Ideas & More

Esther in Writing: Phoenix Centre

I’m thinking about one of the most meaningful and rewarding projects I have done so far. Speaking up about mental health and joining the movement to remove the stigma around it is very important to me, and I was thrilled to be able to raise awareness with music. Through an outreach project with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as their first-ever Artist-in-Residence, the RPO, my friend and composer Jay Richardson, and I teamed up with a specialist eating disorder unit for young people called the Phoenix Centre. We wanted to share the power of music and the benefits of music therapy with the young people at the Centre, so we curated musical sessions where we all improvised together, combined music with poetry, and shared difficult sentiments through safe means – the language of music.

Meanwhile, Jay drew inspiration from our sessions and composed a brand new piece which I had the pleasure of premiering at my performance with the RPO at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in May. Alice, one of the young people we met at the Centre, wrote an incredible poem called “Here I Go”, from which Jay’s piece takes its name. It was an absolute joy to witness the glorious transformation in her as she developed a closer bond with music and I was so happy to see her much stronger and happier at our concert. Working with her and all the other people at the Centre affirmed how powerful music can be and I look forward to supporting mental health causes like this in the future. To learn more about our project and how music can make an impact on people struggling with mental health issues, please watch this beautiful video about our project, narrated by Alice herself.

–Esther Yoo

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