World-renowned music professor visits gamelan project

Seashell Trust student Cayman Norton and Prof Adam Ockelford

A leading academic visited Seashell Trust to see how it uses music to help severely disabled young people.

Professor Adam Ockelford joined student workshops for the gamelan, an Indonesian percussion orchestra.

Dr Rachel Swindells, from Manchester Metropolitan University, is the lead gamelan musician. She said: “We are delighted Professor Ockelford agreed to visit the gamelan project. He is an internationally renowned music psychology and music education specialist, with a particular interest in special educational needs and disability.”

Two student workshops were led by Dr Swindells, alongside project musicians Ros Hawley and Mark Fisher. They was attended by staff and students from the Seashell Trust-run Royal School Manchester. 

Professor Ockelford then met the project team and Seashell Trust staff, including an audiologist and speech therapist, to discuss ways to develop the project using Sounds of Intent. 

His team at the University of Roehampton developed the programme to study music development in children with profound multiple learning difficulties.

He said: “'The gamelan must surely be one of the most inclusive forms of music making there is, and it is wonderful to see being used so effectively.”

Ros Hawley said: “The gamelan project Common Pulse is funded by Youth Music, and based at Seashell Trust for 12 months. The project aims to develop the use of the gamelan not only for students, but for staff and families too.

“We are interested in exploring the wellbeing and relief of anxiety in students who attend live music sessions and we are looking at how creating music as a community can have benefits for an organisation.

“Professor Ockelford's Sounds of Intent, for assessing music for children and young people with special educational needs, is increasingly endorsed by OFSTED.

“It has not as yet been used with non-western musical forms such as the gamelan so we invited Adam to see how our staff work closely with students to support their participation in the sessions.

“Professionals from music, therapy, audiology, and education shared ideas for using interactive music with young people with complex communication needs.

“These students often benefit from experiencing music as a multi-sensory or communication-intensive interaction to provide a musically, emotionally and educationally rich experience.”

Seashell Trust's gamelan project is supported by Youth Music and public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Youth Music believes every child should be given the chance to make music. Visit