Abstract: Jamming for Wellness: An Innovative and Original Practice Using Live Music Performance in a Hospice Setting (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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385P Jamming for Wellness: An Innovative and Original Practice Using Live Music Performance in a Hospice Setting

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Michael Bennett, MSW, Student, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Thecla Damianakis, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Joseph Perry, MSW, Social Worker, Social Worker/Musician, Private Practice, ON, Canada
Carly Charron, MSW, Student, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Karen Feng, Student, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Emily Fraser, Student, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Xiaohong Shi, MSW, Student, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose

In 2011, the first and only open musical jam program in Canada was created by a social worker/musician for musicians at the Hospice of Windsor-Essex. The aim of the jam is to transform traditional music-based psychosocial support programs and provide a creative alternative for addressing the complex issues that arise in end-of-life care. This program has resulted in many local musicians, living with a life-altering illness, gathering weekly to play music. To date, there are no existing social work studies investigating the role of live music performance in Canadian hospice settings and the non-judgemental, inclusive, and helpful connection that is created.

The purpose of this study is to explore the role of music in facilitating personal and social well-being in the midst of living with life-altering illnesses. The research questions are: 1) How does the Jammin’ for Wellness Program impact musicians’ sense of purpose, equity, meaning, and wellness? 2) What are the benefits (psychosocial, interpersonal, physical, spiritual) of the creative experience of jamming? 3) How are music and collective processes helpful in facilitating living well?


In 2018, a three-phase qualitative study was initiated by the University of Windsor and Hospice of Windsor-Essex, federally funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant. An email and flyer were sent from Hospice to the jamming group members; the sample consisted of 32 men and women, 45- 70 years of age, who sang, played guitar, drums, saxophone and piano. We conducted naturalistic observations of the jam sessions, in-depth interviews, and three focus groups. Our theoretical framework was guided by social works’ body of research on the psychosocial benefits of the arts for practice, and Csikszentmihalyi's concepts of creativity as a facet of everyday life and heightened experience, and flow, as moments involving task absorption, an altered sense of time, high level of connection, enjoyment and personal fulfillment.


Thematic data analysis revealed how the musicians' creative group process facilitated quality interpersonal experiences, psychosocial benefits while enhancing mood, connection and purpose, and personal and group flow while jamming. The broader role of music in challenging stereotypical notions of death, dying, and living with life-altering illness were experienced within an inclusive, open, creative, healing, and diverse environment.

Conclusions and Implications

Social Work programs which are community-based, creative, honor the unique needs of consumers, driven by the principles of equity, dignity, social connection, and psychosocial wellness, can provide research evidence of their effectiveness by documenting participants’ own words and experiences in these programs. In this research, the musicians’ experiences further document the role of the arts for social work in promoting psychosocial benefits while critiquing limited Western-Cartesian notions that dichotomize mind, body, spirit in non-hospice settings. Ideally, Hospice organizations would be better funded to create new arts programs and continue to build research evidence on their value and effectiveness. This study will lay the foundation for future collaborations across Canada with hospices that have already expressed an interest in evidence-generated music programs and hearing directly from the participating musicians.