Transforming Communities

Musicians in Residence – Special Schools Programme

“The project has been fantastic and far exceeded my expectations. All children participated and were engaged. Some of the responses we have seen from our pupils we have never experienced before and it was quite emotional to watch.”  Class teacher

In 2013, LMN musicians embarked on our first “Musicians in Residence” programme in special schools, working with over 500 pupils from 12 special schools across England. Supported by a major grant from the National Foundation for Youth Music, each school hosted an LMN musician for a year to deliver weekly music sessions with small groups of children. In addition to the weekly visits, there were also termly concerts for the whole school by various LMN ensembles and a 6-week creative music project in the final term, leading to a celebratory performance.

There is extensive research showing the benefits of regular music-making for children with complex needs, yet many special schools don’t have access to professional musicians with skills to engage their pupils. While in residence, LMN musicians support pupils to develop musical skills through activities that promote their personal, social and emotional development.

Many positive outcomes for pupils were observed throughout the year. For some pupils, particularly those with autism, it took several sessions for them to feel comfortable with the musician and the structure of the session in order to participate.  Teachers and musicians told us how the pupils were drawn into music-making activities, overcoming personal challenges such as difficulty in focusing and high levels of anxiety.

“The personal development of pupils across blocks of sessions was wonderful to observe. Pupils who would neither sit in group nor engage in any activity to start with became far more focused and by the end of the project were focused for the entire session and participating in all activities”. Beverley School

“All pupils have shown a response to the music, whether it be stilling at the sound of music, moving their eyes or head in the direction of the music, a change in heart rate, a smile, laugh or vocalisation”. Princes School

LMN musicians learnt alot from the teachers. Staff also benefited from working alongside the musicians, with many non-specialist staff stating they felt more confident to continue musical activities in the future. The project had a significant impact on musicians’ own personal development and gave them an understanding of how they can use their advanced musical skills to engage and inspire young people with complex needs.

“The project has given me the experience to communicate a creative and educational idea to a school and its staff, and coordinate it in a way that will be accessible, feasible and entertaining for everyone involved. These are skills that I will be able to use in the future”. Ali MacDonald, LMN jazz musician

“Having professional musicians in school almost weekly has been amazing.  They have become part of the family.  The children were so excited about their Friday sessions and were talking about it from Monday onwards.” Deputy Head Teacher

In the short film above, pupils talk about their experience of performing music they created in the final term alongside LMN musicians Carla and Gemma. The experience helped to build the children’s confidence, and provided a memorable occasion for family and friends watching the performance.