Interview - Professor Adam Ockelford

Director of the Applied Music Research Centre at University of Roehampton

Professor Adam Ockelford's charity Soundabout has been awarded a £177,000 grant from Youth Music to run training with children's centres and free resources for nurseries over the next three years.

What is Sounds of Intent in the Early Years?

The original Sounds of Intent project was set up with the Institute of Education, University of Roehampton, and the Royal National Institute of the Blind to promote the musical development of children with learning disabilities and autism. We developed a musical framework.

We've now modified it, and some of the language, to make it more suitable for early years practitioners and parents. Soundabout - the UK music education charity I run - will partner with the University of Roehampton. The first wave will run training with 27 children's centres directly in the areas of greatest need. We hope to reach another 600 centres through a national conference and regional seminars. We'll be looking at getting children's centres to assess well-being to see if the project has a wider impact.

How can nurseries get involved?

The website will provide suggestions of activities so practitioners know where to go to next with children. Everyone can make music with young children. The resources and materials will include a poster and a pack.

Why is music so important for young children?

Music is something we can all benefit from and it's so important for young children's development. It's an essential part of the multisensory mix that children need to help them grow and meet their full potential.

If very young children don't take part in vocal play with adults they may struggle to grasp language and to appreciate the feelings of others.

A child that's had a lot of musical input from their parents, singing and playing games, will be quite (musically) competent from 18 to 24 months. What we're trying to say is that every child is musical; it's part of being human. We believe music is really great brain food for everyone.

Can you tell us about your research work with children with learning difficulties and autism?

We found that all children respond to music on some level. There is no barrier to musical achievement. Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean that they're disabled musically.

Adam Ockelford was speaking to Catherine Gaunt.

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