Hubs often work independently, but a recent successful event held in Liverpool highlighted the power and efficacy of hubs collaborating and sharing resources.
The boroughs of the city region are served by the Merseyside Music Education Hub Alliance, formed of four independent hubs: Resonate Music Hub, working across the city of Liverpool; Sky Music Hub, covering Sefton and Knowsley; Accent Music Hub, covering Warrington and Halton; and St Helens Music Hub.
The summit gathered over 100 special school music teachers and coordinators, freelance music education providers, and staff of music hubs and arts funding organisations. The event was organised in collaboration with DaDaFest, Merseyside’s leading provider of opportunities for developing, showcasing and promoting disability arts programmes.
The event was held in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall’s Music Room on 30 November – the perfect setting for inspiring and challenging SEND music practitioners to reshape their practice and better equip themselves.
Delegates were welcomed by Jonathan Dickson, Resonate’s director, who introduced Lloyd Coleman as the morning’s keynote speaker. Coleman is an associate director and formative member of the British ParaOrchestra, as well as a regular presenter of BBC Proms and BBC Choir of the Year programmes, and a renowned composer in his own right. As such, he is perfectly placed as an ambassador for inclusivity of disabled people in arts provision. He began by recounting his own journey, from learning to deal with his hearing and sight impairments, through his discovery of the joy and exhilaration of music-making, and his fight against restrictive attitudes to gain a place at Chetham’s School of Music and a successful career. Coleman concluded by introducing a recent series of ground-breaking music performance projects that he has been involved with, which highlighted how innovative and creative disabled arts can be, a theme that would be revisited throughout the day.
This speech was followed by Ruth Gould and Sam Wade of DaDaFest who explained its remit to develop and showcase excellence in disability arts, including through Young DaDaFest and DaDaFest International. The presentation concluded with a performance by Six for Tennis, a group of students from local special school Bank View High, who were a joy to watch and hear. Then followed a series of presentations from leading resource providers. The first of these was from Charanga Music School.
Ben Sellers, a Charanga training expert, demonstrated a number of innovative new tools and activities that have recently been introduced into Charanga, allowing participants to create complex musical textures through simple interactions with touchscreens. Several delegates took part in a demonstration, improvising some professional-sounding music with a few simple movements – impressive to behold, and an immediate success with the crowd. Next came Live Music Now (LMN), the UK’s largest music outreach programme. Karen Irwin, its strategic director for special needs and North West regional director, explained the background and the current focus of the organisation, as well as unveiling some exciting news about funded projects over the next few years. LMN’s main focus is to train young accomplished musicians to deliver workshops in special schools. Recently, it has started to offer CPD to school staff to enable them to continue delivering high quality music experiences to students.
The presentation clearly showed its vision of a musically fulfilled society. Third was Barry Farrimond, founder and CEO of Open Up Music and the Open Orchestras (OO) project, in which young disabled people can participate fully in orchestral performances using a mix of traditional and adaptive instruments, with technology enabling music-making with even the slightest eye movement. Farrimond’s mission to make orchestral music-making fully accessible is inspiring. His presentation about the recent developments and future plans for OO was warmly received by delegates working with children who are overlooked when it comes to music‑making.
Finally, there was Chloe Shrimpton, project manager of the BBC Ten Pieces programme, who gave a description of its existing resources: a series of child friendly videos that showcase many of the best pieces of orchestral music, from early Baroque masterpieces through to modern works featuring contemporary technologies and composition techniques.
Shrimpton enthused the audience with her description of the comprehensive resources provided by the programme, which is the BBC’s largest-ever commitment to music education. She concluded with a declaration of its future plans, including new pieces and CPD.
After lunch, delegates were treated to a live performance from Knowsley Central Primary School and Crosby High School, who collaborated on three space themed choral songs. Following this, the highly experienced singing teacher and practitioner Vicky Harris spoke about her lifelong passion for singing, focussing on the wide variety of ways that singing benefits people of all ages and abilities.
Her presentation introduced delegates to several easy-to-learn songs and singing activities that can be used in schools to raise quality of singing, and enthuse participants to work towards a positive, energised experience. It was the perfect end to a successful and inspirational day, one that should mark the beginning of a new chapter in which hubs work more closely and collaboratively together to widen and heighten their impact on school music provision. The ReSEND Summit showed how combined forces can aim higher and achieve greater things.
*This article was first published in the February 2019 issue of Music Teacher magazine, a Mark Allen Education product. Subscriptions and individual titles can be purchased at musicteachermagazine.co.uk