Music is to be prescribed as therapy for soldiers suffering from the physical or mental effects of war, in a new initiative across the armed forces.
The army's most senior musician, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Meldrum, is taking part in a ground-breaking conference on music and the trauma of war later this month in the City of London. It will look at the potential of music to rehabilitate troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many suffering post-traumatic stress and physical injuries. Musicians of the Royal Artillery Band and the Band of the Adjutant General's Corps are among other military personnel attending the two-day conference.
Conference director Ian Ritchie said there was a growing realisation within the forces that military musicians can play a therapeutic role – taking music beyond "the parade ground and raising morale, playing for special occasions and generally being ceremonial and upbeat" to become part of the healing process.
At a recent meeting at the Royal Military School of Music, at Kneller Hall in London, the agenda included "the trauma and the post-traumatic stress that is now the modern-analysed description of shell-shock" and its treatment with music.
Ritchie said that involving the army's musicians with such therapy would extend the role they traditionally played in medical care, such as rescuing injured soldiers from the battlefield and acting as stretcher-bearers.