After reading an article on BBC News this week I started thinking about inclusivity in music and how ridiculous it is that this should still be an issue in 2018. The article ‘Disability-led ensemble to play BBC Proms’, got me thinking about why there should be any barriers to anyone participating in and enjoying the benefits of music. I believe that anyone, regardless of age, gender, disability, education levels, employment status and wealth can, and should, get involved with music if that is what they want to do.
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
The Resound ensemble, which is part of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, is led by James Rose who cannot use his arms so he moves his baton with his head. It’s remarkable to watch and just goes to show that if you want to make music, you can find a way to do so.
Music therapy is increasingly used to help people with learning disabilities, people who sometimes feel isolated, alone and ostracised from ‘mainstream’ society. Music gives them a way to express themselves and communicate as well as motivate them by collaborating with other people in a positive environment. There are also physical benefits such as improving coordination and encouraging movement.
The British Paraorchestra played at the 2012 Paralympics with Coldplay. The Paraorchestra is a group of disabled orchestral musicians who are dispelling myths that orchestral music is only for a certain type of player and a certain type of audience. But the Paraorchestra is still a group of talented ‘serious’ musicians, what about those who just want a bit of fun?
It starts at home
Children love music. I talk a lot about kids and music and all the benefits of bringing children up in a musical environment. There are lots of singing groups, stage schools, preschool music groups and bands for kids to join. This is where a love of music will start and this is the foundation upon which a lifetime’s enjoyment of music, whether as a performer, or audience member, will grow.
At the other end of the age scale are elderly people. Music is said to stimulate parts of the brain and help with memory in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. According to NAMM, 30 minutes of piano lessons for 3 months in 60-85 year olds with no previous musical experience improved processing speed and memory. There are obviously benefits to be had but, regardless of the ‘scientific’ benefits, what about having fun? Homes for the elderly often provide music for their residents, ukulele groups and musicians visiting to entertain but what about those who aren’t in residential homes. If you have elderly friends or relatives, take them to see a concert, encourage them to join that choir (my choir has no age limit) or get a group together for a sing song from time to time.
Before I finish, although it pains me to talk about gender inequality in this day and age, let me just mention women and conducting. Fact: there are fewer female conductors than male conductors. The classical music ‘industry’ is trying to address this, but how, and why should it? Surely as many women as want to are currently pursuing a career in conducting? If not, why not? This is something for the music schools to consider, change the perception that conducting is a ‘male’ role and seek the inspiration of female role models for young aspiring women.
So what can we do? Encourage our friends, kids and relatives who express an interest in wanting to do something with music. Research groups or choirs to join in the area or internet forums to communicate with like-minded people in and remember that the hardest thing is often turning up and trying groups out for the first time. Girls, boys, ladies, gentlemen, go out there, and #letsmakesomenoise.