Deaf Music Ambassadors

It is important that these young musicians have a voice so that they can raise awareness of what deaf people can achieve.

Danny Lane, MatD

The Deaf Music Ambassadors Project started as an initiative to create music making opportunities for deaf young people.

Music is incredibly important to the education of young people with hearing loss – music is not only a way of helping people become more aware of vibrations made by musical instruments, but it is also very valuable in helping people become aware of areas (frequencies) of sound in which they may still be able to hear.

The project began with the aim to find ways to communicate with deaf young people widely to raise the awareness of value, importance and possibilities offered by music to young people with any hearing loss – whether full or partial.

The project was keen to emphasise the important role that music can play to deaf young people, their parents carers and teachers, and that the development of an ambassador role was key; young people themselves would promote the value of music to their peers others by telling their own stories. As all the young people were all associated with Music and the Deaf, their stories would inevitably reflect this; however they serve as an illustration of what deaf young people can achieve in music.

The young people who took part successfully:

  • – Became Ambassadors of both music and deafness
  • – Signposted their deaf peers to the Music Club and other inclusive music projects
  • – Shared their own personal experiences of music
  • – Challenged public perceptions of what deaf young people can achieve in and through music
  • – Shared their own ideas within a supportive group of Ambassadors
  • – Learnt how to create their own films and share them
  • – Learnt presentation skills during filming and public talks
  • – Created a valuable and accessible resource which could be widely used and shared to encourage deaf and hearing impaired young people to try music for themselves

“It is important that these young musicians have a voice so that they can raise awareness of what deaf people can achieve. Most importantly, it will help to give advice to other deaf people about how they might be able to enjoy music too”.

Danny Lane, General Manager of Music and the Deaf

Andrew Sutcliffe and Pip Borthwick, experienced film makers and excellent deaf role models, were commissioned to work on the project, with the first video being something of an experiment. After a taster session and a two day course during the summer, Adam & Jake developed a story board and filmed a video in an interview style which highlights Jake’s experiences; his first encounters with music, choosing the instruments he wanted to play, and his musical aspirations for the future:

This video was used as the pilot example to give other participants some inspiration and ideas as to what they could do. Though the young people had access to the pilot video, they were encouraged to think about different styles – documentary, music videos, or MTV style interviews for example. They were briefed about the purpose of the films and how they would be used to communicate with other deaf young people and their parents and carers.

After an initial practical session in using the cameras, the Ambassadors were given the cameras to take home and to create as much film as they wished and in any style. They had just over two weeks to experiment, plan and then record the material they wanted, to fit in with their storyboards. The Ambassadors were then taught the principles and practice of video editing, and they edited their own films with the support of Pip and Andrew.

All the videos were edited with complete control by the young people – and their different approaches are clear. They were not given time limits and the difference in length of the presentations means they will all have different uses in future, depending on the situation and the audience. The individual creative approaches to how to reflect the importance and value of music in their lives, and the way their characters and passion is illustrated shows the Ambassadors individuality – that there is not one way of being a young deaf musician, but many. It is almost co-incidental – but as a collection they offer a range of insights into deaf young people’s music making and what benefit it can be. Their musical choices are varied and are explained in relation to their hearing; which instruments and sounds they can hear best. One video showed the benefits of friendship with someone in a similar situation who can understand your point of view; another the value of parental support.

Throughout the project, the young people had explored their own feelings and experiences about music, how they valued music, and how it had helped them to develop self-confidence.

Here are the other ambassadors represented by their prospective documentaries: