Home is where the music is – an Early Years music project with Soundcastle

In partnership with Soundcastle, we have run a short project with six families with children in the early years who are experiencing disabling barriers to accessing music.

This is one of our first Learning and Participation projects working in a really focused way with early years children.

It has been really exciting to work on this project, particularly in a partnership with another music charity. We have done lots of learning, both from the young people and from our partners.

All online

One of the major elements was trying to use technology to increase the musical access the early years children and their families could experience, particularly during lockdown.

A tablet with the words Stay Home on the screen and a child's cube shaped toy

Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we were required to run our sessions entirely remotely. We had hoped that there might be scope for a few ‘in person’ sessions, but it became apparent in the new lockdown that this would not be possible.

It was a concern that this might affect people’s access to the sessions, as we wondered about the attention and focus the young participants would be able to have while interacting with our music movies through a screen.

In one of our planning meetings with our delivery team we discussed the apprehension of working with entirely new families and young people through a screen, rather than meeting them face-to-face.

Would we get enough connection in order to produce meaningful results from our sessions?

We recorded all of our sessions both visually and with audio. This was a great help for us to gather new learning and collect sounds from our young participants.

‘Wow’ moments

Once we met our participants and their families, we found that it was possible to create great connections, despite working entirely through the screen.

We even had some “wow“ moments where we witnessed huge leaps in musical engagement and communication with young people. One of these featured our participant looking directly at us, the practitioners, as we performed the routine “hello“ song for the session and waving when we waved to them.

This was a huge breakthrough for this child as they have not interacted with anyone like this before.

As well as our individual sessions, we also set up a group “dance party”. This was a short 20 minute session for all of the families to attend. At the sessions we played some of the music that had been included in sessions that week, and encouraged everyone to move and play along to the tunes.

A striking and surprising outcome from one of the sessions was young people interacting together through the screen, mirroring each other as they both played the harmonica!

This was another good show of the value of running the sessions remotely.

Sending out kits

Now at the conclusion of the project, we have made up and sent out kits including Touch Boards (made by Bare Conductive) to every family.

Touchboard

These have been preloaded with different musical sounds that the families shared with us and that we collected from recording sessions – all the sounds made by the participants!

The families will be able to play along to the tracks the Soundcastle production team made and trigger the boards with movement so that the young people can hear their sounds with the music.

Conclusions

In conclusion this was a really exciting and ambitious pilot project but we have found real benefits for families working exclusively on zoom.

We hope to be able to run the project again and would opt for a blended version of delivery, so that we would have some time to meet the families face-to-face. With that said, it’s really great to know that meaningful interactions can be made when working entirely on zoom.

Thank you to the entire team from Drake Music and Soundcastle for their hard work on this project. It’s been a real delight to collaborate together and a big positive to come out from a very challenging year for delivery.

Image: Filiz Mehmed

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