Music and the Deaf

Phoebe Tay
Looking at the title you might ask, can Deaf children participate in musical activities if they are unable to hear? Can they benefit from music education in their schools? The answer is "Yes". This story highlights how one Deaf school in Melbourne has successfully started a music program for these students and how they have progressed by leaps and bounds.
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Phoebe Tay on 18/12/2012
Perscussion instruments

Percussion instruments for children enrolled in Musica Viva

Over the last 3 years, Furlong Park School for Deaf Children has had the privilege of having Karen Kyriakou as an artist-in-residence, sent by Musica Viva to run a music program for the students. In 2010, when the project was initially introduced, it was expected to last only 24 days and spread out over 3 school terms. But due to the remarkable progress of the students and the support of the former principal Robyn Lawrence, further funding was pursued to continue the project. The school was successful in obtaining funds to run the music program for 3 years from the Marian and E.H Flack Trust. During that time, students have put up end-of-the-year music concerts which are attended and enjoyed by parents and staff.

The benefits of music for Deaf students

The kids at Furlong Park have benefitted from the program in many ways. Artist-in-residence Karen Kyriakou comments, This residency began firstly with a curiosity to explore how students in a deaf school may learn to develop, respond to, and enjoy music. Musica Viva believes, as do I, that a musical education should be accessed by all students; it is an inclusive and communal activity. Although each student may interpret their experience with music differently from each other, it has no less value for them because of that. There was also the understanding that the emphasis of the program would be on the children's abilities, not disabilities.

Karen goes on to say, When I first met the students at Furlong Park, they struggled to clap 4 beats back to me in time. The growth over the three years is evident throughout the year and for all the observers of each concert. The first concert made mostly of soundscapes and simple 4 beat rhythms. Now they can compose their own music, play recorders, play in unison with their class and remember complex body percussion dances. I feel so proud of them. All students have explored dancing and rhythm, soundscapes, signing songs, body percussion, instrumental technique and ensemble playing. Half of the students this year participated in a recorder choir.

Staff comment about the program and concert

Andria Mavrikakis, a Teacher of the Deaf, said that The music program has grown and developed every year. Students look forward to learning different musical skills and performing for their families. The noticeable benefits are many - from learning about different musical elements such as rhythm, beat, loud and soft sounds, to learning about co-operation, self-expression, and developing self-confidence.

Maree Gillespie an Education Support staff at the school mentioned that the highlight of the concert this year for her was when the children got an encore from the audience for their song Touch the World. She noticed that the families were so happy and proud of their children and some even shed a tear over their child's performance.

Melissa Bryson, another teacher of the Deaf adds that seeing all the students participate and doing a great job at the concert as well seeing their smiling faces was a highlight for her.

Lisa Coughlan, a teacher of the Deaf at the school, concluded that Music is an integral part of any child's development. It encourages rhythm, beat, confidence, motivation, creativity. Music is also closely related to language development - kids who have well developed linguistic skills often also have musical ability.

Last but not least, the school would like to thank Karen Kyriakou, Musica Aviva , Furlong Park staff and the students for contributing to the success of the music program and concert. Keep up the good work!

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