Kagemusha Taiko organisational case study: How Kagemusha Taiko has developed its work to include special schools

Kagemusha Taiko is a performing arts company based in Devon that teaches and performs taiko drumming. It has a well-established way of working in schools and with young people. Increasingly, the company is being asked to work with a diverse range of abilities and needs, and it has been seeking out new approaches to be able to do this effectively. It was selected to be a partner in Daisi’s Soundwaves project, which aims to support new partnerships in delivering music projects relevant to specific needs of children in challenging circumstances.

Kagemusha Taiko has been looking for models of practice and partnership that best enable children in challenging circumstances to take part in quality, sustainable and progressive music activity. The company has found new ways and ideas to engage children, and has researched the effectiveness of approaches, methods, partnership and frameworks. The focus has been on the needs of children with learning differences, behavioural issues and physical disabilities.
 
The company set out to develop the equipment and skills necessary to provide quality taiko experiences for these young people. Equipment was explored to make taiko accessible to those who are wheelchair bound, and music educators who are experienced in working with children in challenging circumstances became partners to produce taiko experiences that meet the needs of these specific groups. Relationships with organisations that provide care for the children were nurtured to ensure that music provision is of the best possible quality. 

 

“Some of our most profound discoveries came through breaking the mould on the equipment we take to taiko sessions. Even though development of equipment was just a small part of our project, the domino effect of taking different instruments in to different situations was surprising!”
Kagemusha Taiko evaluation report.

Specifically, two trained members of staff have become able and experienced to lead sessions, with the ability to train others. Volunteers have also been trained up to help. A set of taiko drums has been designed for use by those unable to access typical taiko drumming, and once made, these can be sold to existing organisations to increase the inclusion of people with physical disabilities. A set of lesson plans specifically designed for leading sessions have been developed, to be adapted in the unique setting.

 

 

“We were careful to have good planning meetings with all of our partners, and they turned out to be so valuable. Listening to the experts, who know the children they are providing care for changed the way we thought about the meaning of a successful session (in terms of pace, and process in favour of product). If we hadn't done this we would constantly feel as if we'd failed in providing a quality taiko session in many cases.”
Kagemusha Taiko evaluation report.

 

New partners include CEDA (Community Equality Disability Action), Bidwell Brook School, Music Moves - The Dalcroze Society UK, Downsouth (www.downsouth.org.uk), Peter Hewitt: CCS Taiko (www.ccstaiko.co.uk), Hannah’s at Ivybridge and Exeter Academy for Deaf Education.

 

The training and experience of staff and volunteers will inform and enhance future work with children in challenging circumstances, and beyond. Kagemusha Taiko can now confidently accept more invitations to work with a wider range of young people, and actively seeks ongoing partnerships and relationships with organisations working in this sector. A current barrier is the lack of having a set of suitably modified equipment following the design and development phase provided by this project.

“We've realised that taiko can be used to work towards other goals in communication and participation, and that it's about the richness of participating rather than the end product of performance.”
KT evaluation report.

There has been much feedback from the partners involved. CEDA reported that a high percentage of young people have committed well to a type of music that they had never participated in before, and have learnt to drum as a team, as well as separately in individual improvisations. Students have picked up coordination skills and learned respect for others. Bidwell Brook School notes that the difference between now, and when the students first started taiko, is remarkable. This was commented on by numerous people within the school. CCS Taiko has noticed improvement in communication, social and motor skills.

“Taiko has touched ALL of these youngsters in a deep and profound way already and it has been amazing to see the way in which they have learnt and taken the fun, pleasure and hard work on board.”
Chris, Teacher, Bidwell Brook School 

The Kagemusha Taiko team have been reflecting on the project themselves, in terms of the training, explorations and new partnerships. Training has been a key to understanding and building confidence, which has then fed into lesson planning and delivery. The team now feel that they know which questions to ask when clients ask Kagemusha Taiko to deliver sessions in non-mainstream environments.Through Daisi’s Soundwaves networking programmes and the contacts made, they have partners to turn to if they have questions.

“Of course there are things to learn still (that’s the point of the project) but I feel we’re making progress really fast.  Whilst you cannot generalise special needs or children in challenging circumstances, the equipment alterations that need to be made seem to be general and achievable, and my confidence seems to be growing across all areas.”
HJ, Kagemusha Taiko

“Having the support of the partners knowing the process we’re going through as developing staff skills in a new area is really comforting – we can be really honest and truly work together to get the best outcome for the children.”
HJ

“I feel now that I want to actively seek out different environments and groups of people with which to work with this musical art form”
Jan