Student Stories | Hamish Barclay

Postgraduate student Hamish tells us how studying guitar has boosted his mental health.


MMus Guitar student Hamish Barclay has lived with a diagnosis of schizophrenia for more than ten years and is using music as a way to enhance his mental health and wellbeing. 

Hamish’s family have supported him on his musical journey so far since his diagnosis which has seen him complete a BA in Jazz Guitar before joining ICMP. 

Due to the nature of his condition, Hamish has had to take medication to suppress hearing voices through auditory psychosis. 

His mother Josephine has worked closely with him to help him with his musical endeavours. As part of his current studies, she travels with him to ICMP from their home in Somerset every week to support him in the classroom.  

The family were recently featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind’ programme hosted by Claudia Hammond to discuss Hamish’s condition and how they have worked tirelessly to support him.

Speaking in the BBC interview, Josephine said:

As a family, when Hamish got ill, the worst thing was the silence when he couldn’t play music anymore. My aim was to get this back in his life.” 

Hamish struggled during lockdown due to the restrictions. It was post-pandemic that Josephine found the ICMP course and she balances supporting him with his studies by driving him to London for classes alongside her job as a school librarian. 

In the past, Josephine and Hamish’s sister Maudie have often avoided using the word ‘schizophrenia’ to describe Hamish’s condition to avoid any of the stigma or negative connotations associated with the word. 

Hamish close-up

Commenting on his music making and guitar playing since he became ill, Hamish said: “Looking at the stigma attached to mental illness was an eye opener for me. It meant I have had this opportunity to write for people suffering from something similar but never had an outlet, never had a way of describing the world to themselves. The music is there for them and myself too as a form of therapy.” 

Josephine helps Hamish in the classroom, supporting how he communicates and facilitating opportunities for him to continue to elevate his musical practice and abilities. 

Hamish guitar close-up

“At ICMP, I have sat through all the classes with him,” she said. “There was an opportunity to collaborate with the students and we sent out a message to the others in his class to explain his condition. They were very positive in how they reacted and accepted Hamish and it has been a fun experience. The results show that more therapy for people with the illness can have a huge impact on them and those around them.” 

Commenting on his time at ICMP, Hamish said:

The tutors have been very inspiring, they are interested in developing musicians and students including me which is great, it’s not something I’ve often had before.”

As part of his studies, Hamish has worked with fellow student Alena Toymintseva to record a new song called ‘The Birds Sing’

Hamish said:

Collaboration has brought some happiness to my table, it brought out some of my better qualities in my songwriting. Forming this connection has been great, it has made me feel safe while being here.”

Terry Gregory, MMus Programme Leader: "Collaborating with fellow students has provided a brilliant opportunity for Hamish to focus his energy and attention on something he loves doing - making music! He’s demonstrated great talent and skill while studying with us as demonstrated by the music that he's made. I hope that his studies continue to satisfy his musical passion and help him further his musical abilities.” 

Hamish’s mother Josephine was the one of the winners at the ‘All in the Mind’ Awards in June 2023, an initiative set up to recognise the unsung heroes who helped make the difference to people’s lives. 

Wellbeing Support 

Hamish has profound support needs due to schizophrenia and has been supported by ICMP to achieve his goals of studying. Our team strives to help all students excel in their academic life and studies, and to take full advantage of the opportunities that open up while studying music at ICMP. 

Find out more about ICMP's student support services.

Become one with your Guitar

If you’d love to become an in-demand session shredder, rock-solid rhythm player, or creative all-rounder, ICMP’s Guitar courses will get you started. You’ll be taught by exceptional tutors, absorbing their knowledge of everything from instrumental technique and performance to production fundamentals, theory, business, marketing and more. You’ll also get access to our studios, practice rooms, masterclasses, special events, and world-class equipment, while building your network of contacts, collaborators, and friends.

Call our friendly Admissions Team on 020 7328 0222 or email and start your career in music today.

Guitar Courses
by Staff Writer
September 12, 2023
Back to Blog Home