Grace Meadows knows the enormous power of music, not only for those with dementia but for children with autism, for women about to give birth and those who’ve just become mums, for adults with severe mental health conditions and youngsters with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
A musician herself, she believes everyone is musical. “We all have a heartbeat,” so we all have a pulse and a sense of timing,” she says. “We all have our own style of movement so we all have rhythm; we each have unique voices, so we create pitch and melodies – and our voices together create harmony.
“But more than that, we each have our own lifelong relationship with music. And it’s that unique and personal relationship with music that tells people who we are”.
Grace is best known today for quite brilliantly spearheading the Music for Dementia campaign to make music an integral part of dementia care in the UK. The campaign was launched in 2018 in response to a report that revealed that good quality music therapies are available in only five per cent of care homes, 70 per cent of whose residents have dementia. Today, Music for Dementia works with over 200 charities and organisations, with the health and social care sector, the music industry and government departments.
Grace lives up to her appropriately musical and elegant name. She is understated rather than showy, thoughtful rather than flamboyant – and highly successful at what she does.
Since the campaign was launched, broadcaster and Desert Island Discs presenter Lauren Laverne has become its famous face as Ambassador, it has created a musical map to connect those with dementia to local music-related events and services, and it has launched Music for Dementia radio to bring music directly into people’s homes. To top it all off, late last year the Hunter Foundation donated half a million pounds to the campaign; an incredible gift that was swiftly followed by the news that, in recognition of Music for Dementia’s role in promoting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of a composition by Paul Harvey, who has dementia, the campaign was to receive half of all sale proceeds.
Grace herself is a media natural, as at home on the BBC Breakfast sofa or Radio 4 as she is playing her contra bassoon. I frequently stop what I’m doing around the house to turn up the volume and listen to what she has to say: she’s fluent, knowledgeable and passionate about the power of music to transform lives.