Music and the Deaf has a long-established reputation for breaking new ground with its projects that look to overcome the barriers that deaf people can face in accessing and enjoying music. From developing provision for deaf children as part of the national ‘Sing Up!’ programme, and the pioneering, UK-wide, Deaf Youth Orchestra project, Music and the Deaf looks to continue this reputation through its new projects FORTE and Frequalise.
Music and the Deaf is passionate about promoting more high profile performances by deaf and hard of hearing musicians, as well as engaging new deaf audiences with classical music. Formed by the charity, the FORTE Ensemble is a unique group of four deaf professional musicians who are committed to raising expectations of what deaf people can aspire to and achieve in music, and promote more high profile performance opportunities for musicians with a hearing loss.
Featuring Danny Lane (piano), Ruth Montgomery (flute), Sean Chandler (cornet), and Eloise Garland (soprano), the group made their debut performance at the House of Lords on 25th May as part of the Decibels Year of Sound launch event, followed by a concert at Sage Gateshead on 1st June, and finally Kings Place on 10th July. These concerts were truly ground breaking, being entirely deaf-led and featuring exclusively musicians with a hearing loss.
The musicians of the Ensemble also gave a free music workshop for deaf and hearing children at both Sage Gateshead and Kings Place. This allowed children with a hearing loss to see that a career in music performance is one that they can and should aspire to, and provided a space for parents to come together to ask the musicians how they overcame their deafness and the challenges that their children now face.
Video: The FORTE Ensemble at Kings Place, London, 10 July 2016
We would like to thank Sage Gateshead and Kings Place for supporting this project and hosting the Ensemble. We feel privileged to have performed at, and worked closely with, these two amazing venues that have taken a ground-breaking step forward in being the first two venues in the UK to host an entirely deaf ensemble, and deaf-led classical music concert.
We hope the Ensemble will continue long into the future and will be performing in a venue near you very soon!
Changes in technology have had a profound impact on how we all access, listen to, perform and enjoy music. We created Frequalise to engage more deaf and hard of hearing young people in digital music-making technology, allowing them to be as much a part of the digital revolution as their hearing peers and express themselves through their own music. Working with communities and schools in Bradford and the wider Calderdale and Kirklees regions, Music and the Deaf has led workshops in which deaf young people can explore their creativity using microphones and speakers, in addition to software such as Garage Band and Logic Pro, and apps used on tablets and phones. We have seen a remarkable impact, with children and young people who have sometimes had little or no prior connection to music, using the technology to experiment with and develop their own musical voice.
Feedback from the participants and teachers has also revealed what impact this project has made on developing confidence among the participants and highlighted the need to do more beyond the project and develop its legacy. One student said “I would like to practice the microphone [singing]” and a teacher has said “It was lovely to hear some students using their voice. Using the microphone took away inhibitions. Lovely to see one student feeling the beat through the speakers. Games and activities encouraged team building and confidence”. We are constantly observing the sessions and collecting feedback so that we can put together a report and share our findings with the wider workforce through a seminar later on in the year.
We are delighted that this project is developing a legacy and it is our hope that these future leaders will help us to build on the success of this pioneering work.
“All the students looked focussed and obviously enjoyed themselves. Love to see such ENTHUSIASM!” (audience member, Newsome High.)
“I found this lesson fun and educational. I know now how to be confident on stage” (student, Newsome High).
We are thankful to our funders, Youth Music, for enabling us to carry out such a valuable study and we are looking at ways of being able to take this project out into the community and share the legacy of this work into the future.