musical inclusion

Music to their ears: How creativity can reach incarcerated teens and offer hope

A blog posted by Professor Maud Hickey on the Huffington Post website in December 2015 extols the value of music classes to teenagers at a detention centre in Chicago.

Professor Hickey is an Associate Professor and the Co-ordinator of Music Education at Northwestern University, and has been facilitating a computer music composition class for the past five years at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago.

The nearly 700 residents who have been students in the classes have been composing prolifically and passionately about their hopes and dreams, their past and future lives, and their everyday distresses. For most of them, this was the first time they were asked – and allowed – to share feelings through a creative outlet. For nearly all of them, it was the first time they had stood proudly in front of their families, teachers and detention centre staff to play music they created after weeks of hard work.

“Research on the effectiveness of arts education in detention centers is scant but growing,” said Professor Hickey. “In the recently published Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education, my review of the research literature on music programs in detentions centers found that music programs produced extra-musical psychological outcomes, such as improved confidence and self-esteem, improvement in learning skills, as well as improved behavior and reduced recidivism.

“Harnessing the work around arts education in detention centers in order to organize and advocate for the integration of creative art making in these facilities is worthwhile. These programs provide humane and positive outlets for incarcerated youth. However there is a need for more research to show the effectiveness of these programs in order to get the attention of policy and curriculum writers.

“Though providing creative arts education in detention centers may not save lives, it will change lives. And that gives all of us hope.”


Reaching young people in challenging circumstances

A series of videos from Musinc, which works with young people in challenging circumstances in Teeside.

Making in work … in a pupil referral unit

Making it work … with young offenders

Making it work … to develop youth leadership skills and confidence

See the full series of videos on Musinc’s YouTube page.

This work was funded as part of Youth Music’s Musical Inclusion programme.

Find out more about Youth Music and the outcomes from its funding.

Read research reports from Youth Music.

Youth Music projects report musical, personal, social outcomes

Youth Music

The National Foundation for Youth Music (‘Youth Music’) is the leading UK children’s charity using music to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people. In 2013-14, analysis of the evaluation reports submitted by those organisations funded by Youth Music showed that music-making activities had led to positive musical, personal and social outcomes for children and young people, particularly those in challenging circumstances.

Chapters in their ‘Learning Report 2013-14’ explore the following outcomes:

  • Musical outcomes
  • Developing technical skills and abilities
  • Developing musical understanding and communication
  • Developing knowledge and understanding of musical worlds and roles
  • Personal outcomes
  • Intrinsic personal skills Extrinsic personal skills
  • Social outcomes
  • Individuals and groups
  • Communities and environments


Download the Youth_Music_Learning_Report_2013-14

Visit the Youth Music website

Visit the Youth Music Network website – the online network for people working in music education and community music around the UK

International Centre for Community Music


In response to the global interest in creative music participation and inclusivity the ICCM, directed by Professor Lee Higgins, aims to provide a global forum through which community music research, teaching, scholarship, professional practice and pedagogy can be nurtured, developed, disseminated and networked.


Visit the International Centre for Community Music website

Youth Music – research from the UK’s national music education charity

Youth Music

Youth Music is a UK charity that makes life-changing music-making available to children and young people through funding music projects and investing in research, as well as supporting music educators to develop and improve their work and impact through an online community for music educators: community musicians, music leaders, music teachers.

Youth Music’s research includes evidence reviews, papers and reports consolidating relevant findings from across the music education sector and Youth Music funded projects. These documents will be of use to anyone interested in the effects of music making on children and young people.

Youth Music Impact reports:

Youth Music Research:

Music with young people in challenging circumstances

Stories/case studies written by Anita Holford and featuring music work with young people in challenging circumstances, supported through Youth Music’sMusical Inclusion programme. If you’re involved in working with young people through music and/or reaching young people who may be disengaged from learning and from life, then these stories will be of interest.

It’s been fascinating, and a privilege, to talk to these music leaders about their work and hear the stories of the young people they work with and the difference that music has started to make to their lives and futures. Thanks to everyone who I spoke to and all who have been involved.

Wiltshire Music Centre – Learning disabled young people: A place for us and for our creativity
Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership – Music Matters: Re-engaging vulnerable young people in learning and in life
Roses Theatre Tewkesbury & Gloucestershire Music Makers – Investing in a young music leader: small cost, for a long-term impact

Gloucestershire Music Makers – Michael’s story: from Hospital Education to performing live
Gloucestershire Music Makers – Charlie’s story: getting back into learning through music work in PRU setting
Gloucestershire Music Makers – Home-schooled pupil finds confidence and concentration through music

NB: The final three case studies were written earlier (a year or so ago) to advocate the work of Gloucestershire Music Makers (now called The Music Works) and the Make Music Gloucestershire music education hub.  For more about inclusion work in Gloucestershire, see the Music Changes Lives section of the Make Music Gloucestershire website.

To read more about musical inclusion work …

There’s a great book published by Music Mark and edited by Phil Mullen and Chris Harrison, called Reaching Out: music education with ‘hard to reach’ children and young people. Music Mark members can get it from their website at a reduced price. An important buy for anyone working with children and young people through music, particularly those involved in music education hubs.

More about Youth Music and Musical Inclusion

The National Foundation for Youth Music (Youth Music) is the leading UK children’s charity using music to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people. It develops, funds and supports exemplary music provision at every stage of a young person’s development. The Musical Inclusion programme is funding music work with children and young people in challenging circumstances across England – addressing gaps in provision, increasing opportunities, and improving effective practice and outcomes.

With thanks to Malcolm Pollock for the largest of the photos above; and to the projects for all other photos.