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Ali Harmer and Ceilidh-Jo Rowe

The Music Works (formerly Gloucestershire Music Makers)
'Playing Around Sound'

Ali Harmer and Ceilidh-Jo Rowe are currently engaged in an innovative project called "Playing Around Sound". They are investigating the relevance of music to young deaf children in how they negotiate relationships with others "in" music, by playing carefully chosen musical instruments, and "through" music in their play. Preferring a well-informed rather than a well-meaning approach, Ali and Ceilidh have brought together contemporary thinking on neurological development, vocal development and multi-modal communication. They are learning a great deal about music and musical interactions with young deaf children and this work is being used to change hearts and minds, informing and influencing music practice both within the deaf community and beyond it in mainstream settings.

Ali is a passionate advocate for musical play in the early years and her presentation will challenge assumptions about music for children and the role of music in how we communicate effectively. For more information see

Ali has been involved in musical play with the very young since 1996 and works in Children's Centres, Playgroups, Nurseries and Special Educational Settings in the county of Gloucestershire. She is a multi-instrumentalist in a family of musicians (main instrument fiddle and most unusual instrument crumhorn) and helps run a local school choir. She completed her research-based Masters in Education (Early Years Music) in 2014 and is a core member of MERYC (Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children), contributing and presenting academic papers on child-initiated musical play, collaborative music making with unusual pentatonic musical instruments, and music to support sensory play for children with PMLD. Ali is also a core member of the charity Gloucestershire Music Makers (now The Music Works) and is currently heading up specialist early-years projects including live music for premature babies and parents in Gloucester Royal Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and training sessions for early years practitioners encouraging singing and signing for parents and practitioners. In collaboration with her colleague Ceilidh-Jo Rowe, who has a level 3 qualification in BSL and is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Ali is developing "Playing Around Sound". This is a Youth Music-funded project researching how very young deaf children like to engage with music, based on communicative elements of sound, song and movement.