Amber beneficiary Max with mum Ellen

Beneficiary Max’s ultimate ice breaker lit up lockdown life

Amber Trust beneficiary Max has cortical visual impairment and cerebral palsy after being starved of oxygen for 24 hours prior to his birth. He has received funding from Amber for a range of guitar, piano and singing lessons over the past five years.

He found a novel way to light up his lockdown walks with his mum, Ellen, in Devon. Here she shares a personal account of how Amber plays a crucial role in her teenage son’s continued development. 

“Max always has a song in his heart. He particularly enjoys musical theatre – especially Andrew Lloyd Webber productions, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music – which has not only helped him communicate with others, but his speech has also become clearer and more distinct,” says Ellen. 

“Throughout the early weeks of lockdown Max was desperate to interact with others. On one of our long walks, he thought of the most wonderful question to ask dog owners – ‘what kind of music does your dog like listening to?’

“We got some great responses. It is a lovely way to start a conversation. Our neighbour’s dog Pam likes jazz and disco, as her night walk collar has flashing lights like a disco ball.”

Disco diva: Max with his mum Ellen and their neighbour’s dog Pam

“Through Amber Trust funding we employed a lovely and talented music teacher called Kezia. One of our lesson plans had to take place on Zoom during the severe lockdown after Christmas. It involved meeting outdoors during one half term break by the river, with her young son, to feed the swans.”

“During our Zoom session back home she played ‘The Swan’ by Saint-Saëns on her flute, while l found swans swimming in formation on my iPad. We did some active listening to the sounds the swans and other water birds made. Music can really help Max make the best use of his vision. Combining music with imagery helps him to develop better concentration.”

Max listens to his music through headphones during a trip to a steam railway station
Tuned in: Max listens to his music through headphones during a trip to a steam railway station

“Max still retains a startle reflex and often jumps out of his skin at sudden noises. His music helps him cope with all of life’s uncertainties and difficulties. He doesn’t leave home without his headphones or MP3 on car journeys.”

“Max has really missed his college choir sessions, but we sing along with him. The Amber Trust award enabled him to enjoy singing lessons just before lockdown and by all accounts Max was quite loud.”

“Max’s love of music gives immense pleasure to all of those who work with him – from his school taxi driver to his residential care assistants during overnight stays. One said he had started watching past BBC Proms on YouTube due to Max.”

“We are grateful for the support from The Amber Trust and the music teachers, who have come through Devon Music.”

Applications for an Amber Music Award are considered three times a year in November, February and June. The deadline for the latest round of awards is November 30.

For more information on who is eligible and how to apply please visit Amber Music Awards – Amber Trust.