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Sound and vision

Thursa Sanderson OBE, Chief Executive of Drake Music Scotland explains why creating accessible, inclusive opportunities means all our children can reap the benefits of learning to play musical instruments

It is difficult to think back to a time when Covid didn’t rule our lives. For our children and young people, life has altered dramatically as a result of lockdowns and school closures, although younger ones may have no concept of how things were before the coronavirus arrived. Interaction with their peers has been significantly curtailed, horizons narrowed and opportunities for playing and socialising with all the developmental benefits this brings severely limited.

Using the arts to boost agency 

We know that the impact of Covid has not been evenly spread across the population and that some people in the community have been disproportionately affected by the restrictions that had to be imposed for the sake of public health. The people we work with at Drake Music Scotland, including disabled people and many whose health is compromised due to a range of conditions, are amongst those who have been seriously impacted. Children have suffered from not being at school with their friends and it is likely that there will be delays in children meeting developmental milestones, never mind the mental health impacts on many areas of young people’s lives.   

Thinking about music and the arts at this time when a welter of social problems and concerns are crowding in around us may seem less relevant than other much-needed interventions. However, it’s evident that these activities are crucial for engaging children and building understanding of wellbeing, giving them tools and a sense of agency to express how they feel about themselves, their lives and the world around them.

Performance, fun and Figurenotes   

Other visible benefits include increased confidence and self-esteem, improved communication and social skills and physical and hand-eye co-ordination. The list goes on. Feedback from the schools involved in our programme tells us how much the children gain from their sessions and that most of all, they have provided a sense of fun and achievement, feelings that have been sadly lacking during this difficult time. 

At Drake Music Scotland we have seen at first hand, time and time again, the clear benefits of learning to play musical instruments, develop skills, get creative and perform to their friends and families. We have developed a range of technologies for music making for those whose movement and co-ordination is restricted, and Figurenotes notation – a simple system for reading music based on matching colour and shape – for those with learning difficulties including autistic young people and those with dyslexia, for example.

Tools for the future  

Throughout the lockdown and up until schools started opening up again, our team of Associate Musicians, music leaders with a wide range of skills in facilitating music-making with groups in special schools and out of school settings, pivoted to online music sessions. They created a colourful archive of videos and resources that are freely available, providing hundreds of ideas for music-making and packed with ideas for all ages and abilities. 

We were also delighted to be successful in receiving funding from the Scottish Government’s Youth Arts Fund to recruit new musicians and extend our All Join In schools programme to schools in five new local authority areas. In addition, we were lucky enough to receive a grant for our work with Figurenotes from the Scottish Power Foundation, which has enabled us to upgrade our software, roll out resources more widely throughout Scotland and train more teachers to use it with their pupils.  

With our music education colleagues from around Scotland and beyond, we are working to bring the joy and creativity of music-making to all children and with the right tools and an inclusive attitude, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved. 

Click here for more information about Drake Music Scotland  

Click here to find video resources for music making on our YouTube channel under Resources 

Click here for more information about Figurenotes


About the author

Thursa Sanderson OBE is Chief Executive Officer at Drake Music Scotland

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Emerging Minds

This partnership project researches live music's impact on child wellbeing

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Our projects

We undertake a wide range of work with children and young people

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Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

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My Rights, My Say

Find out more about the rights of children aged 12-15 years with additional support needs

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The website for young people offers advice and support on accessing their rights

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Resolve: ASL Mediaton Service

An independent mediation service for parents and carers of children and young people with additional support needs

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