Hospital Orchestra Project

Cassandra Lake, Executive Manager, Community Engagement for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, speaks to AMPAG about their successful Hospital Orchestra Project (HOP).

Hospital Orchestra Project


Who came up with the idea of WASO performing in hospitals?

Caleb Jones, Associate Principal at the School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health (SSEN:MMH) at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (PMH) approached WASO after experiencing a similar program in London with the London Symphony Orchestra. We work with the SSEN:MMH to provide access to arts learning experiences while offering a positive distraction to patients through performance and participatory music programs. WASO also provides complimentary tickets to concerts throughout the year for patients and carers, distributed by SSEN:MMH in consultation with staff on the wards.

What can one expect at a HOP event?

We deliver a broad range of programs across six visits each year: ward-visit-only mornings, participatory workshop programs, composition-based creative workshops as well as a selection of performances including a Christmas Concert. Each visit includes ward visits to play at the patient bedside and in ward classrooms, including outpatients and public spaces. Starlight Children’s Foundation broadcast all the performances throughout the Hospital on Starlight TV. Educational Resources linked to the West Australian curriculum support each visit and are adapted to engage young people during difficult periods in their life.

What have you learnt from the HOP program and what have been the outcomes for everyone?

The partnership has become increasingly collaborative, and WASO use feedback to shape the annual selection of programs. Ward-visit-only mornings were first introduced two years ago and have become a highlight of the program. Participatory programs have become increasingly successful as our collaborative approach has gained momentum through support from PMH personnel at all levels of the hospital. Educational Resources ensure ongoing learning and provide a “take away” link to the Orchestra and the HOP.

HOP has demonstrated a positive impact on the hospital environment. Families and patients are often vulnerable in this setting, and WASO visits provide emotional relief and an engaging distraction from the daily routine and stress of the hospital setting. HOP also brings a connection to the community outside hospital through visits and ticket giveaways.

WASO seeks feedback each visit from patients, family members, staff and the general public. Surveys are paper and online based, containing questions about participant details, if they have seen/where they have seen WASO before, how the program made them feel and an open ended question for further feedback. Statistics and feedback are collated and assessed each visit. Health staffs are very supportive of the HOP and aside from encouraging engagement with patients, are consistently drawn to experiencing the music themselves.

What is the future for HOP?

HOP is a priority in the WASO Community Engagement portfolio, and for the SSEN:MMH, Starlight Children’s Foundation and PMH Arts Program Coordinator Maureen Elphick. The HOP success absolutely reflects that personnel are focused on providing space and time to position HOP at the centre of a larger Arts and Health program when services relocate to the new Perth Children’s Hospital.

The recent WA Arts and Health Report reflects that the Arts can play a vital role in healthcare settings by enriching, encouraging and emotionally supporting patients. WASO’s ability to grow the program is limited only by funding.


Community Engagement, News