Nicky Haire

Name: Nicky Haire

PhD Title: Investigating humour and improvisation in music therapy

Department: Reid School of Music

Supervisors: Professor Raymond MacDonald & Dr. Rachel Darnley-Smith




Nicky has been working as a musician and violin teacher all over the UK for the past twenty years. Her interest in understanding improvisation in terms of communication, relationship and health led her to train as a music therapist in 2006. As a music therapist she has worked in schools and hospitals with children with disabilities, adolescents with complex emotional difficulties and older adults with dementia and mental health issues.

 In addition to music therapy work in the UK, Nicky has been lead music therapist for Music as Therapy International’s Project Rwanda since 2010, visiting south-west Rwanda regularly and working with local partners and care staff at two centres for children with disabilities. (


Research Interests

Nicky’s research interests are wide-ranging. She is particularly interested in empathetic improvisation; humour, creativity and play in relationships in music therapy; performative and clinical improvisation; and the body in music therapy. Nicky is passionate about cross-disciplinary collaboration across the arts and health spectrum.

She is an active member of the Reid School of music’s Concurrent Research Network ( and well known nationally and internationally in the music therapy field.


Musical Interests

After emerging from a classical training in music, Nicky developed a specific interest in free improvisation, the process of empathetic improvisation and relating non-verbally through sound and music.

She shares the role of Improvisation Network Co-ordinator for the British Association for Music Therapy and currently runs the monthly improvisation evening for music therapists in Edinburgh: ‘Space to Play’.

She works with musicians Mairi Campbell and Su-a Lee in an improvising string trio, as well as with The Glasgow Improviser’s Orchestra and The Authentic Artist Collective, also contributing to regular improvisation nights Something Smashing and Bitches Brew.



Haire, N., White, B., & Derrington, P. (2017). ‘The Arts Therapist in Public: The Dichotomy of Clinical and Performative Improvising’. Voices: A World Forum For Music Therapy, 17(3).


Haire, N., (2015).Using the violin in music therapy’ in Flute, accordion or clarinet? Using the characteristics of our instruments in music therapy Eds. Oldfield A., Tomlinson. J., & Loombe, D.  London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Haire, N., Anderson, C., Leith, H., Mackie, C., Quin, A. (2012). ‘Using music with people with disabilities: sharing good practice. A DVD’. Music as therapy International: Project Rwanda.

Haire, N. & Oldfield, A. (2009).Adding humour to the music therapist’s tool-kit: reflections on its role in child psychiatry’ in British Journal of Music Therapy Vol. 23 No. 1 pp. 27 – 34.


Invited Lectures & Conference Presentations

Haire, N. (2017). ‘Humour in Music therapy: Improvising Change’. Paper presentation. Moving Forward with Music Therapy: Inspiring the Next Generation. 15th World Congress of Music Therapy, Tsukuba, Japan

Haire, N. & Bruce, K., (2016). ‘Taking our place: the impact of the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland on personal, political and professional identities in music therapy.’ Paper presentation. Re-visioning our voice: Resourcing music therapy for contemporary needs, 2nd BAMT Conference, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

 Haire, N. & Bentley, J., (2015). ‘Mapping musics in dementia care in Scotland: community musicians and music therapists approaching dementia together’ Paper presentation. Music therapy and dementia care in the 21st Century, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

Haire, N., Anderson, C., Quin, A., & Pavlicevic, M., (2014). ‘Sharing Good Practice in Rwanda and Beyond: The Role of Digital Media’. Roundtable presentation at the 14th World Congress of Music Therapy, Krems.

Haire, N. (2014)Music as Therapy International’s Project Rwanda’. Paper presentation. The Music Therapy and Young People Symposium, Verona.

Haire, N. & Anderson, C. (2012).Teaching Teachers: Music as Therapy International’s Project Rwanda’ Paper presentation at Music Therapy and Dramatherapy with children in Educational Settings, Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge.


Poster Presentations

Haire, N., MacLean, E., & Joseph, J., (2017). Arts Therapies Approaches to Person-Centred Care in NHS Lothian. Poster presentation at the Alzheimer Scotland Conference: International Insights, National Innovation, Local Inspiration, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh, 2nd June, 2017.

Haire, N., (2016). Music Therapy: The Art of Working With People With Dementia Poster presentation at British Association of Music Therapy Round Table Discussion: Music Therapy and Dementia: Enriching Life When it is Needed Most at The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, 3rd February 2016.

Haire, N. (2014). Music as Therapy International in Rwanda. Poster presentation at the 1st BAMT Conference, Counterpoints: Music Therapy Practice in the 21st Century, Birmingham. 21st-23rd February 2014.



Bittersweet – The Lucy Cavendish Singers

 Pico – Subzar

I am not yet here – Subzar


 Funding Awarded 

2017     The Great British Sasakawa Foundation

2017     ECA PhD Scholarship



Visiting Lecturer: Empathetic improvisation in music therapy, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Visiting Lecturer: Project Rwanda, MSc Music Therapy, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.


Group or Event Organisation

2017 – 2018                   Scientific Committee, BAMT Conference 2018: Music, Diversity and Wholeness

2015 – current               Peer reviewer for several journals, including British Journal of Music Therapy, and Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music Therapy

2015 – current               Concurrent; Edinburgh University Improvisation & Research group

2015 – current               Co-ordinator British Association for Music Therapy Improvisation Network

2015 – 2017                   Co-ordinator British Association for Music Therapy Area Group, Scotland

2015 – 2017                   Alzheimer Scotland AHP Dementia Expert Group

2015 – 2017                   Life Changes Trust Music Steering Group

2014 – 2015                   Scientific Committee, ECARTE European Consortium of Arts Therapies Education

2014 – 2015                   Scottish Music Therapy Trust (Treasurer)



2011 – current               Music as Therapy International’s Project Rwanda Steering Group

2010 – current               Music as Therapy International’s Advisory Panel

2008 – current               Registered with Health and Care Professions Council (AS13446)

2006 – current               Full member of British Association of Music Therapy (7915)