Course overview



This course focuses on working with so-called “hard to reach” young people, and how music can support them in overcoming some of the challenges they face . As well as introducing you to this growing field, we’ll explore the contextual background and practical tools you’ll need to take into your own practice.

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

Music still plays a huge role in the lives of young people and this course explores how we can use music to reach young people who may experience a range of barriers to their self-fulfilment, wellbeing and achievement. An increasing number of young people experience Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties which may restrict their educational opportunities, life chances and even result in challenging behaviour and offending.

As well as looking at the contextual background and understanding we will explore a range of practical music tools including working with the styles of music young people may want to make like Grime and Hip Hop as well as using Songwriting to sensitively explore issues. You will also learn about progressive methodologies to engage, inspire and support young people to transform their lives.

Community Music is an inclusive and participatory approach to music that works towards musical, personal and social outcomes. This can work 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.  

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, exclusion 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 musical experiences for so-called “hard to reach” young people. This includes those who:

  • experience Social, Emotional & Mental Health difficulties
  • are struggling in school
  • have been excluded, or are in danger of exclusion
  • are at risk or have already offended
  • are not in education, training, or employment

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 bring a range of benefits and be really effective interactions need to be led by people with a range of musical, communication and other skills, as well as an understanding of the contexts, and the people you are working with. This workshop will enable you to develop your own skillset, and give you a range of tools for helping young people in challenging circumstances to engage in creative and meaningful music activities.

This workshop is ideal for you if you are a:

  • 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 teacher working in Pupil Referral Unit or similar context

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

Why study this course

  • Experience a range of exciting and engaging music-making activities that you can take into your own practice
  • Develop your own musical leadership skills in a safe and supportive environment
  • Learn about some of the challenging circumstances that young people may face, how they impact young people, and how we can reach out to them in positive ways through music
  • Learn how to plan and deliver creative music sessions to bring the maximum benefit to participants in these contexts
  • Explore how we can measure the effectiveness of musical interactions in order understand the impact, enabling sustained work



Goldsmiths offers a 15% concession rate on short courses to Lewisham Local cardholders, Students and Goldsmiths Alumni.

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 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. 


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.


Online via Zoom

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 so-called "Hard to Reach" Young People

The workshop will run from 10am-5pm, involving a combination of lectures, workshops and discussion.

We will focus on working with so-called “hard to reach” young people – those who may be struggling at school, have been excluded, or facing potential exclusive, at risk or already offending, or not in education, training or employment. To better understand these groups we will explore the context and consequences of these situations for young people, and how music making may be used to intervene as a tool for personal development – across education, behaviour communication and cross-curricular learning and for social and community benefits like crime reduction and greater social cohesion. We will look at strategies for engagement, inspiration and achievement, explore the type of music young people may want to make, as well as how best to facilitate and inspire creative engagement, employing technology as well as conventional instruments, ways to facilitate songwriting and other appropriate musical approaches. We will also explore behaviour and group management strategies and how to create a positive culture for creativity and self-expression.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this workshop you will:

• Have a greater understanding of the contexts of the lives of young people with educational challenges, at risk or already offending.
• Understand why and how music can be a valuable tool for working with these young people
• Possess a range of tools, repertoire and approaches to lead effective participatory music sessions
• Have developed your musical and leadership skills in appropriate ways to work within the field of Community Music.
• Learn how we can measure and evaluate the effectiveness of participatory music activities within 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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