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Music inspiring musicians to help others

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with Phamie Gow and members of the band Song of Return about the charity Nordoff-Robbins.

Nordoff-Robbins is a national UK charity that is dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and adults using music therapy. Nordoff-Robbins uses music therapy as well as other music services to help a range of people with a range of challenges and difficulties including autism, dementia, mental health problems, stroke, brain injury, depression and life-threatening or terminal illnesses. Nordoff-Robbins also provides masters training for music therapists and various courses and workshops for anyone who is interested in learning.

Cutty McGill

Phamie was appointed an ambassador of Nordoff-Robbins at the end of last year.

Introductions by Meg Zrini

Phamie Gow

Phamie Gow is a Scottish harpist, pianist, singer, songwriter and composer. Since 2000, Gow has released six solos albums, worked around the globe in some very prestigious venues and has collaborated with an array of international artists.  Gow has gained a reputation from Europe to Canada to China to Latin American as a captivating and entertaining performer.

Interviewed by Giacinta Pace

Q: Tell me a little bit about Nordoff-Robbins?

Phamie: I have to say that this is quite a new title. They approached me at the end of last year to be an ambassador of Nordoff-Robbins. They’ve given me that title associated with my international career as a performer and a musician and a composer so that’s basically where I stand. It comes from the response I’ve had from people to do with my music. Music is such an important thing in our life, it affects our minds and our bodies and our feelings. At Nordoff-Robbins music therapy, they are all about using music to improve people’s physical health and ability and emotional and behavioral difficulties. It helps with development of communication and social skills and also increases creativity, self-esteem and confidence. It’s a massive need that we all have in our lives today.

Q: What do you want everyone to know about this organization?

Phamie: it absolutely comes from the goodness of heart and love and using music to help heal people and using music to transform people’s lives. If you feel you need to build some confidence or are lacking in social skills or abilities, music is the element that can help these things and help give peace to people’s lives. I’ve had people tell me that my music has healed their souls, in particular 'War Song’.  It seems to really touch a deep part of people's hearts, and that is a powerful thing. That is why I think Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy has approached me as I have fans that have written to me that suffer from depression etc. and feel that music helps them on that level.

Andy Buchanan

Band Song of Return wins the Big Apple Tartan Clef Award.

Song of Return

Song of Return (formally known as Union of Knives) is a Glasgow, UK based band consisting of four members, Craig Grant and Chris Gordon writing the songs for the band. In February, Song of Return won the Big Apple Tartan Clef Award for the best new band from Scotland. They came to New York in April to play in a series of showcases for Tartan Week.

Interviewed by Giacinta Pace

Q: How did you get involved with Nordoff-Robbins?

Craig: There was an advertisement for a competition where the prize was to come to New York and play some shows for a week and that sort of peeked our interest and we had to enter this sort of battle of the bands scenario. We played a show; everyone played two songs in this big venue called the Garage in Glasgow. It was obvious that it was organized by Nordoff-Robbins in Scotland who was already on my radar because Chris, who I write the songs with, has a studio in his house. We were there recording one day and his wife Lucy came in and told us about this event and this competition. We played a couple of shows at the event [with] about six or seven [other] bands [and] about three of them were our friends. They all are really great bands so we did it really for a laugh and then completely not expecting [to win]. It was so out of the blue. Everyone else that was playing there was a really high standard of music.

Malky: it was judged by a panel of peers, people in the music industry, from the print media, from Creative Scotland who fund lots of projects in Scotland, people from Nordoff-Robbins and the media partners as well. They were to choose and vote for the band that would represent Nordoff-Robbins and Creative Scotland and go to New York and put on a really good show. They choose our band.

Q: How are you involved with the charity?

Malky: From the shows that we’re doing.

Craig: There’s a fundraising aspect to it and Creative Scotland which was previously known as The Scottish Arts Council. They funded the trip. 2012 is the year of Creative Scotland. Everything that the Scottish government is promoting right now is the arts side of it for the whole year so they’re talking about involving us as a band basically in a lot of events throughout the year. We now have a really great relationship with Nordoff-Robbins on the charity side because this thing has worked out so well. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got asked to do some more events for Nordoff throughout the year. I personally have done a little bit of music teaching before. I started when I was in high school just casually teaching guitar. I’ve done it to plug the gaps here and there. Friends of mine, Like Chris’s wife for example have mentioned to me, why don’t you get involved in music therapy? And now because of our experience with this whole trip and our relationship with Nordoff-Robbins, I’m asking [myself] if maybe that’s something I should be doing?

Q: What should people know about Nordoff-Robbins?

Craig: It’s funny, I find myself at this fairly swish dinner and I’m not really a swish guy but I find myself in amongst people who knew about Nordoff and had conversations and had used them before and we all sort of came to the same conclusion. The common man in the street in Scotland doesn’t really know what Nordoff-Robbins does and I think that’s a shame because not only is it really important but it absolutely works. What I’m saying is, I think people should know that they use music to transform people’s lives and I know that sounds cheesy but it is true, it works. What they do, is just relate to anyone who is in a sort of situation where they can’t really realize their potential and they just use music in a very subtle way to make that person come out of their shell and this will work for an individual or for a group but I think the main thing that people should know it that it works it’s not some kind of hocus-pocus.

Malky: For me, I think it’s helping young people and older people as well. It’s not very well you have something like a disability or a condition that you’re born with or something that has been brought upon you maybe later on in life. The work that they do doesn’t discriminate at all and some of the work that I’ve seen done and the promotions that I’ve seen that they’ve ran, it works and it’s an amazing transformation that you see and people who have had the ability to recognize their own potential. It was just taken away from them to a degree and it can work for children, for babies and people at an older age, who suffer from dementia or something like that. I’ve always believed in the power of music and that’s why I wanted to work in music and I believe that it’s helped me through things that have been difficult in my life and to be able to be connected with something like Nordoff-Robbins is great for all of us and it’s something we’re all quite proud to be doing.