Common Pulse Gamelan Project

The gamelan (an Indonesian percussion orchestra) has been used as part of Royal School Manchester’s music classes for a few years and in 2014, the National Foundation of Youth Music gave Seashell Trust £45,231 to complete the ‘Common Pulse’ Gamelan Project.

The aims of the project were to

·         Improve the quality and standards of music delivery for children and young people

·         Embed learning and effective practice in host and partner organisations and share practice beyond the project

·         Develop the musical competencies, social skills and wellbeing of children and young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and sensory impairment at Seashell Trust and in the wider community

·         Increase the skills, knowledge and confidence of music practitioners, SEN teachers, therapists, support assistants, residential staff, carers and volunteers using gamelan with children and young people who have complex needs

·         Raise awareness of the wider benefits of musical participation and identify existing measures and/or develop new tools to record and measure  students’ progress in terms of musical development, communication skills and wellbeing

To do this, a team of musicians, teachers and LSAs, a speech and language therapist, an audiologist, a mental health practitioner and a developmental psychologist worked together to deliver workshops and training for other practitioners.

After more than 100 different workshops, reaching more than 500 participants, the project has come to an end. For more details, find the summary evaluation online here.

Some of the project’s great successes include developing social skills, especially for those students whose anxiety meant they found it very hard to work in groups, responding to the music (using their voices, instruments, dancing, tapping their feet or even jumping expressively) and creating a calm and creative environment.

For one boy who arrived at Royal School Manchester at the start of the project, playing music and singing with the gamelan orchestra helped him adjust to his new school. When he started at the school, he was anxious and used to repeat the name of his old school but in one gamelan session, he announced “Seashell Trust!” while he listened to the music. He listens to music at home and likes singing, and would sing parts of his favourite songs as well as learning the ‘Seashell Gamelan’ song quickly.

One of our volunteers from Manchester University, Ellie Sherwood, worked with the gamelan project as well as piano lessons with one school pupil. In her interview with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, she spoke at length about her work with Seashell and used this to show her experience helping children with complex needs learn about music – and we’re delighted to hear that she has since been offered a job working with their Education Department. Best of luck to Ellie and to all our project volunteers!