Music as Medicine

I had the extraordinary pleasure of watching Tom Abrahams perform a range of music from gypsy jazz inspired by the work of Django Reinhardt and others, through to Spanish classical and a cornucopia of styles from across the world.

I wanted to interview Tom.  Having passed his 11 plus exams with honours, he was given some money and promptly went down to Argos to buy some DJ decks as he was a Limp Bizkit fanatic.  His father persuaded him to buy a guitar instead of going down the DJ route.  When you hear Tom play, you will realise why.

Having got home, Tom could not afford lessons and so he spoke with his next-door neighbour who “knew a few licks”.  Clearly, Tom knew a few more and eventually went to music school.  His big inspiration was his sister, severely disabled and who responded to his guitar playing whilst he sat next to her, practising.  As a result, he now uses ‘music as medicine’ in a special needs school, nurseries, and care homes.

Tom wrote this poem for his sister and this epitomises the healing power of music.  Thank goodness that he made a wise choice at the age of 10, although I feel certain he would also have made a great DJ with his diverse interest in music, regardless of genre or form.

Music can be your mercenary when on the borders of insanity
Use it how it was meant to be and mentally resolve your energy
For it’s our oldest medicine, it’s there for your protection
Forever our obsession and its this blessing I’m addressing
Because I’ve seen kids that can’t walk, still manage to dance
Enhanced existence by its trance, and a chance to lift their hearts
See I’ve never aimed for the charts, I see no reason in that task
I’d rather master my craft to bring evolutionary advance
Like a music healer, preaching truths that lie within the
Humankind, witness a rhyme and beat align our hearts and minds
For it’s our first language, no barrier to how it’s spoken
A gift from a past adrift with power that can’t be broken
Utopian dreams that I’m left hoping, is that everyone is left awoken,
To the power that lies within, connect your soul to the world and sing
And think of the joy you could bring, to just about everything
… Stress is a battle within but with music, we can win

During Tom’s performance, he plays a Django Reinhardt piece as if he had two of his fingers fused together per the master.  In case you are not away, Django set light to his caravan by mistake one evening and lost the use of two of his fingers.  He refused to be beaten by this tragic accident and went on to become a master of the swing jazz style.  What struck me as someone who plays a guitar was the brilliance of Tom’s ability to ‘unlearn’ the use of his ‘spare fingers’.

Real Django fanatics use elastic bands to put the spare fingers beyond use, but Tom did this without any artificial assistance.  I am deeply aware that it is just an unconscious habit to use all of your fingers when playing an instrument and the ability to ‘forget’ two of your fingers is almost impossible.  We call this ‘unlearning’ in the field of personal and organisation development and it is much easier said than done.  I wanted to ask Tom just how he ‘learned to unlearn’.  Next time.

Find all our interviews with music legends at The Academy of Rock.  You can book Tom via his website Tom Abrahams.


Peter Cook
Peter Cook
PETER leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to twelve books on business leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. His blends his three passions are science, business, and music into unique inspiring keynotes based on the art of storytelling. His early life involved leading innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs including the first treatments for HIV/AIDS, Herpes and the development of Human Insulin. 18 years in academia teaching MBAs and 18 + years running his businesses. All his life since the age of four playing music. Peter won a prize for his work from Sir Richard Branson after his mother claimed he was a Virgin birth. He now writes for

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