Singing in Multicultural Settings

The pupils regularly engaged in the areas of listening, personal awareness, confidence and self-expression. 


The aim of the Singing in Multicultural Settings project was to engage children and encourage them to continue with musical learning after First Access

The project involved music in keeping with the children’s cultural and religious values, was supported by parents and the local community and was inclusive. By doing this, we provided teachers and others with repertoire and ideas for using music from other cultures with confidence.

Our project partners were Sandal Magna School and Wakefield Music Service. Sandal Magna is a recently re-built school in central Wakefield which serves a multi-racial community. Approximately 80% of children are EAL, with the majority being Pakistani, and English is not the home language for the majority of pupils. Two additional schools – St Mary’s School and Pinders School– also took part in the project. Beccy Owen was the lead practitioner for this project, and was ‘shadowed’ by Classroom Teachers and Teaching Assistants at Sandal Magna School.

First Access (Wider Opps) is delivered by Wakefield Music Service in Year 3 – continuation seems to be almost exclusively white British, and so is significantly out of proportion.

In such a mixed context of people groups, and with faith as a common factor, there are different norms – about modesty of dress, participation in mixed-sex activities for example, as well as music activity. In some cultures, this produces a barrier to music making.

Beccy Owen’s technical singing approach focusses on exploring the range of voices from the start, using ‘Head, Chest, Twang and Sob’ as dimensions of vocal quality. This sets up – from initial contact – the idea that singing is being done mindfully and with the application of knowledge, skill and a playful awareness. This means that from session one, singing was ‘different’ from speaking or shouting – not only in terms of notes in the right order, but of exploration of the voice and body, and in terms of sparking the curiosity of learners. The repertoire was chosen based on using specific songs to develop different musical skills and understanding as well as cross-cultural knowledge and understanding.

Through singing and music making, the pupils regularly engaged in the areas of:

  • Listening
  • Memory
  • Speaking skills
  • Cooperation
  • Teamwork
  • Turn taking
  • Personal awareness
  • Pitch matching (as a group and individually)
  • Pulse
  • Rhythm
  • Tempo – speed of pulse
  • Health
  • Learning to lead
  • Confidence
  • Enjoyment / fun
  • Inclusion
  • Self-expression
  • Diction

The sessions had excellent engagement rates, with very little reluctance to participate. There was evidently slightly more confidence and enthusiasm among the girls, however, some of the more challenging boys were also delighted to be given the job of introducing some of the songs, a task they worked hard to deliver with a sense of enthusiasm. By the time of preparation for the first sharing, there were volunteers for every task Beccy asked for, and an overflow of suggestions as to what could be done, and how.