Leeds based musician Joe Haigh, reflects on his work as a Live Music Now practitioner with the SEND Inspire training programme
I joined the Live Music Now (LMN) scheme about 2 years ago with my 4-piece band Maia, for which I play trumpet and keyboard. We began with a set of our own songs which we could play acoustically, and transformed elements of the songs to add interactivity and educational aspects. Since then, we’ve added cover songs to our sets for both older and younger generations to engage with, and learnt new skills to deliver longer workshops to different age groups. In addition to the concerts and workshops which we perform as a group.
From October 2017, I had the opportunity to work as part of the Live Music Now Inspire SEND programme at Priory Woods School & Arts College in Middlesbrough with fellow LMN musician Anna Bradburn, an electric-recorder player based in Scarborough. We were provided with great support from LMN, with experienced percussioninst and workshop leader Tom Hawthorn as our mentor, and also by the school, with their Head of Music Adam Featherstone guiding us and teaching us new ways to communicate with the students.
We began with three weeks of observation noting that the school used technology to inspire and captivate the pupils. This knowledge helped us to formulate a 6 week project where we explored songwriting skills - composing, recording and, in the final week, performing original songs with the 2 groups that we were working with. As this was the Christmas term - we asked the students to give us ideas for festive songs - one was about christmas day, and the other told the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Little did we know that the students would be so good at contributing ideas, we would even have time to film a music video with one class, have the students choreograph and perform a dramatisation of A Christmas Tale along to their song, AND have the students perform a few christmas carols for their carers, teachers and friends.
It was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot about communicating with children with varying levels of disabilities - for instance, using facial expression and tone of voice is just as important as the words you are actually using. It was also made clear how much more we could achieve in a session when we involved the support staff - taking one group aside to work on a chorus for the song, whilst the others went and worked on writing a verse. Giving the students the time to express themselves (even if it was just to tell us about their halloween!) was also important, as this led us to using melodies and improvised riffs that would form the basis of our songs.
The LMN Inspire SEND programme Level 2 Training project enabled me to develop the skills to deliver short residencies and helped me plan a series of short workshops that were at the appropriate level. The workshops at Priory Woods far exceeded what we had planned, and allowing the pupils time and space to naturally let the songs evolve only encouraged this. We were also introduced to the Sounds of Intent framework, a great way of assessing the ability of any given child that I shall certainly be using in the future.
I hope to be able to revisit Priory Woods in the future, to see how the students are getting on, and I feel more confident and look forward to the next challenge that Live Music Now presents.