Course dates

Online teaching

We are now offering many of our courses online (over Zoom or similar platforms). No prior experience with these platforms is required. Continue learning with us by taking courses remotely via live distance learning.

Starting date, Saturday 9 Oct 2021
10am-4pm | 1 day

Course overview

This in-person course focuses on music-making with people living with dementia. This rapidly-growing and exciting area of the field focuses on how music can enable those living with dementia to connect and create, combating social isolation, and helping maintain a sense of agency and identity.

Community Music is a term used to describe an inclusive and participatory approach to music that works towards musical, personal and social outcomes. This can operate both therapeutically and educationally, but Community Music has its own rich history and culture. Our portfolio of Community Music Short Courses builds on thirty years of Community Music training at Goldsmiths and offers a broad range of general and more specifically focussed courses. The current situation gives us the exciting potential to share our courses online and we welcome attendees from across the globe. We are hoping through these courses to build new networks of practice and will be offering a variety of ways people can keep engaging, learning and sharing after attending one of our courses.

Awareness of the benefits of music for people living with dementia has grown rapidly in recent years, with research and anecdotal evidence demonstrating that active participation in music has a very positive effect on engagement and wellbeing. Work in this field can take place in residential settings such as care homes, in the community, and in healthcare settings. Music-making in these settings can include:

  • familiar repertoire – helpful for reminiscence and creating a sense of safety
  • improvisation – creating in the moment together, as a means of communication as well as promoting the equality of everyone involved
  • musical activities such as singing rounds
  • writing songs as a group
  • exploring sounds and listening

This is a rewarding area of work, contributing to a culture where people can develop or rekindle musical skills, interests, and connections – even if for a short, but illuminating time. This work requires a sensitive, flexible, and reflective approach, which this workshop will introduce you to.

This course is ideal for you if you are:

  • a musician who would like to develop your skills in this field
  • a professional or family carer who would like to develop this skillset
  • a music facilitator already practising in this or a related field
  • a professional in a related field, eg Occupational Therapist, Psychologist
  • interested in learning more about how interactive music-making benefits everyone

No formal skill level is required but to gain the most out of this workshop, we would expect you to feel confident in using either your instrument or your voice, in a range of ways, in the session.

Due to the current situation with the Covid virus we have adapted this course to run as two 2-hour sessions with a gap in between. Our tutors have been gaining lots of experience in working online and have adapted the structure to ensure that participants will get a great learning experience and also gain some extra skills and understanding about online community music practice.

We may be able to offer shadowing and placement opportunities to attendees.

Why Study this Course?

  • Explore and develop skills relevant to community music practice
  • Learn new techniques and approaches
  • Develop approaches to monitoring
  • Enhance your understanding of the role of the musician in these settings
  • Explore and develop your own style of delivery

Other Community Music Practice Courses:



Booking information

Disability Support

We are committed to providing reasonable teaching adjustments for students with disabilities that may impact on their learning experience. If you require adjustments, please complete the relevant section on the booking form and also contact us at shortcourses ( so we can respond to your requests as soon as possible. 

Please note that our short courses sell-out quickly, so early booking is advisable. 

Starting date, Saturday 9 Oct 2021
10am-4pm | 1 day


If you have any questions about this course please contact stacs ( .

For information on our upcoming short courses please sign up to our mailing list.


Goldsmiths Campus

Tutor information

Course Tutor Bela Emerson in Black and White photograph playing cello

Isabel Emerson

Bela Emerson is an improvising cellist, community musician, and trainer. Following a 20-year professional performing career - playing in venues as diverse as Sydney Opera House and eastern European village halls, and composing for filmmakers and acrobats - she began facilitating participatory music sessions full-time as a result of studying music workshop skills at Goldsmiths with Graham Dowdall and Dr Phil Mullen.

In 2013, she founded Open Strings Music (OSM), a Brighton-based not-for-profit organisation specialising in music-making with adults of all abilities. As part of their portfolio of projects, OSM work extensively with people living with dementia and their carers, leading in 2016 to a three-year NHS contract to develop and deliver ongoing sessions in the community. This in turn has led to OSM delivering training for groups of carers and support workers, including work with Chichester Cathedral.

Bela has been part of the Rhythmix Wishing Well Music in Healthcare team since its inception in 2013, bringing interactive music to hundreds of patients’ bedsides in acute dementia settings, community hospitals, and children’s wards. For this highly-specialised work, she trained with Kate Murdoch (Musique et Sante), Dr Jane Bentley (NHS music & dementia specialist), and Nick Cutts (Opus Music).

Bela has delivered five-day Foundation Training for musicians in healthcare for Wishing Well, including follow-on specialist music and dementia training; she is also a trainer of third-year medical students in music in healthcare practice as part of the ongoing SSC programme at Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.

Bela is a mentor on Wishing Well’s musician in hospital scheme, as well as Community Works’ mentoring programme. She is currently on the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ twelve-month Trade Up learning programme in London, and is a trustee of national community music organisation Sound Sense.


Course structure

The course will run from 11am-1pm over two consecutive Saturdays, and comprise a mix of lectures, practical sessions, and discussion.

We will focus on how to facilitate interactive music-making for and with people living with dementia, including:

  • repertoire – songs and musical activities
  • use of instrumentation, for mixed-ability groups (beginners and more experienced alike)
  • group facilitation - including supporting peer-led activity
  • planning, delivering, and monitoring appropriately
  • creating a safe and supportive space

We will also discuss and explore this work in its wider setting, including:

  • an overview of the health and wellbeing impacts of dementia
  • the positive benefits of music-making for people living with dementia and their carers
  • music-making as a tool for engagement and communication
  • demonstrating impact to others (eg: funders)
  • working sensitively and constructively within this setting

Learning outcomes

At the end of this workshop you will:

• Have gained a greater understanding of the importance of participatory music-making for people living with dementia
• Have explored a range of songs, melodies, and activities relevant to people living with dementia
• Have developed a range of tools and approaches to lead effective participatory group music sessions within this setting
• Have developed your musical and leadership skills in appropriate ways to work in this area
• Have learned ways to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of participatory music activities with these groups

About the department

Our STACS Department at Goldsmiths has a rich and vibrant history. We are especially proud of our longstanding commitment to addressing issues of social injustice. Situated in New Cross, in the borough of Lewisham in South-East London we are uniquely placed to tackle the questions that arise in this area, in a local and wider context. For twenty five years we were the home of the renowned Music Workshop Skills course and this field is still part of the STACS portfolio of study.

The activities of our Department are underpinned by an exciting and dynamic research culture which employs a range of methodologies to critically analyse policy and practice in our professional disciplines. We believe that, in choosing to study with us, you will greatly benefit from the wealth of experience of our staff and their commitment to ensuring that you will leave us as a reflective, research minded professional.

In 2016 we held an Art Therapy Conference, which explored the longstanding relationship between Art and Therapy, which has a strong interdisciplinary tradition at Goldsmiths. Speakers at the event included Turner Prize winning artist, Grayson Perry, and esteemed Psychoanalyst, Patrick Casement.


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