Music as Therapy: John Chilton Special Needs and Disabilities School (Ealing 2017-present)

John Chilton School

Darren Moore and Ross Learmonth in a workshop

On 21 June 2017 trombonist Ross Learmonth and trumpeter Darren Moore took part in two 50-minute music outreach workshops with pupils at John Chilton School, a Special Educational Needs school that caters for the needs of pupils aged 3 – 17. Pupils mainly have a cognitive difficulty, and some have a dual diagnosis of a physical or medical need.

The workshops involved pupils improvising alongside Darren and Ross, and taking it in turns to be the conductor. Pupils worked collaboratively, showing how technology can open up the world of music.

Pupils adopted clearly defined roles when improvising to jazz, blues and calypso backing tracks. Some pupils played the rhythm (percussion sounds using keyboards and iPads), harmony (lower pitched instruments using iPads) and some played the melody (higher pitched instruments using iPads and kaossilators). Pupils used the ThumbJam app on iPads to create music using notes set to the major pentatonic scale. Pupils then swapped roles after each backing track. Textures ranged from duets involving a pupil and Yeoman, to full ensemble playing.

Pupil using a kaossilator

Pupil playing the melody using a kaossilator

Thanks to the hard work of the school’s Music Co-ordinator, Sue Hardy, funding has been raised to purchase instruments, iPads and specialist music technology, like Apollo Ensemble, and others with touchscreens, for pupils. Over a third of the money raised came directly from The Musicians’ Company and Company members. This technology enables pupils, including those with limited mobility, to create music.

“It was so rewarding to see pupils enjoying themselves. They were great at adapting their playing to suit different styles of music. The pupils listened to us, and each other, really well in the workshops.”
Ross Learmonth, trombonist


“I’ve never played with real musicians before. It was amazing to play with Ross and Darren – I thought I was on the actual stage.”
11-year old pupil, John Chilton School

“In taking part in music-making activities, children develop confidence in their own abilities. Music making is a fun, inclusive and positive experience that also provides a strong form of creative expression for pupils, particularly for those with very limited mobility. The pupils felt like real musicians because they played alongside real musicians. The workshops given by The Musicians’ Company give our pupils the opportunity and experience of playing with live instrumentalists. It was great to see the pupils interact with Ross and Darren – they loved the experience.”
Sue Hardy, Music Co-ordinator, John Chilton School