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4th July, 2019

Guildhall School of Music & Drama awarded £984,000 to lead 3-year international research project on the social impact of making music

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Guildhall School of Music & Drama has been awarded a grant of just over £984,000 by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for an international consortium, led by Guildhall School, to undertake a three-year investigation into the social impact of making music entitled Music for social impact: practitioners’ contexts, work and beliefs. It is the largest grant Guildhall School has received to date.

The research, scheduled to begin in early 2020, is led by Guildhall School Research Professor John Sloboda OBE, in partnership with co-investigators Professor Heidi Westerlund (Sibelius Academy, University of Arts Helsinki); Professor Geoffrey Baker (Royal Holloway, University of London); Dr An De Bisschop (University College Ghent); and Dr Gloria Patricia Zapata Restrepo (Fundación Universitaria Juan N Corpas, Bogota). Co-funding for the project has also been supplied by the International Platform for Social Impact of Making Music.

It is anticipated that the research will be a flagship project of Guildhall School’s new Research Institute for Social Impact, expected to launch in 2020, which would eventually be based at the proposed Centre for Music in London, plans for which were announced in January.

Professor John Sloboda OBE, Guildhall School of Music & Drama says:

This substantial research grant allows us to collaborate with expert researchers in three other countries to develop a truly international understanding of the ways that professional musicians work for social impact in very diverse settings.

Lynne Williams AM, Principal of Guildhall School of Music & Drama says:

This is the largest research grant made to the Guildhall School for research and recognises our growing reputation for research and innovation in the area of arts practice and its social impact. As an institution we are focussed on the concept of the artist in 21st century society and the roles and responsibilities of artists to make positive contributions to the lives of others. We are delighted for Professor John Sloboda and our international partners for this recognition and for the opportunities it will bring to make a significant difference to our understanding of the impact of music making in a variety of settings across the world.

The research will examine the growing number of participatory music-making activities being offered to groups around the world, defined by factors such as their social needs or deprivation. These Socially Impactful Music Making (SIMM) activities focus on marginalised or excluded groups such as in regions of poverty, conflict or social disruption, people in prison or those who are homeless, and assist participants to perform music for its intrinsic value, as well as helping them to achieve defined social goals such as inclusion, empowerment, community building and activism.

Little is known about the practitioners, mainly professional musicians, who deliver this work, and the research will aim to provide an integrative cross-cultural analysis of the field as a whole from the perspective of the practitioners, undertaking a systematic in-depth analysis of how their backgrounds, training, and beliefs affect the way they carry out their work and assess and improve its effectiveness.  Through in-depth interviews and case studies of organisations or projects across four countries, Belgium, Finland, the UK and Columbia, this project seeks to uncover the characteristics of the SIMM provider, to explore what they do in their sessions, the skills, beliefs and motivations they bring to their work, and the conditions and constraints under which they operate.

Practitioners’ own understanding of the actual social impact of their work is to be examined, identifying factors which help or hinder this appreciation. Through a context-sensitive understanding of incentives and pressures experienced by practitioners, this research aims to provide insights for:

  • Training – how to support the development of resilient by reflective practitioners
  • Commissioning and funding – how to support monitoring and evaluation which allows for, and learns from, experimentation and failure
  • Creative development of best practice – through enhanced opportunities and frameworks for interprofessional knowledge exchange

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