Graham Dowdall (Regular Rhythmix Trainer, Music Leader and all round Guru) worked with Rhythmix and MusicLeader South East to develop a programme of Inclusive Technology - here he reflects on that journey.
For many years I have had a passion for music and technology as well as working with young people and adults with disabilities. I have worked closely with Rhythmix to over the last few years to develop and deliver an innovative music offer for young disabled people in the South East.
For me MusicLeader South East came at a very exciting time in terms of music technology developments for those experiencing physical and learning barriers to creative music making. I was, and remain to be particularly interested in technologies that promote meaningful music making and that move away from the old community music model which would have disabled people playing tambourines in the corner of the room. My motivation for this work comes from the belief that taking part in arts activities can unlock the creative potential of any individual however challenging their circumstance and can contribute massively to their quality of life. Through the use of technology disabled people are now able to explore and engage creatively and meaningfully with music in ways never previously available to them.
MusicLeader South East had done some consultation with music leaders, music organisations, a variety of disability arts organisations and their service users. The outcome of which indicated that many day service centres have good quality and sometimes expensive music making equipment such as computers running music sequencing software, recording studios and often Sound Beam equipment but often gathering dust in dark corners of their building. It was also highlighted that due to funding cuts many services were no longer able to commission professional music organisations/leaders and had to deliver music sessions themselves. Whilst in general there was well evidenced interest and belief in the importance of musical activities many service staff felt unconfident and inadequately trained to use the equipment at their disposal. There was also a lack of knowledge surrounding current developments and a misconceived view that inclusive music technology equipment is always extremely expensive, when at the same time technologies such as iPads and music downloadable apps were in existence but not being utilised.
I then lead on developing a training day that would focus on looking impartially at a range of pre-existing and developing cutting edge technologies that could be used in inclusive settings. The day also covered their application in a workshop setting as well as practical information on how to use the equipment.
The first ‘Inclusive Music technology’ session was sold out and was a huge success. The feedback strongly indicated that staff who attended had previously felt intimidated by music technology software and hardware but left the training feeling inspired and confident to use a range of technologies with young people in practical settings.
There was a refreshing mix of music leaders from formal and non music sectors as well as staff from disability organisations. However, in terms of future learning I would recommend running two sessions, one for complete beginners and one for musicians wanting to know more about using technology in inclusive settings.
I have since been invited back to running training in one of the county’s day service centres and I have also delivered similar training at a county-wide disability INSET day. I am also extremely pleased to hear that the ‘Inclusive Music Technology’ model has been offered to developing Music Education Hubs in the South East.