by Author Count Me In

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Running an integrated group ... social outcomes for learning

In the AllStars project, our team want to investigate inclusion by identifying the barriers anyone - and perhaps, everyone - may face when asked to improvise in a group : we suspect people may find participation a challenge for lots of different reasons.

We said we'd improve young peoples' social skills by playing and improvising music with diverse groups of people, enabling improved communication skills and capacity for empathetic friendships.

Our main music group exists for young people with learning disabilities, yet - it's a bit more complex than that.... we're looking at what inclusion means to us, and how young musicians might define their peer group. We want to create situations where the opportunity to play music, rather than life circumstances, brings people together. 

We see this as an aspect of community participation . We think there's a lot of potential in mixed ability groups . 'Above all, music is a social art, where playing with and listening to others is the motivation, the experience and the learning process. This is music education by encounter.' (Swanwick, Music Mind and Education, 1988)

Over the years, we have always had student placements and trainees at our music sessions. We provide support and opportunities for young musicians to experience working within a mixed ability setting.

It's also brought us into contact with some brilliant instrumentalists and singers who really do bring a sparkle to group improvisations.
We feel that through offering this experience we've helped young people make higher education choices, and perhaps see music differently.
Gemma, who was with us for a year, says ... 'I've ended up going to do recorder and violin at Birmingham Conservatoire instead of computer science'. We asked Gemma if she'd be interested in coming back for some sessions : 'This sounds amazing!  I'd love to come back and take part in the sessions!'
With the AllStars project, we felt that we'd like to open out this opportunity and move towards running a more integrated group - bringing together people from different backgrounds, who have had different opportunities, but have a common love of music

Our partnerships with Wells Cathedral School continues to grow, and we also now have a partnership with the Elmwood and Penrose Federation of schools in Bridgwater.
This year Wells Cathedral School have stepped things up a bit by agreeing to host our integrated music mentoring and Arts Award sessions - "The Listening Lounge" - which begin in September.
They will help us identify A level music students to join the AllStars groups, and we'll be joined by one of their Graduate Music Assistants, who will be at the school studying for a CME (Certificate of Music Education).

At our tasters this summer so far we met have Bella, Ellie, Esther, Molly and Laura. Laura is from Frome and is interested in a career in music therapy ; Molly is a busy singer and songwriter with a recording deal.
Bella, Ellie and Esther are A level music students from Wells Cathedral School.They're all brilliant and we hope they will all join the group.
Our team of music leaders realise we will have a challenge to meet everyone's needs - but that's what we exist for : that's inclusion. We've said we're all stars in this context, so we need to discover how that works, and what that sounds like.
We all have so much to learn from each other, simply by being in a room where we can work and play together, listen and respond on equal terms.
What will be fascinating will be to observe the outcomes of these two years of 'music education by encounter' that we have planned for the AllStars project.

What is your definition of inclusion? How do you address musical inclusion in your work?