within a year I became its Scottish chairman.
And in that time the charity quadrupled in size, both in its client base and the number of therapists it employs, raising millions to pay for their life-changing work.
Our first fundraiser was initially titled The Tartan Clef Awards – it is now called the Scottish Music Awards – and was held in Glasgow City Council Chambers. It was a nervy night, where the achievements of some great Scottish musicians, bands and prominent industry figures were recognised and honoured. And the major recipient on the night were Simple Minds.
So it gives me great pleasure that 21 years later, a fantastic achievement in itself, the Scottish Music Awards, sponsored by Specsavers, will again be paying homage to the Minds, one of Scotland’s greatest ever rock bands, at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow on Saturday. Great acts from Twin Atlantic to Tom Walker and Fat Cops will also play in what will be a fantastic birthday party after 21 years of great support from some of Scotland’s biggest acts, from Emeli Sande to Paolo Nutini.
But while the awards are great, it is the work that matters. I vividly recall when I realised just what a difference music therapy can make. It was when I joined board members and Janet, one of our therapists, to meet senior figures within Glasgow City Council, hoping they would agree to support us.
After the formalities, Janet asked everyone to listen to a recording between a young Easterhouse lad and one of our outreach therapists.
The boy, we were told, had come from a broken home where both his parents were drug addicts. Undernourished, he had been dragged up in a loveless world of deprivation. He had anger management issues, suffered learning difficulties and was in care.
For the next few minutes, we sat transfixed as we were treated to a beautiful and impromptu piece of almost classical music.
This boy at the piano was the Mozart in the room and he had never played a note in his life. During a six-week course of therapy, this gifted youngster became a model pupil. No longer disruptive and aggressive in class. But polite and eager to learn.
Sadly, the funding ran out and so did the boy, right out of school, never to return.
I think about that boy a lot, wondering what became of this little maestro and hoping he made something of his life.
The meeting ended with a firm guarantee of financial support.
Proof though, if any were needed, of the power of music, the importance of music
therapy and the joy and solace it can bring.
And why I support such a vital and noble cause.
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