A group of musicians and curators, in partnership with the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital (RBWH), have launched The Stairwell Project. The project incorporates public art and well-being initiatives that bring music into the lives of hospital staff and patients via weekly performances in the hospital’s stairwells and public spaces.

The Stairwell Project echoes the research of renowned neurologist, the late Dr Oliver Sacks.

In his book, ‘Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain’, Sacks said: “The power of music to integrate and cure… is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication.”

Principal curator of the project, Peter Breen, who a masters in arts therapy, has championed community arts projects in Brisbane as managing director of Juggler’s Art-Space.

“The very first day we went in there … we had people coming out of their offices and being moved to tears,” Mr Breen said.

“Patients would say that the music made them less anxious about their pending treatment… It’s quite obvious that the effect that music has on us evokes a different feeling… It’s like witnessing a beautiful vista.”

Project organisers have been able to pay their musicians and visual artists thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and funding support from RBWH,

Mr Breen said since the project was launched last month, it has become a part of the hospital’s daily life, and his team has started to collaborate with others involved in music therapy.

“The Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre is looking into the effects of music on well-being, and they’re studying what we’re doing at the hospital as part of a formal research project,” he said.

A member of staff at the RBWH, who asked not to be identified, described it as “a great project that we hope will continue for many years to come.”

“We have many patients and their relatives that like to come down and take in [the music], it makes them forget about what treatment they’re having, or the bad things that are happening to their relatives upstairs … Our favourite down here is Donald Hall [harpist], who draws a huge crowd,” the staff member said.

Musician and project participant Lachlan Hawkins said The Stairwell Project had been a very positive professional experience.

“I’m used to playing jazz-clubs and markets, so obviously it’s a very different environment where patients and staff are passing by as you’re playing and commenting on how beautiful the music is,” he said.

“Myself and the other musicians feel very privileged to be a part of it.”