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Rhythms of the World

A core project of the NCEM's Music4U programme, Rhythms of the World continued to develop successful ensemble music-making opportunities for deaf young people at Hull's Sirius Academy. Young people had previously worked with Music4U to develop compositions and performances using West African drums and electronic sampling and, in Spring Term 2016, they continued their exploration of world rhythms through an engaging and effective 6-week project based around bronze gamelan percussion from Indonesia.

Young people from the Sirius IPaSS (Integrated Physical and Sensory Service) Unit teamed up with GCSE Music students, as part of the academy's Buddy System, to learn about the music and culture of Indonesia, linking their work in this ensemble to focus on 'cultural conversations' back at school. Six sessions took place at the Albemarle Music Centre, using Hull's Gamelan Kyai Sri Jaladri Naga, offering insights into the cultural background of the ensemble, investigating traditional gamelan approaches, and developing new music for the instruments, as well as exploring other art forms, such as shadow puppetry.

The final session on Tuesday 15 March 2016 ended with a shadow puppet performance based around an excerpt of the Ramayana epic, accompanied by the students with compositions and the traditional gamelan piece Gangsaran, which they had created and learned over the course of the five previous sessions. Parents, families and friends filled the Albemarle to watch the fantastic work that the young people had created together. This performance was filmed for showing back at Sirius Academy and for sharing with feeder primary, Christopher Pickering School.

The project was led by Donna Smith - one of Music4U's recent Gamelan Trainees and an experienced facilitator who has already worked with students at the Sirius IPaSS Unit. Donna was joined by her recent collaborator on Music4U's Music For Life project, Danny Lane from Music and the Deaf. Together Donna and Danny offered practical and valuable CPD for academy staff and ran practical sessions for young people. Joining them, as an assistant music leader, was recent University of York Community Music MA graduate, Emma Louise Dickinson.

Feedback from the students included:
  • "It was a fun experience and I learned about new instruments and sounds"
  • "Very interactive, fun and also different to a school environment"
  • "The project has helped me to play confidently and experience working with other people"
  • "I enjoyed supporting others"
  • "I have a better understanding of world music"
  • "I have enjoyed playing the gongs. I can feel the music in my chest"
  • "It has helped me understand rhythm with counting as I am deaf"
  • "It has helped me and my deaf friends create music together. I am more confident in the group and I would love the project to continue"
  • "It made me think about the spiritual side to playing music"
  • "It gave me an opportunity that I usually wouldn't get. It let me learn about a traditional and cultural instrument"
  • "It helped me concentrate and focus"

Staff also reflected positively on the impact of this valuable experience:
  • "The project was an excellent example of deaf students having a musical opportunity that was a success"
  • "The students have formed positive relationships with their peers both deaf and hearing"
  • "This project has given me an insight into how deaf and hearing students can support each other"
  • "The project was an enjoyable experience bringing smiles to everyone"

Following this highly-successful practical project, Music4U held a CPD session, in order to share good practice, particularly focusing on ways in which Deaf and hearing students can join together in meaningful music-making collaborations. The half-day CPD session was held at Albemarle Music Centre in Hull, on Tuesday 7 June 2016, for a mix of Hub staff, instrumental teachers, school teachers and community musicians. Led by the same team as the Rhythms of the World practical project, the training offered insights into the work done with young people from Sirius Academy and also shared learning from a variety of perspectives (the students, the school staff, the lead musicians and trainees).

This project was generously supported by Youth Music and Hull City Council Arts Development, in partnership with Hull Music Hub, and Music and the Deaf.