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Master's Student, Community Music Program

I study community music, the idea of using music and interdisciplinary arts methods to activate social change. Community musicians aim to deinstitutionalize the existing hierarchies in the musical art. There is a rebellious shift from classical forms of music to accessible, personal music. The beauty of community music is the positive momentum of the music learning experience, with the idea that no prior knowledge is necessary to enjoy the art form. One of the main purposes of community music is the behaviour of sharing.

Community music has been a part of daily living for many cultures, from outreach groups for disadvantaged populations to Indigenous drumming circles. I am interested in studying the scientific evidence of facilitation and learning more about this dynamic field in various contexts.

Despite the abundance of academic resources in special-needs classrooms, children diagnosed on the autism spectrum still feel the urge to engage with creative processes divergent from traditional learning. Community music is a plausible solution to this problem, as it reflects the uniqueness of these children while providing a safe, inviting space to learn various styles of music in a non-judgmental and innovative manner.

For my thesis, I will be analyzing the effects of community music facilitation for children in special education classrooms. I will be working with a small group of individuals with varying diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and hope to bridge the gaps between teacher-student relationships. From creating innovative instruments (e.g. using buckets to make drums) and artistically showing their life journey through visual colour and music, I will be supporting the students’ experience of positive affect. A public music performance by these individuals will demonstrate community music in practice.

My strengths in interdisciplinary arts, specifically visual arts and music, and my experience with pediatric patients has motivated me to work on this project. My background in medical science also offers an innovative approach to music practice.

I have found my experience at Laurier to be a very different experience from studio music teaching and music therapy. Community music offers a safe and inviting space for freedom of expression, regardless of artistic standard and ability. I really appreciate the key components of community music, which are hospitality and empathy. I found that Laurier was able to support my point of view in music that comprises a fusion of scientific and artistic methods.

I am excited to present my first talk entitled “Effectiveness of Community Music Facilitation for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Special-Education Classrooms” at the Walking the Boundaries, Bridging the Gaps: International Community Music Conference 2017. My paper investigates the existing research about community music facilitation in special-education classrooms. Focusing on children diagnosed with varying degrees of the autism spectrum, I will describe the history of community music, discuss biological sensory integration (SI) theory documented in interdisciplinary music facilitation, and suggest how I can use this research in my thesis work.

Joyce Yip works with Associate Professor Lee Willingham, director of the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community and director of the Laurier Choir.

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