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4th November, 2020

International research team at Guildhall School of Music & Drama launches major survey amongst musicians working in socially engaged contexts

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New project examines the growing number of participatory music-making activities being offered to groups around the world.

Today, 20 October, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, along with partners in three other countries, launches a new multi-country research survey aimed at musicians who work, or have recently worked, in socially engaged settings as part of a three-year investigation into the social impact of music making entitled ‘Music for Social Impact: practitioners’ contexts, work, and beliefs.

The project, which began earlier this year, examines 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.

Recognising that much of this activity has been disrupted by COVID-19, participants should feel free to answer the survey based on any relevant experience in the last 5 years. The research aims to provide insights for the following which are vital for rebuilding in the new landscape created by the global pandemic:

  • Training how to support the development of resilient but 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

The project is led by Guildhall School Research Professor John Sloboda OBE, in partnership with co-investigators in the UK, Belgium, Columbia and Finland, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council together with the International Platform for Social Impact of Making Music.

Co-investigators are:

  • Professor Heidi Westerlund (Sibelius Academy, University of Arts Helsinki)
  • Professor Geoffrey Baker (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Dr An De Bisschop (University College Ghent)
  • Dr Gloria Patricia Zapata Restrepo (Fundación Universitaria Juan N Corpas, Bogota)

Preliminary scoping of the field from public domain information in the four target countries has revealed a common emphasis on work with children and young people and a prioritisation of inclusivity and access. Musical forms and activities which celebrate ethnic minorities and marginalised groups – or aim to provide participants with spaces for inter-cultural encounters – are also an important part of the landscape. There are significant differences of emphasis too. For instance, the elderly and disabled are the focus of much European work, while Colombia has more projects addressing post-conflict reconstruction after their long decades of internal conflict (The full report of the scoping study is available to download).

The project now aims to go deeper and connect directly with musicians who have worked in this area “at the coal face” on a regular basis, so that their experiences and insights can more fully inform the wider community of practice, of commissioning and funding, and particularly of training.

All members of the research team work in arts higher education, where it has become a priority to understand how best to develop the curriculum to support the professional development of resilient but reflective socially engaged artists.

Professor John Sloboda, project leader, said,

This is a uniquely challenging time for musicians all over the world. We really want to hear and amplify the voices of working musicians, mostly freelance, whose skills and energies make this delicate and often challenging work flourish. Socially engaged arts work is an increasingly prominent part of the cultural landscape. Distilling and sharing the insights of those who practice is a vital part of ensuring its future flourishing’.


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