Inspirational Story

Seb Munday

Who am I? Seb Munday

What do I do? Music Therapist at Nordoff Robins

Pronouns: He/Him

Why Music Therapy?

Music therapy is not a very widely known or understood profession unless it has been witnessed and seen in action. For me, it ticks many crucial boxes. I am a musician and I love to improvise. I love to connect with people and play music with others, and I like to feel that what I am doing for a living is worthwhile and that I am being of service to others. Music therapy, for me, is the perfect combination of all of these things and I wish I had known about it sooner.


What did your journey into music therapy look like?

My path was not an obvious one until looked back upon with hindsight. I had piano lessons at school from age 8-12, and, disillusioned with the classical grading system and as I met older kids who listened to a broad spectrum of music from heavy rock and grunge to hip-hop in the early 90s I decided to quit the piano and teach myself the guitar. I was quite good at the piano and had a good musical ear, so with a bit of help from my dad and friends I learned some chords and songs and that music could be something you did with other people. I joined a band aged 14 and we wrote our own music. I still have the tapes somewhere.

A love of music and creativity was always there as I grew up, but academically, I didn’t choose GCSE music, which meant I couldn’t do A-level music, which meant I couldn’t study music at university. I would have loved to do all these things, but perhaps because I kept music as a hobby and a passion, I was able to keep it joyful and never a stress in my life.

At university I studied Social Sciences (Psychology, Philosophy, Politics, Sociology) and also studied music more deeply in my spare time, playing in bands and performing, and when I left university I meandered for a long time doing various jobs and a graduate employment scheme in retail, all the while rushing home after long days to rehearse or teach occasional private guitar students from home. Soon enough, the balance tipped and I ended up quitting the job and teaching full time from my home studio. This path eventually lead to running a community guitar group, which lead me to the world of Community Music and working with more deprived people and those with learning disabilities.

This work became less about teaching but more about giving people fulfilling musical experiences and experimenting with accessible instruments like drums or tuned and untuned percussion. I soon decided I needed more training and found that there were trained music therapists and masters courses devoted to this cause. I decided to train with Nordoff Robbins – a charity who offered a two-year masters course in Manchester or London (now also Newcastle). 8 years later I am still working for Nordoff Robbins and still constantly seeking to improve my craft.


Where do you work now?

I work in different locations – special education, mental health settings such as a forensic psychiatric unit and also a project with asylum seekers and refugees. I have worked in neuro rehabilitation and in dementia settings too.

As a music therapist it is my job to respond musically to my client and to hear everything they offer as musical and as valuable. With non-verbal clients I can hear any vocal sound they make as a musical note and I can reframe it within the context of music, matching the pitch and the tone of it with my own voice and instrument and giving it shape and meaning through musical structure. Connection is made when the client hears themselves back within this context and a musical dialogue is formed. This approach to music making can be applied to all settings in various ways – listening to people as a musician.


I love to connect with people and play music with others, and I like to feel that what I am doing for a living is worthwhile and that I am being of service to others

A day in the life of a Nordoff Robins Music Therapist in a Forensic Mental Health setting

A day in the forensic mental health hospital, which is a locked environment, is broken down into the different wards and the needs and wants of the individuals on the wards. In this setting we are meeting all sorts of people who might be acutely ill or on the road to rehabilitation and almost ready to transition to the community. People come with their own musical histories, and we use sessions to reconnect with these and also make new musical connections. Sometimes, a client’s musical history is deeply connected to the reasons for which they are unwell such as connections with drug use or with hanging with the wrong crowd when they were younger. We can then use music therapy sessions to help form new positive musical experiences.


A time-table might look like this:

 Session 1 – guitar lesson with an individual – The lesson is an opportunity to engage in a positive activity for someone who has not had many opportunities and has made bad choices that have led to being here in this place. The lessons are a safe space to learn but also to explore playfulness and do something positive and a meaningful activity. Through playing, listening and talking about music we discover connections from his past – before he was ill, that we can reconnect to. We decide to learn a gospel song to play to his mother one day.

Session 2 – Open group session with instruments such as African drums, a xylophone, percussion, guitars and a keyboard and a microphone. Anything can happen here from grime rap battles to recollecting funny songs from school assemblies back in the day. It’s a fun musical free-for-all where I listen and value everything people want to bring. We encourage people to listen to each other and allow each other to share what they would like to bring. Songs can be written, and the patients can learn new things about each other and form healthy friendships through music.

Session 3 – Ward band where there are a few patients who are proficient musicians and who have, with my facilitation, started a creative music-making project. A grime MC, a bass player, and a drummer and also knowledge of making music on computers. I help them to accomplish their musical goals through encouragement, helping them jam through ideas and giving them the equipment and a space to play in. Working towards a recording or a performance is a good way to motivate this group.

Session 4 – Choir. Here we meet as a group and sing songs chosen by the group. I accompany on guitar and lead the songs and create a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere and people leave with a smile on their face because singing makes them feel good and it’s great to feel part of something that is bigger than what you could do alone.