Music in Hospitals & Care’s A4 Brass Quartet started visiting a school for children with special educational needs in Didsbury, Manchester, in January 2019. They led weekly live music experiences with a group of five children who are multi-sensory impaired. This was part of a pilot project with Manchester Sensory Support Service, funded by the Oglesby Trust. It provided interactive music sessions for children of various ages.
Live music has been important for the children as multi-sensory impairment can feel very isolating. We are so pleased with how well they’ve gone and how much the children seem to be getting out of it.
The warm sound of brass instruments is creating a relaxing atmosphere in the room as A4 Brass Quartet go to each child in turn to play a welcome song. The musicians play a variety of melodies and improvise, allowing the children to hear the different range of instruments and become more familiar with musical phrases. They also play games.
Despite experiencing hearing and sight loss, one child is able to sign that she wants the musicians to change the volume. She asks them to play different pieces of music to match her mood.
Aleks keeps his hearing aid on throughout the live music, despite continually removing it the rest of the day. His support worker says he wants to be able to experience the music as much as possible.
Another child, Moein, likes to place his mouth on the bell of the brass instruments and feel the music through his chest. He also puts his arms inside the instrument and laughs when he feels the low notes of the euphonium, a large brass instrument. Moein asks the musicians to continue playing by tapping on a bell. He moves his head, then his entire body to the rhythm of the music, which is remarkable to the sensory support staff. Moein’s support worker notices that he has started to locate the sound in the room and recognise the goodbye song that signifies the end of the live music. He is always upset when it finishes.
The pilot project that Moein and the other children are part of encourages their interaction, communication and self-awareness. The live music offers opportunities for the children to feel in control by showing what they prefer and making choices. They also learn new signs and have an experience which stimulates their senses.
“Live music has been important for the children as multi-sensory impairment can feel very isolating,” says Jess Ingham, Live Music Manager for the North of England at Music in Hospitals & Care. “We are so pleased with how well this pilot project has gone and how much the children seem to be getting out of it. The deep vibrations of the brass instruments work really well and get a great response. But, as we have discovered with Aleks, string instruments are also popular, something to explore further in the future. We are looking forward to seeing how the children progress.”