Transforming Communities

We Are All Musical Conference highlights the importance of musical lives for all children

Live Music Now, Anthem Music Fund Wales and Disability Arts Cymru joined together to organise a free online conference, 22-24 November, 3-5pm.

The ‘We Are All Musical’ conference aims to support music education in Wales’ special school provision and is aimed at teachers, parents, governors, music organisations, funders and policy makers in Wales.  The impressive line-up of keynote speakers includes musician, broadcaster and campaigner Carrie Grant MBE, music and autism expert Professor Adam Ockelfield, Jayne Bryant MS and founder of the UK Disability Arts Alliance Andrew Miller MBE.

The three day “We Are All Musical” event will:

  • Review the findings from a recent survey of music provision within Wales’ special educational schools
  • Explore why it’s so important for children and young disabled people with additional learning needs to have access to regular music education
  • Share strategies to support musical inclusion in the classroom
  • Discuss what needs to be put in place to improve special educational school music provision

For more detailed information and to sign up for a FREE place at one or all three days of the conference visit:

“Music is his way of processing his emotions which can be sometimes hard to communicate in other ways.”

Tim, 14, lives with his parents and siblings in Rhondda Cynon Taff and attends Ysgol Ty Coch School. Tim, who has Down’s syndrome, has been working with Live Music Now Wales musician Angharad Jenkins of Calan through musical sessions on Zoom for almost 18 months.


“We are a musical family” explains Tim’s mother Joy, a singing teacher, “but Tim would never play his instruments with us, he always stopped when we came in the room and wouldn’t let us teach him. With Angharad he is so free, he lights up with delight and the two of them have musical conversations together over the screen. It is a real joy to see.”

With a pianist for a father, and a cellist for a brother, Tim has taken to playing both instruments, but has also added cornet, melodica and ukulele to the list with a hunger for saxophone still to be realised! The sessions with Angharad started as part of LMN Wales’ response to the pandemic, but Tim enjoyed them so much his parents have continued them once the project ended.

“As musicians ourselves we obviously believe that music should be available to every child,” commented Tim’s father, Richard. “But for children with additional needs the benefits are profound. Tim grows in confidence and his speech has improved through singing songs”, he added.  “Music is also his way of processing his emotions which can be sometimes hard to communicate in other ways.”

There are over 92,500 children with additional learning needs living in Wales, almost 6% of whom are supported educationally through Wales’ 40 maintained special schools and others through Additional Learning Needs Units attached to mainstream schools.

“Music is for everyone, it sits within us all.”

Conference keynote speaker, parent and presenter Dr Carrie Grant MBE has four children with additional needs with her husband David and is also an ambassador for The National Autistic Society. Carrie agrees with the view and experience of Tim’s parents:

Dr Carrie Grant MBE is the keynote speaker on Day 1 of the conference.

“Music is for everyone, it sits within us all,” she commented. “It is one of the greatest gifts we can pass onto our young and for those who find words difficult (or unnecessary) music can be even more profound.”

Families with disabled children face enormous challenges such as economic hardship due to caring responsibilities and additional costs for housing adaptations and specialist equipment, alongside ongoing issues such as lack of respite. That was even before the added impact of isolation and anxiety caused by the Covid19 pandemic.

“With music I am a different person. I am free to express myself.”

As an autistic female, 16 year old Hannah from Cardiff is familiar with the challenges of living with anxiety:

“I struggle with confidence because of my autism” she explained, “but with music I am a different person. I am free to express myself, and if you put me on a stage to play I don’t worry at all, but if it was for any other reason I just couldn’t do it.”

Such is Hannah’s deep connection with music that she has become a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, clarinet, violin, ukulele and drums – she also enjoys singing. Her Mum, Lisa is convinced music is what makes the biggest difference in her life:

“Music has helped Hannah in so many ways,” she shared. “It is her go to when she is stressed or anxious, and if she feels overwhelmed by the crowds in school at break and has sensory overload you can find her in the music block. It makes her happy and is her escape from that moment when everything is too much. Music is amazing for the wellbeing of children with additional needs.”

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales in their report ‘Coronavirus and Me’ showed that disabled children and young people were more likely to be affected mentally and emotionally, with increased anxiety as a result of the pandemic, and significantly more impacted in their learning through disrupted routine and lack of specialist access.

Even before COVID19 there was wide recognition that disabled children did not have the same level of access to high quality musical provision as non-disabled children, yet the benefits for them engaging with music are proven to positively impact their social, emotional, physical and intellectual development alongside their creativity in significant ways that benefits both the child and their family.

For more information and to sign up for a FREE place visit: