Outernational Music

Black and white photo of Ben Glass, smiling at cameraDrake Music Associate Musician Ben Glass here to tell you more about my Outernational Music project with Ashton Park School & a group of young Brazilian musicians.

Two small groups of students from Ashton Park School in Bristol have been collaborating remotely with another group of young disabled and non-disabled musicians from São Paulo led by Viviane Louro, a practitioner, researcher and author in the field of music and inclusion.

Young musicians from Ashton Park School

A doctor in Neuroscience, she plays an instrumental part in Brazil’s slowly developing field of inclusive music education, working in a professional theatre troupe, training teachers and publishing a series of books on the subject.

Using Skype and online blogging as their platforms, the collective shared their ongoing compositions using Soundcloud and discussed the musical processes they were exploring, including generative music and the retelling of Brazilian folk stories.

Skyping with young disabled musicians in Brazil

Their face-to-face meeting this week was an exciting culmination of all their work, research and communications. Students performed the pieces they had practised, interviewed each other on cultural matters and discussed Accessible Music Technology.

The Bristol students were thrilled to hear the three pieces their collaborators had prepared; Brazilian classics from the 1940’s-60’s. There was a stark contrast in the instrumentation; the São Paulo group played a mixture of mallet instruments and samba percussion, while the Bristolians used iPads, Soundbeam and switch triggers.

Student Rosie observed: ‘We felt lucky because they didn’t use gadgets and computers as they don’t have as many resources’

Rosie recording drums for Outernational Music Blog
Rosie recording drums

Viviane confirms: ‘schools here are not adapted for disabled students and AMT in Brazil is almost non-existent. Teachers are not equipped or trained on using accessible materials or equipment. However, there are some strong Brazilian NGO’s that drive a gradual change in direction in terms of attitudes to disability and music.’

The future seems bright. Ashton Park is now authorized to deliver AQA awards – unique records of achievement that formally recognize skills the students have developed.

The AQA recently informed me that ‘Music qualifications are not restricted to the UK. There are schools in other countries that teach AQA specifications for Music’.

It feels as though these awards could be achieved through parallel learning: using relatively accessible tools like Skype, two classrooms can be brought together with very positive results.

The project’s knock-on effects have been significant. Their tutor Amy observed: ‘Not only did I notice a higher level of confidence verbally, but also a keen interest in emailing, blogging and texting each other from their phones, that in turn has increased their social communication outside of school. They showed a strong sense of pride. This project has been particularly beneficial, but from my observations every Drake session the students have had has encouraged their confidence and self esteem to flourish, which has been noticeable throughout the last 18 months.’

Student Callum Carpenter commented: ‘It’s important to do what we’re doing. When it’s on our blog I want to share it with people. I feel more calm and confident after doing Drake Music’.

His colleague Rosie told us that ‘My parents were really proud of me – if I can Skype people in Brazil, I can Skype anyone and I’d love to! We feel much more independent, more like adults now’.



Hear all the Ashton Park tunes on our Soundcloud, or listen below: