The older students of Phoenix School, a special educational needs school in London’s East End, have fewer opportunities than the younger year groups to participate in music-making. Spitalfields Music delivered a series of workshops to the upper school classes to help the young people aged 16-18, to develop life skills such as communications, team-working and trust alongside, of course, simply enjoying music and all the benefits this brings for their wellbeing.

The theme was Africa and each session began with a warm-up based on copying actions, making it accessible to the non-verbal participants as well as the more confident young people.  Another feature of every session was the relaxation time, with the music leaders using instrumental improvisation together with breathing and body awareness exercises to create a relaxed atmosphere. Working together in a big team or at times, in smaller groups, with maximum participation being key, the students enjoyed creative song-writing, using pictures of African animals and scenery as stimulus.

The impact on the young people as reported by Phoenix School staff was immense; there was evidence of growing levels of confidence in the students in expressing themselves creatively, developing their self-awareness and their musicality and creativity.

Increased self-confidence was also very evident in the group as a whole, but particularly for two boys who were really shy and less willing to take part in sessions at the beginning of the project. As the weeks went by, they would respond with more enthusiasm and less anxiety. At the end of the 5-week project, all the young people performed at a school assembly, and Spitalfields Music Leaders, along with their teachers, were pleasantly surprised by the boys’ performance during which they both managed to relax in front of the audience and act much more freely than in some of the first sessions.

“It was a complete riot and the energy level and joy of the participants was an incredibly rewarding thing to witness and be a part of. I wish I could have had even longer to see these young people grow in confidence, but it was a pleasure to be a part of that experience.”

Rachel, Trainee Music Leader

“We are proud to support such vital and heart-warming work.”

Jane, Trustee