New Vibe: A Scottish Chamber Orchestra project for teenagers with diagnosed mental health issues, in partnership with NHS Lothian’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

April 9, 2020 in All Opportunities, awards 2020 blog, featured by mwhiteside

            I valued the therapeutic nature of music making and being able to see the    young people connect with music and through this, themselves and each           other. CAMHS Therapist, 2020


Music can motivate, comfort or inspire us. We can use it to create meaning, to express our deepest feelings without having to use words, and to connect with others and with ourselves. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Creative Learning projects, which take place right across Scotland, harness these qualities to create a positive impact, reaching over 10,000 people every year in schools, hospitals, care homes, community centres and arts venues. Through my role as Creative Learning Director I see at first-hand the benefits that inclusive music-making can have for our health and wellbeing, and witness how music-making in a welcoming and safe environment can support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs and can engage those who feel marginalised and isolated.

We know that mental ill-health is one of the most challenging issues we face as a society. It has been estimated that around one in ten children and young people aged between 5 and 16 years old in Scotland have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem (, and over the past couple of years we have been exploring what we can do to respond to this issue – resulting in 2019 in the launch of New Vibe, a project for teenagers with diagnosed mental health issues.

Developed in partnership with NHS Lothian’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), and supported by our Creative Learning partner Baillie Gifford, New Vibe aims to provide a safe space for young people currently using the CAMHS service to feel heard, supported, and encouraged to develop musically and socially. The project builds on the work of SCO Vibe, our free open access programme which since 2013 has brought together hundreds of participants aged 11-18 in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. A recent report by Youth Music supports our longstanding view that music is essential in young people’s lives and can significantly improve their wellbeing (, and SCO Vibe has demonstrated numerous positive outcomes for participants such as increased confidence and self-esteem, social connection, creativity and musical skill.  We wanted to build on SCO Vibe’s practice to create an environment in which young people working with CAMHS could benefit from expertly supported musical activities – gaining not just from the experience and expertise of the musicians and artists leading the workshops, but also, and just as importantly, from the ethos of inclusiveness and respect that underpins all our projects.

            We were blown away by the positive impact that ‘New Vibe’ has had on the young people who took part. CAMHS Therapist, 2019


The inaugural three-day New Vibe course took place in October 2019, with a follow-up course in February 2020. Led by animateur and guitarist Paul Griffiths, artistic director of SCO Vibe, with an experienced team of musicians and with CAMHS therapists taking part in the music-making and supporting the participants throughout. We also brought in peer mentors who had been part of previous SCO Vibe courses and who really helped to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. They were able to “support group cohesion and confidence amongst the young people referred to the project” and were “very useful at breaking the ice for the CAMHS young people” (CAMHS Therapists, 2020)

The young people who took part were diagnosed with moderate to severe mental health issues and were referred into the project by CAMHS. No particular musical expertise was required, and participants arrived with a range of skills and a variety of musical interests. They worked with the therapists to set and review personal goal-based outcomes for the project.

            … the young people gained various things from the project, depending on their      goals, e.g. for some it was about tolerating a group music-making            environment, for some it was about building confidence in themselves and their abilities and for some it was about exploring new sounds, instruments   and collaborating musically with others. The young people all contributed    ideas… whether verbally or through their playing, and all reported feeling like           they had learned/enjoyed/moved closer to achieving their goals as a result of   attending. CAMHS Therapist, 2020


            I met new people here and that will help with moving schools. Participant, 2019


            It’s a really fun and exciting way to express yourself. Participant, 2019


We invested considerable time into training for the New Vibe project, working with the CAMHS team to understand the ways in which we might need to adapt our usual practice for young people with particular mental health issues and preparing a variety of musical strategies for use with the whole group and in smaller ensembles. The partnership with CAMHS enables us to make some very specific adaptations for individuals to ensure that they are supported to take part in the project and helps the musicians to focus on beneficial musical strategies. Given the severity of the issues that some of the young people are living with, it has been incredibly rewarding to see how they have flourished during the project and have come together as a group of musicians who enjoy creating and playing together, confident to invite family members to listen in, and looking just like any group of young people having fun.

            It was lovely to see how much the music helped some of the participants to open up and enjoy themselves. SCO Musician, 2020

            Fun, friendly, inclusive. Participant, 2019


            … all ideas are accepted and it’s very inclusive and a nice experience because        everyone is very friendly. Participant, 2019


We plan to continue the New Vibe project over the coming years and to develop an additional pathway for participants to join our SCO Vibe project, where they will meet other young musicians and become part of the wider SCO Vibe family on their journey to recovery.

            I would like to see ‘New Vibe’ be considered and recognised across CAMHS as       a highly effective therapeutic intervention, particularly as part of transitional work carried out with young people (transitions from intensive CAMHS support      to less intensive, transitions from CAMHS to adult services and transitions out of CAMHS as a young person). CAMHS Therapist, 2020

In order to protect the privacy of our participants we are not able to show images of New Vibe, but you can enjoy a short video featuring a song created at another recent SCO VIBE project

You will find further information and videos on our website:



A while ago I attended a presentation by members of the STROKESTRA team and was really struck by the openness of the clinicians and musicians who had come together to create this innovative project. I was inspired by the way they had brought together and applied their different knowledge and skill sets, developing very specific musical activities to support recovery for individual patients, but in a group setting which also conferred the many benefits of collaborative music-making to the patients, family members and staff who took part. This project is a good example of what can happen when experts from different spheres come together with creativity and curiosity to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

STROKESTRA® is a pioneering stroke rehabilitation programme that harnesses the power of group creative music-making alongside professional musicians and clinicians to drive patient-led recovery in stroke patients and their carers. The programme was developed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) in partnership with Hull Integrated Community Stroke Service, part of City Health Care Partnership, and utilises a range of specially adapted musical techniques to address the complex needs of stroke survivors and their carers. From physical rehabilitation work involving functional movement, grasp and mobility to social integration supporting confidence-building, communication and renewed sense of self, the programme supports patients and their carers to work towards rehabilitation holistically, setting and meeting goals that matter to them.