Making music as part of a group is a joyful experience, and one which every child should have the opportunity to access. However, for children with complex needs, and the people who teach them, it can be difficult to find a way into group music-making.
A new approach, devised by Professor Adam Ockelford, aims to address this by breaking down music into accessible parts, before “reconstructing” the piece as a group performance. Linking the approach to the Sounds of Intent framework, Adam identifies four different music-making roles:
Sound Makers experience music in a sensory way. They might have and express preference for one type of sound over another. They might make sounds consciously to express themselves or interact with others.
Pattern Makers recognise and copy simple musical patterns
Motif Makers recognise and create or reproduce musical phrases, rhythms, motifs or riffs
Music Makers sing short songs and / or play simple pieces, developing the ability to sing or play in time and in tune
By creating different musical roles for Sound Makers, Pattern Makers, Motif Makers and Music Makers, the Count Me In! approach enables all children and young people to participate in group music-making in a meaningful and accessible way.
Live Music Now piloted this new approach at Three Ways school in 2022 led by Professor Adam Ockelford (University of Roehampton), music leaders Bea Hubble and Chris Webb, school music coordinator Aimee Warburton, researcher Beth Pickard and children from Deer and Galaxy classes. Over 12 weeks, each class learned and rehearsed a piece of music, which they performed to their peers at the end of the project. Taking a long-term approach, with lots of repetition, allowed each student to find their own role in the music, developing their ability to listen, respond and interact as part the group.
Teachers noticed the progress made by individuals:
“They have been really, really engaged with it. An example is S….He was pretty much asleep and engaged with very little [for several weeks] but then you started to see little flickers in him, and now as soon as you put the speaker next to him he is really turning, listening and engaging… that means he is really involved.”
Live Music Now musicians reflected on their own practice:
“I will transfer over [to other projects] a higher expectation and aspiration for young people, particularly those with PMLD [profound and multiple learning difficulties] and younger pupils…. I will work with the assumption that there is the potential for an ensemble … in every classroom that I go to.”
Count Me In! will be available as a set of practical resources for schools from March 2023: a copy can be pre-ordered here.
The Count Me In! pilot project was funded by Baily Thomas Charitable Fund and Youth Music.
To read Dr Beth Pickard’s full report on the Count Me In project, click here.