From day one my time at Orpheus was nothing less than mind blowing and eye opening. I volunteered as a way to keep myself busy and active whilst applying for jobs in the music industry, and immediately made new friends with other friendly volunteers and staff. The thing that caught me off guard though was the warm personalities and strong characters of all the students. It shone a light on some unconscious presumptions I hadn’t realised I had made about disability, mainly around their ability to experience life fully, to be happy, laugh, drink, even love (as one couple have married recently). I assumed it would be a sombre experience, and whilst there were certainly sad moments, the happy peaks far outshone them. This new perspective has had a profoundly positive effect on my worldview, giving me the experience to be more open-minded and understanding as to the lives of others, even more than 5 years later.

The other thing that's really stayed with me is the memories and stories: from working musically with the students, helping them write songs, and guiding their learning, to some of the amazing talents students have, such as being able to recognise a person's sneeze out of a room of 50 or so! (something which I could never imagine being able to do), to genuinely amazing musical talent (one student was grade 8 drums and could hold a beat like the best of them). I have more happy memories than I could recount here.

I think it’s fair to say it’s served me professionally as well; my time at Orpheus is a great topic to discuss at interview, and even helped land me my first job in the music industry. Whilst I’ve now left that job behind for bigger and better things, (now working with a ‘live-music-tech’ start up in Kensington), my appreciation for the students and team at Orpheus stands firm.

To anyone considering volunteering, I would strongly recommend jumping in head first and seeing what's possible.

By Laurence Malpass