Article updated from original published on 29 April 2020
When Yehudi Menuhin and Ian Stoutzker created Live Music Now, their vision was to bring live music to people who needed it the most and support young professional musicians at the start of their careers.
Forty-three years later, as the world adapts to the Covid19 pandemic, the need for human connection through music is greater than ever.
Normally, Live Music Now provides more than 1,500 music sessions in special schools across the country delivered by our specially trained musicians. For many young people, participating in music-making is hugely beneficial for wellbeing, engagement in learning, communication skills and confidence.
With schools now currently open only to a small proportion of pupils, staff are working hard to adapt provision for students. The challenges for special schools and their families are particularly acute. As reported recently in The Guardian, families with disabled children are a “vulnerable group – not just to the virus itself, but to the social and economic consequences of the pandemic”.
In a survey to special schools that we’ve worked with, we asked what musical input would be helpful at the moment and worked quickly to adapt our activities for schools and families in four main areas:
- a new video library of pre-recorded concerts for schools and families;
- online live sessions and musical residencies via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or other school-managed platforms;
- new resources to help staff deliver musical activities;
- online sessions with families at home via Zoom with support and guidelines;
Video Library for Schools and Families
The most popular option was pre-recorded music sessions bespoke for special school audiences. So we commissioned Live Music Now musicians across all our branches to record sessions for students and their families to enjoy at home and in school.
The musicians have used their previous experience of working in special schools, with support from new guidelines to help them adapt content and pacing for online viewing. Whilst the technical side of recording and editing is a steep learning curve for some, it is a valuable skill to develop. Schools and families can access the new Video Library here. More videos are being added weekly.
Two of the videos in the library featuring London based musicians Boubakiki, and Welsh musician Angharad Jenkins from folk group Calan.
Live Online Sessions & Music Residencies
In the survey we asked if online with individual pupils and their families at home would be of interest. For many schools, facilitating online learning is a tricky area and the logistics of communicating with families is a challenge at the moment. However, a number of schools responded positively.
Newlands School in Rochdale hosted LMN’s first online classroom sessions with their LMN musician in residence, Paul Exton-McGuinness. Paul has been surprised at how well the sessions have worked and said:
The children I’ve been working with have lost their routine and had their classes mixed. I feel that my music sessions have helped bond the new mix of classes and introduced some structure back into their week. Some children who really struggled to participate at first are excited for the whole morning, waiting for music to start.
The school’s music co-ordinator Jen Byrne said:
It has been great to continue working with LMN in its new format. We have had to play around with the technology to see what works best, but it is something the children look forward to. Paul has become a familiar face on Zoom and the children are always excited about what they will be doing that week. Music is something which our children all love and to be able to carry that on through this strange time has provided a much-needed consistency in a world that, especially for our learners, is quite uncertain. Click here to read more about the live online sessions.
LMN North West musician Paul Exton McGuinness leads live sessions via Zoom for Newlands School
In Wales, recent funding from Moondance Foundation and Awards for All has enabled us to launch of a brand new programme of online music sessions for children with additional learning needs and their families. Eighteen families have already signed up for sessions with musicians from LMN Wales. As this was the first time that LMN has engaged with individual families, we ran a musicians’ training session and have written new guidelines to help musicians and families get the most out of the sessions.
Kingfisher School in Oldham jumped at the opportunity to pilot a series of online music sessions for individual pupils led by their Manchester-based Live Music Now musician, Ben Sayah, using the Zoom platform. Parents, carers and siblings have been joining in with the sessions too and have fun creating music with Ben. And Ben has also been recording some of the pupils’ favourite songs – the school has been sending them to the students at home.
Recorded materials to support delivery of music sessions at home and in school
77% of the schools requested videos and materials to support staff and parents to deliver musical activities. We know from a previous LMN schools survey that less than 50% of special schools have a music specialist on their team and most classroom musical activity is led by classroom staff, many of whom lack confidence around music-making. We have commissioned our most experienced musicians, currently delivering year-long residencies as part of our SEND Inspire programme, to create new resources for schools. They are consulting with staff to create bespoke materials for the classes they were working with and those for wider use too.
LMN North East musician, Rosie Hood, created resources for her partner school, Tweendykes in Hull.
LMN SW musician, Sadie Fleming, has recorded a session for her partner school to encourage singing.
Maz OcConnor and Nicola Lyons from LMN South East made resources for the schools where they are Musicians in Residence.
If you would like more information about our online offer for schools, please email [email protected]