RIA: Live Music Now

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Partnership working and live music

“[The session] allowed our pupils to enjoy new musical experiences in a non-threatening, non-judgemental setting … an opportunity to model how to sit and appreciate live music, something that is a challenge for many of our students. But there were also moments during the session where it was OK to ‘ whoop it up’ and just let our hair down.”

Excellent and inspiring session. I think the idea of children seeing and hearing live music can have such a profound effect on them. I would hope all children would be able to have this experience.”

Live Music Now is a UK-wide music charity providing access to live music for children with special educational needs and older people, including those living with dementia.

Teachers consistently tell us about the vital part music can play in helping children overcome learning or physical difficulties and improve their quality of life. Despite this, children with special needs experience considerable difficulties in accessing high quality cultural and creative experiences, due to the physical barriers to accessing venues, a lack of appropriate events, and a lack of understanding of different behaviours.

Building partnership skills for both teachers and musicians at the outset of their careers has the potential to make a considerable difference to the quality of musical opportunities for these children and young people in the future.

Circle of people in discussion

Discussions on the impact of live music on children with special education needs

This project was a partnership between Live Music Now and the University of Exeter Graduate School of Education, bringing together children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, young professional musicians and PGCE students at the University of Exeter to work together to research a model of partnership working, establish common ground in our working practices and try out the practical activities.

Working together to plan the activity gave the PGCE students the opportunity to experience good practice in partnership working and delivering music activity and LMN musicians the chance to learn about pedagogy and lesson planning. The three participatory concerts/workshops provided an opportunity for children with special needs to visit the university campus and experience live music with professional musicians.

Read the full report here

Highlights for the students:

  • Experiencing a new environment, and a new aspect of their local community.
  • Opportunities to join in with live music making, including conducting and using voices and percussion instruments.
  • Opportunities to respond both emotionally and cognitively to music
Post-it notes with workshop feedback

PCGE student feedback from one of the teaching sessions

Highlights for PGCE students:

  • Direct experience of the impact of live performance on children and young people
  • Practical ideas for preparing children for and following up live music performances in schools.
  • Understanding how children with special educational needs, including autism and sensory needs, might respond to live music.

Highlights for Live Music Now musicians:

  • Opportunity to work in the different context of the University environment.
  • A better understanding of pedagogy and lesson planning, and how they can help teachers to make the most of live music experiences.
  • Confidence in their own expertise and the value of what they are bringing into schools.

We learned …

In the planning phase, we learned a number of things that will be useful in any future partnership:

  • The importance of integrating the project into the core curriculum for the PGCE students.
  • The challenges of bringing children with disabilities on to campus for live music making.
  • The importance of a “brokering” role between Live Music Now and University of Exeter.

Next steps

Everyone felt that this was a valuable learning experience and something on which to build. A small-scale research project is going ahead, led by Hermione Ruck Keene. The data we collected in interviews and through an online questionnaire are being analysed for future publication.

Project leader

Sophie Dunn


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