When I sit down in my music class and look around the room, I can count seven students for whom English is a second language, someone who’s selective mutism prevents her from communicating verbally, another person who’s autism makes it incredibly difficult for him to initiate a verbal interaction, three people who require hearing aids and two whose lack of confidence meant it was weeks before they spoke to me for the first time. And yet when we start to play, these barriers to communication disappear. They play their instruments in tandem, rhythmically and melodically in sync with one another, feeding off each other’s energy and the feeling within the room. They become a single unit working together towards a common goal- all without speaking a word. This is the unifying and enabling power of music, and I am fortunate enough to witness it every day at PIP.
A lot of our students may struggle to explain, understand or process their feelings because of their disability. Yet by placing a drum in their hands and encouraging them to play you are giving them a language without words with which to express themselves. You can see the confidence and ease that grows in them once they discover this avenue of communication, a method of releasing tension or anxiety, or displaying humour and joy.
Thanks to a generous grant from our partners at John Lewis, we were able to invest in some new instruments which have enabled more students than ever to get involved in music and allows genuine talent to be honed and developed.
One such talent is Marcio, who describes music as “The best group ever! I love to play the guitar, congas and bongo drums. It makes me feel happy and excited”. Since joining my class, Marcio’s favourite experience was “writing ‘Walking Smiles’ with the BBC and recording it at Maida Vale Studios”. He has also performed live with members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and had his music featured in our fundraising films and our drama performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This shows that not only does music encourage personal development and contain important therapeutic value, but it also opens the door to some of the most fulfilling life experiences imaginable.
You can hear some of the pieces created by PIP students on our SoundCloud page, including ‘Walking Smiles’, a track written in collaboration with the BBC and recorded at their Maida Vale Studios, as well as excerpts from the soundtrack to our latest drama performance ‘Lion Heart’ which was composed by PIP students and performed at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
This post was written by Adam Pearson (PIP Development Worker) and Marcio Magalhaes (PIP student)