BRIT Awards

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This week sees the highlight of the UK music awards season, the BRIT awards.  The event will be shown live on Wednesday and viewers will be able to download and stream all the audio performances.  These downloads will be free to the viewer as Google Play picks up the costs and donates the money to the BRITS official charity partner which this year is the music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins.  Last years charity, Warchild, received £250k so lets hope that the same (or more!) is raised for one of Alfie Boe’s official charities.

Ahead of this exciting time for Nordoff Robbins, I caught up with CEO Julie Whelan to talk about how being the official charity partner of the BRITS will help them.  The charity have a long standing relationship with the BRIT Trust and the BPI, going back to the 1991 fundraising concert at Knebworth and the set up of the BRIT school which led to extra funding for Nordoff Robbins.  Since then, the BPI and the BRIT Trust have been ongoing supporters of Nordoff Robbins.  This year, much to Julie’s delight, the BPI very much wanted to highlight the work that Nordoff do and asked them to become the official charity partner of the 2016 BRIT awards.  As Julie says, this is doubly brilliant as Nordoff is not a charity that “instantly springs to mind.  When I first started work with Nordoff I sometimes asked unsuspecting members of the public if they knew who we were and they mostly thought we were a sewing organisation or sold ice cream”! Actually, the following video shows what they do – be warned, you might have something in your eye by the end!

Going forward from 2016, Julie says that Nordoff are currently expanding the services they offer and moving into new areas which have never, until now, been able to access music therapy services and it is this that will be spearheaded by the, hopefully large, influx of funds from the BRIT awards.  Services are currently provided from the main centre in North London, the Andrew Lloyd Webber centre at the BRIT school and via a myriad of therapists who travel to NHS centres, prisons, special schools and mental health trusts to name just a few.  Over the next eighteen months or so, Nordoff is committed to expanding into Wales, Yorkshire and the North East of England as well as committing to providing services in all London boroughs.  Julie emphasised that Nordoff often “works with people in the most isolated and vulnerable settings, those who need it most” and that the expected donations from Google Play this week will enable the much needed regional expansion to happen.

So, being the official charity partner of the BRITS is of huge significance to an otherwise small charity especially when you consider that they receive no government funding at all.  Day to day running costs are funded through a number of fundraising events, corporate fundraising events and partnerships and donations from the public.  Of course, I asked Julie about the importance of Nordoff’s celebrity ambassadors and what they bring to the charity and this is what Julie had to say about Alfie.  “Alfie Boe is someone who gives his time to support us and also, through his fans he brings a whole new set of people who are aware of Nordoff Robbins and what we do.  Having that has made us much more confident as a charity”.  The use of Alfie’s birthday each year to encourage fans to donate to Nordoff has meant more than £8,000 raised over the last five years; Alfie said  “I’m overwhelmed with the generosity shown by fans who have donated to Nordoff Robbins. I’m passionate about music education and therapy and I really appreciate every single donation.”

Alfie of course is not the only ambassador for Nordoff who makes a difference; soprano Laura Wright regularly attends fundraising events throughout the year and makes regular trips to the centre to observe music therapy sessions and engage with clients.  Interestingly, not all the official ambassadors are from world of music.  Two such are presenter Gaby Roslin, host of the Silver Clef Awards for the last few years and England cricketer, Jimmy Anderson.  Having two ambassadors outside the music world is great for Nordoff as Julie explains: “Although they are not musicians, both are connected with the importance of music and having them give their time raises awareness of our work…Jimmy Anderson gives a lot of support at corporate events and Gaby Roslin gives us as much airtime as she can.  She is very interested in the work that we do with families.”

So, with all that in mind, get ready to watch the BRIT awards on Wednesday and download the live performances via Google Play!

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Celebrities these days usually have a number of charities which they support and Alfie Boe is no exception.  Many of his charities are long standing associations and one of these is the music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins.  Alfie became an ambassador for Nordoff Robbins in November 2011 following his win of the PPL Classical Award at the 2011 Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Awards. His ambassadorship was launched alongside the 2011 Christmas appeal which he spearheaded.  Since then, Alfie has dedicated his birthday to the charity and his fans have responded with enthusiasm, raising the huge amount of £8605 in five years.  Wow! Click here to see what that means for the charity.  In response to this amazing effort from fans, Alfie said “Once again I’m overwhelmed with the generosity shown by fans who have donated to Nordoff Robbins in honour of my birthday. I’m passionate about music education and therapy and I really appreciate every single donation. It’s the best birthday present ever”.

So, who are Nordoff Robbins?  Although the fundraising charity is now celebrating it’s fortieth year, the foundations of the therapy itself go back to 1959 when Paul Nordoff, an American composer and pianist and Clive Robbins, a special education teacher first developed collaborative music making which they termed ‘therapy in music’. Over the next fifteen years, this therapy was developed and delivered all over the world with the first centre opening in South London in 1970.  Programmes for adults began in the latter part of this era.  Since then, the charity has grown and grown and is now the largest single music therapy organisation in the UK, dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable and isolated people.  Although Alfie’s special area of interest is providing music therapy and education for children, this is by no means the only group to be helped.  People with dementia, depression, terminal or chronic illnesses and people with brain injuries are also amongst the recipients of the specialist therapy available.  In some cases, music therapy is part of palliative care.  In addition, the families and communities of those who receive therapy are also helped,  thus ensuring a broad reach approach.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Nordoff Robbins also delivers Masters of Music Therapy (MMT) training in both London and Manchester as well as accessible training and short course programmes for people who want to learn more about music therapy.

In order to provide these services, the charity relies on fundraising efforts from individuals and events such as the Silver Clef Awards and the Music Industry Trust Awards.  In 2016, Nordoff Robbins are the official charity partner for the BRIT Awards, held on 24 February.  Free downloads of the live performances will be available on the night, with Google Play Music  donating the costs to the charity.  Last year’s charity received £250,000!

Click here to find out more about Nordoff Robbins and here to find out more about Google Play Music at the BRIT Awards.

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