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past project: we speak music

A young woman uses Makaton signing and singing at a Doncaster Music Education Hub Sing and Sign Event

We Speak Music was a project funded by Youth Music as part of our All Aboard programme.

darts’ musicians delivered three years of inspiring sessions in Doncaster’s special schools using music and Makaton as a universal language. (Makaton is the leading language programme for those with communication or learning difficulties. It uses speech, signs and symbols following spoken word order and is a proven way to provide access to music for those with disabilities).

Children and young people with a range of disabilities came together as ensembles, writing their own songs and music to perform and share with peers to a broader audience. Over three years, our musicians honed their approaches to enabling children and young people with specific disabilities to access and enjoy involvement in music – including those with profound and complex needs.

Our musicians collaborated with teachers to build confidence in using music and to increase their skills in Makaton to inspire passion for music and to improve communication. Jointly they developed approaches to engage family members to share in the experience, and improve communication at home. We used Makaton to translate the new songs; in instructions to ensure engagement was enjoyable and in performance narration so audiences could take part in the songs.

What’s been interesting for me and what has been really good is how embedded Makaton is in the music, as it helps us learn new signs and pulls it together in class outside of the music sessions. The children love We Speak Music and it brings them to life. Sing + Sign was fabulous and I was so proud of them. It took us a long time to learn those songs and they put a lot of effort in, so to see them perform was brilliant. - Teacher
I try and make rock and roll accessible to everyone. My sessions are quite noisy and Makaton has really enabled me to open up communication without having to stop the music or having to shout. - Musician
I’ve loved this project and am quite sad it’s stopping because for me, it’s just beginning to dig in. I’ve been able to get embedded in the curriculum and discuss with teachers what they want to cover in sessions. One girl who has a trachea was signing and singing today, which was amazing. She has improved incredibly over the course of sessions. - Musician

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