MUSIC to Ben Heaney is not just a hobby, pastime or even a job – it is a vocation.

The Abingdon violinist has spent his life performing, and instilling his love for music in audiences of every conceivable age – from the youngest children to senior residents in the county’s care homes.

With his project Deltaviolin, the 49 year-old virtuoso electric violinist offers his services to solo students, primary school children, adults with learning difficulties, and elderly dementia sufferers – educational and therapeutic work which he describes as his Musical Health Service (or MHS).

Playing a mix of his own tunes – and old songbook favourites for his more elderly fans – he has rooms of fans singing along, learning (for the kids), engaging and connecting (for the dementia patients) and all enjoying themselves.

The coronavirus crisis came as a shock, as it did to us all. But while it initially seemed Ben’s violin – and guitar – would fall silent, he is once again filling rooms with song by going online.

“I am a professional musician and educator and have been teaching the violin for years,” says the musician, who taught at Cokethorpe School, near Witney, for 14 years and is also known through his live shows and appearances with Oxford bands The Epstein, August List and Great Western Tears.

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“I am usually very busy, but with the coronavirus lockdown I lost all my work and gigs.

“The teaching has 100 per cent gone, the schools have closed, and it is not safe to go into care homes.

“I am not even on a zero hours contract,” he says. “I am on zero contract, with no income.

“I have had to face the reality that there is no money coming in and think of other ways to continue.”

Banbury Cake:

Like others, he went online and now streams his sessions via Facebook and on his Youtube channel. Both are proving hugely popular among fans who would otherwise be missing out on the fun.

Among the most appreciated are the sessions for Abingdon Community Support Service to adults with special needs which he calls “Let’s Get This Show on the Road” – so called after a comment made by one of his eager class members.

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The father-of-two explains: “I was setting up and one of the guys in the group said ‘let’s get this show on the road’. And it stuck!” he laughs.

The sessions are also enjoyed by children. “It’s a useful tool for developing listening skills and focussing concentration,” he says.

“If they can listen, they can learn. I use music in the faith that by learning, people are developing crucial skills.”

While Ben plays into a camera at home, the sessions are projected onto a big screen in day rooms.

He regularly entertains audiences at Abingdon’s Bridge House, Abingdon Court, St John’s and Stowford House care homes.

While the sessions, which clock up 1,500 views, are free, Ben humbly invites donations; he does, of course, still need to eat.

“I say, if I have been useful, please give me a tip.”

And his supporters have been generous, with donations dropped at his Northcourt Road home.

As an additional service, he is selling songbooks so singers can follow the music, and backing tracks.”

Ben says he is just happy to be making a difference.

He says: “I come from a medical family. My dad is a retired GP and my brother is a neurologist. It was my brother who told me I should be working with the elderly and dementia patients – and I can reach more care homes online than in person.”

And, he says, the reaction is rewarding.

“I have seen people sitting up in their chairs, and nurses crying because they haven’t heard these people speak before,” he says.

“Something happens with music. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got to one.

“It soothes and agitates and helps people connect and remember.”

* For more details on Ben Heaney and the Music Health Service, go to deltaviolin.com. Also see: facebook.com/deltaviolin and search for Ben on Youtube