Chamber Music for All
“What can we do that’s the easiest thing for us to all feel connected? Make some music together. So simple,” says community musician Julian Raphael in a video about Chamber Music New Zealand’s relaxed workshops and concerts for people with intellectual disability.
Called Connecting Through Music, the video was produced by Arts Access Aotearoa with funding through the Ministry of Social Development’s Think Differently campaign.
“When you’re working with music, other things don’t seem to matter: language, disability or different abilities,” Julian says. “They’re not factors that get in the way of making music. You simply adapt your music to the group you have with you.”
The video features Julian as the workshop and concert facilitator for Chamber Music New Zealand; Sue Jane, Chamber Music New Zealand; chamber music group Trio Amistad; and students and music therapist Megan Berentson-Glass of Mahinawa Specialist School in Porirua.
Chamber Music New Zealand leads the way
Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access Aotearoa, says Chamber Music New Zealand is leading the way in providing relaxed workshops and performances, where people with intellectual disability can enjoy music in a safe and relaxed environment.
“The video shows the joy that everyone can experience when they make music – not only the students but also teachers, musicians, parents and caregivers,” he says. “It’s about removing the barriers to participation.”
Sue Jane, Education and Outreach Co-ordinator, Chamber Music New Zealand, has been managing its Accessible Concerts Programme for the past three years.
“We’re offering an alternative experience for people that find it challenging to sit quietly in a concert hall,” she says. “People can stand up, move around, make noises and go to a quiet space if they need to.
“And for parents of young people with special needs, it hopefully takes away some of the stress and pressure, so they can relax and enjoy the music.”
Professional development opportunity for musicians
As for the musicians, Sue says it’s a professional development opportunity and many of them want to do more of this work.
Trio Amistad saxophonist Simon Brew, for example, talks about the rare and “special feeling” he got from working with the students from Mahinawa Specialist School.
“It was a reminder to me of the importance of music,” he says. “Years ago, chamber music concerts were a social outing but we’ve become quite formal. By doing concerts that are more accessible, I think everyone could enjoy classical music more.”
As for Megan Berentson-Glass, she says the project provided the students with a rare opportunity to be part of the community.
“We don’t often get to go to concerts, to various things in the community. The students’ sensory needs mean they may not be able to sit still and stay quiet,” she explains. “These workshops and the concert were an opportunity for them to engage with other people and experiences that most people get to have, but they don’t.”
In 2017 CMNZ are pleased to launch a special series of accessible concerts in partnership with the IHC Foundation. These performances focus on inclusion, participation and discovery opportunities for diverse audiences.
We will be offering three relaxed, interactive performances in Hawke's Bay, Wellington and Christchurch. Find out more here.