Music and Drama Education Expo, Manchester - What we got up to!

Last month, we jumped on the train up to Manchester and spent the day at the Music and Drama Education Expo.

It was a jam packed day full of lots of new people and connections, as well as greeting some familiar faces. 

Our Chief Executive Mary-Alice Stack, lead a panel discussion on the ‘Inclusive Approaches to Instrumental Music Teaching’ joined by Rachel Wolffsohn from The OHMI Trust, Ian Burton and Helen Murray from Nottingham Music Hub and Lap Slide Guitarist, Tom Doughty

For those who missed it, here’s an overview of what was covered.

A group of white, mixed gender expression adults are stting down and having a talk

Recent research led by Creative United, in partnership with leading access to music organisations (Take it away Consortium), found that a major barrier to participation is the lack of knowledge among both parents and educationalists about adapted instruments and assistive equipment and technologies.  

Virtually all standard musical instruments require two highly-dexterous hands to play and hold them, and so without the right enabling equipment and/or adaptations many children are being unnecessarily excluded.

Our objectives of the panel discussion were to:

  • Understand the range of reasons why a player might require an adaptive instrument or playing technique
  • Understand some of the ways in which instruments and/or playing techniques can be adapted
  • Know where to source adaptive instruments for players who need them
  • See the benefits of including adaptive instruments and techniques in Whole Class Ensemble Tuition, and feel more confident about managing this in practice
  • See the long term potential and understand the case for an inclusive approach to First Access

After the introduction, Tom Doughty explained a bit more about adapted instruments and more specifically about the Slide Guitar – its adaptations and what it enables him to do that a conventional instrument would not.

We’ve previously put together some video tutorials with Tom which you can see here: 

The Full First Access project in Nottingham was then discussed. This project first started with the forming of the Take it away Consortium to undertake the Make Some Noise Research which helped us identify pupils who might need support and what interventions might be needed. 

The aim of the research was to capture a detailed, national picture of the experiences of disabled people regarding music making, and get a sense of the experiences and participation levels of disabled children and adults.

No data of this nature previously existed, despite the fact that there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK –  that’s 8% of children, 19% of working age adults and 45% of pension age adults.

The research showed that Whole Class Ensemble Teaching was a barrier to music making for disabled children who are educated in mainstream schools

Since publishing our findings, we’ve launched a pilot initiative with the Nottingham Music Hub and The OHMI Trust enabling disabled children to participate fully in Whole Class Ensemble Tuition – all in time for the new school year.

Year 6 pupil Redeem, has started playing one of only two one-handed clarinets in the world thanks to the pilot and doesn’t want to stop playing! 

The progress of the cohort across the academic year and beyond will now be monitored as part of the initiative and we hope to see a good number of the identified children continue with music making.

We had some great questions from the audience and it was fantastic to receive enthusiastic and encouraging comments from those we met at the expo – thank you. 😊

If you know of any students who might benefit from an adaption or enabling equipment, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at: 

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