Belfast Telegraph

Drake Music Project scheme hits right note in helping disabled children

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

One Newry youngster whose life has benefited from being able to take part in a music workshop has spoken of his passion for the Sport Relief-backed project.

Ciaran Feehan (11) is one of a group of children and young people with disabilities who have been able to integrate with the able-bodied world through music.

Thanks to the work of the Drake Music Project, children aged from 8-18 years old, who have a range of physical and learning disabilities, are given technological help to compose and perform their own music in a series of workshops.

Using specially designed or adapted instruments, the young people who hail from Belfast, the south Down and Ballymoney areas then participate in a "sharing performance" much to their delight – and clearly that of their parents too.

Ciaran spoke of his love of the classes.

"I love every session that I get at Drake music, and if I cannot go due to illness I get very upset, and would count the days until the next session," he said.

"My tutor John is amazing and understands exactly what I want to do in music."

Ciaran's mother Philomena, who says that her son has a beautiful singing voice, added: " Ciaran is getting the chance to express his own musical talents, in his own way."

Project leader Dr Michelle McCormack said: "We exist to afford access to music making for musicians with disabilities – from those with visual impairments to severely disabled children and young people with limited movement.

"Whatever part of their body that they can move voluntarily, that is used then for the interface to make music.

"We disregard disability and focus on creativity. If someone doesn't have the physical wherewithal we will purchase, adapt or design instruments to enable them to make music."

Dr McCormack said the Newry-based Drake project received a £1,000 grant to host the integrated workshops from their first application to the Sport Relief Community Cash fund.

Those taking part in the workshop programme – which lasted for a period of 10-12 weeks – then performed their compositions with other group members.

Dr McCormack said: "It is very important for the children and teenagers to integrate with their peers, so that the disability doesn't become the issue, it's the artistic ability that is the issue.

"The smiles say it all and seeing that absolutely deserved sense of achievement," she added.

Dr McCormack said that she hoped to apply for another grant this year and would encourage other community and voluntary groups to apply as well.

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