X Close

IOE Student Blog


A blog on life at IOE and education affairs written for students by students.


Learning about “Community Music”

By IOE Digital, on 20 December 2022

A woman plays flut in the casual setting with a conductor in the centre.

Image by Jason Ilagan for IOE

By Amy Ellis, Music Education MA

The Music Education MA offers a varied view of music education, splitting two of its modules ‘The Disciplines of Music Education’, into three strands, one of which is Sociology. Over the course of term one we have covered many varying topics, including multiculturalism and gender, and a lecture about ‘Community Music’ led by guest lecturer Tim Palmer.

Tim Palmer is Head of Education at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, with 25 years’ experience as an orchestral musician, a community musician, and in outreach work. His passion for community music is inspiring, and Tim describes music education as a tool for ‘communal change.’

In the lecture we learnt that community music is more of an umbrella term, rather than a phrase that can easily be defined. It is often in the form of ensembles, outside of formal structures such as a curriculum, or examinations. It involves elements of social motivation, engagement and personal change. There are no age limits, with participation from early years, to the elderly. There are many different settings for community music such as care homes, businesses, prisons, healthcare, arts organisations, places of worship and more. The motivations for community music vary greatly, from reducing prison reoffending rates to providing social opportunities for the elderly.

In the first hour of the lecture Tim helped us to understand what community music truly was, and his passion was undeniable.  Tim then got us to do a practical exercise. Half of the room had its tables pushed to the side, and our chairs shaped into a large oval, filling about fifty of us within it. All of us musicians filled the space to do some practical activities. We used our voices and created sound with our bodies. We repeated after Tim, recognising patterns and call and response. Tim helped us to notice how our response times were easily manipulated by his actions. Additionally, we played a game called ‘Musical Tennis’ both within our large group and in pairs. The gamification of music helped us to develop our social ensemble skills. Tim was able to influence our emotions by varying his speed and intensity, meanwhile keeping us focused on the musical task in front of us. But it begs the question, within community music are we doing these activities purposely to influence change, or are we there just to make music?

This is when I thought about my own experiences of community music. I was a part of a youth group at church, where we experienced varying forms of music from experts, including music production, group instrumental teaching and performance. However, at the time I didn’t realise this was a form of community music. For us it was a fun way to spend our evenings and it provided us with access to music outside of formal education settings. This meant I did not have to worry about a curriculum or an exam – instead I was able to participate in musical activities that I loved and would think of fondly in the years to come. I think this is what is so important about community music; the opportunities music provides bring value to the individuals who participate.

We came out of this session, not only bolstering our theoretical knowledge surrounding music education, but also with a sense of community within our class due to the group activity. Later, we gathered back at our desks to continue our discussion on community music.

How can community music change us? Can we promise this change to others?

The outcome of community music includes but is not limited to validation, socialisation, a state of flow, a sense of togetherness, or we could say, a sense of community.

I will leave you with this, Tim said, “people don’t participate for your output, they participate to make some music.” That is what community music is all about. Making some music.

One Response to “Learning about “Community Music””

  • 1
    Catherine Hamilton wrote on 21 December 2022:

    Thank you for a great summing up and insightful questions to prompt our thinking. I have been a member of many community music groups both voice and instrumental over the last 50 years and missed that opportunity to make music over Covid. The togetherness and collaboration is what makes it so motivating and a sense of loyalty to each other emerges, so it becomes more than making music over time.

Leave a Reply