Special Needs

Over the past 5 years, our Special Needs programme has expanded significantly to include large-scale projects and performances in care homes.

Musical Connections

Musical Connections is designed to bring a group of students with a range of abilities together. It is chance for students to work with their peers from other year groups and work musically with OAE players where everyone has a valued and equal voice. We are delighted that we have now secured a substantial grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to support this project at ABS and Swiss Cottage Schools in Camden and also in Northgate and Thomas Wolsey schools in Ipswich. This arts-based learning project will enable us to share best practice in our inclusive work across all four schools and more widely as the project progresses.

In Swiss Cottage special school we worked with students towards their sharing day at Acland Burghley on our ‘Life of the Forest’ project and in Thomas Wolsey on their own version of ‘The Moon Hares’. At the Netley campus we worked with students on a film project with composer Raph Clarkson and a team from the OAE. The film was beautifully put together by Andrew Thomson and shared with parents and also shown at the Camden cluster festival in March 2022

"The OAE workshops have been a pleasure to participate in. To be able to work with experienced musicians and create all types of art with just your imagination is invigorating."
Year 9 student

Music is Special Camden – Wondrous Machine

In the autumn and spring terms we brought together pupils from Swiss Cottage School, Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children, Gospel Oak Primary and St Patrick’s Primary to explore the music of Henry Purcell and in particular the Wondrous Machine from his Ode to St Cecelia. Working with composer James Redwood, pupils created their own piece in response to Purcell’s music by creating melodies and rhythmical patterns, all of which fitted into a musical machine. The project grew and expanded significantly to include 4 wider opportunity groups, the Camden Concert Band, Jazz Band, Youth Orchestra and over 2000 singers into one very large musical machine which became a featured piece at the Camden Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall in March.

After the concert, Peter West, Head of Camden Music, wrote to us:

This was undoubtedly the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken, combining every single instrumentalist and singer participating in the event together with the creation of a brand new Wondrous Machine Band.

Judging from the feedback we have received, the performance made a huge impact and many people including our Director of Children Schools and Families, representatives from Youth Music, John Lyons and Arts Council England talked about the extraordinarily high quality of achievement coupled with a philosophy of maximum inclusion.

We are so fortunate and privileged to work with you as a Hub partner and are extremely grateful for all your support on this project. We hope you feel as proud at everyone’s achievement as we do.

Our Band

Our Band was our large scale SEN project. Taking place over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, this ongoing work provided a unique opportunity for students in SEN settings to develop a long-term relationship with a professional orchestra. In each of the five settings, we formed student bands who each term would work with musicians from the Orchestra and an animateur on creative music making which would support young people to develop musical and social skills and experience a range of instruments and music. Our overall aim was to engage young people and staff in SEN settings in creative, high-quality music making, where students could explore how to play different instruments, perform and work together as an ensemble and to encourage personal growth and confidence in expression.

In year one of the project, we took our influence from Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas. Each band created short works inspired by Purcell’s semi-opera, whilst also learning excerpts from the Purcell itself. They then performed these works alongside players from the Orchestra.

Following on from year one, in year two we created, for the first time at the OAE, a SEN opera, Fairy Queen: Three Wishes, which combined both mainstream and SEN students. With a new libretto by Hazel Gould and new compositions by James Redwood, the Orchestra provided scaffolding for students to work around and input their own ideas into. Performances were given in Plymouth, Durham, London, Norfolk and Southampton, with each performance having its own identity because it was led by the participants.

Musicians on Call

Musicians on Call is a discrete part of our education programme which aims to bring the joy of music-making to those unable to access the concert hall because of disadvantages such as ill-health or disability. We also work with partner organisations to tackle loneliness through using the arts, which has been proven to be effective in combating isolation amongst the elderly. Over the year, we do a number of visits to care homes and hospices.Two musicians visit each care home for at least three hours which allows time for a recital, group chat, interactive activities and individual conversation with residents and carers. Bedside visits and small group performances also take place when residents are unable to join the recital.

A New Created World

Inspired by A New Created World from Haydn’s Creation we worked with a group of hearing-impaired students at Frank Barnes School, secondary students from Swiss Cottage Special School and two primary school ensembles who created melodies and rhythms inspired by Haydn. These were then developed by the groups, players from the OAE with James Redwood into a new piece “A New Created World”.
Our newly formed New Created World Band took centre stage at the Royal Albert Hall with the Camden Youth Orchestra, a jazz band, wider opportunity groups (recorders, ukes), a concert band and over 1800 singers joining them in the performance at the Camden Schools Music Festival in March 2020.
Generously supported by London Music Fund and John Lyon’s Charity.