Course overview



This in-person course focuses on working with Disabled People and young people with Special Educational needs. We’ll explore some of the disabling barriers these groups face, as well as physical, cognitive and learning challenges, and how creative and participatory music sessions can benefit them.

To avoid disappointment, please book your place on the course 72 hours prior to its commencement.

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.

Community Musicians work with both young and older people who face a wide range of life challenges – using music as an effective tool to combat illness, disability, isolation, education difficulties, behavioural problems, offending and many more issues. Taking part in meaningful group activities is increasingly evidenced as a positive and productive way to overcome such challenges. This workshop investigates how to best facilitate meaningful and effective music experiences for Disabled People and young people with Special Educational needs. This includes those who experience:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Autism/Asperger’s
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Cognitive and sensory difficulties
  • Mental health needs

Community Music Practice can take many forms – singing in a choir, making beats on a computer, improvising as a group, exploring technology as a means to self-expression, songwriting, soundscape work and more. Each different way of engaging with music can have personal, social and collective benefits. To gain the greatest benefit interactions need to be led by people with a range of musical, communication and other skills, as well as an understanding of the context , and the people you are working with. This workshop will enable you to develop your own skill set, as well as providing a range of activity tools that can facilitate Disabled People and young people with Special Educational Needs to engage in creative and participatory music activities.

This course is ideal for you if you are:

  • youth worker who would like to develop this skillset
  • music leader already practising in the field
  • music service tutor
  • music teacher
  • musician who would like to explore this field
  • a teaching assistant or worker in a Care environment
  • parent/carer

No formal skill level is required but to gain the most out of this workshop, we would expect you to possess a good level of either formal or informal music experience.

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.

Why study this course?

  • You will experience a range of exciting and engaging music making activities that you can take into your own practice.
  • You will have a chance to reflect on and develop your own musical leadership skills in a safe supported environment.
  • You will learn about some of the physical, cognitive and learning challenges that young people may face, what defines some of these conditions, how they impact on young people.
  • You’ll learn how to plan and deliver creative music sessions to bring maximum benefits to participants regardless of their abilities.
  • We will explore how we can measure the effectiveness of musical interactions in order to maximise their benefits and enable sustained work.

Other Community Music Practice Courses:



Goldsmiths offers a 15% concession rate on short courses to Lewisham Local cardholders, Students and Goldsmiths Alumni. Please email for further information.

Booking information

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


Goldsmiths campus


If you have any questions about this course please contact shortcourses (

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

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.

Tutor information

Graham Dowdall

Graham is a highly experienced Musician, Community Musician and Trainer with a portfolio career that includes performing across the globe, running face to face workshops with young people, training others to do so and teaching at Goldsmiths. After studying Music Workshop Skills at Goldsmiths in the early nineties Graham has become one of the leading practitioners in the UK Community Music scene. He is a specialist in working with young people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties and so-called hard to reach young people. He regularly runs training in these areas for numerous Music Hubs as well as organisations like Sound Connections, Drake Music, Live Music Now and many more. He is also a board member of Soundsense (the national organisation for Community Music) and regularly presents at conferences in the field. 


Course structure

Working with Disabled People and young people in SEN contexts.

The course will run from 10am-4pm, involving a combination of lectures, seminars and workshops.

This workshop will focus on working with Disabled people, young people with learning difficulties, cognitive and sensory difficulties and mental health needs. We will investigate how these conditions impact on people and explore some of the many benefits that music can bring. We will explore how music can be of benefit for communication, team working, physical and emotional therapy, cross-curricular learning, as well as social and personal development. This will be achieved through an examination of the variety of repertoire, facilitation techniques and leadership skills music can harness, and how this can be an incredibly effective tool for impacting on these young peoples’ lives. We will explore how to create a safe and welcoming environment, how to plan and deliver a range of accessible activities including with instruments, voices and technology and how we can evaluate our work for effectiveness and sustainability. 

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course you will:

• Have an understanding of the social model of disability and a greater understanding of Special Educational Needs.
• Understand why and how music can be a valuable tool for working with these young people.
• Have a range of tools and approaches to lead effective participatory music sessions.
• Have developed their musical and leadership skills in appropriate ways to work in this area.
• Learn how we can measure and evaluate the effectiveness of participatory music activities with these groups.

About the department

Our STACS (Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies) 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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