Gemma’s Story at CEDA

Daisi has been working with music leader Gemma Gardner of Signature Sound Therapy, supporting her work with young people at CEDA, (Community, Equality, Disability Action) based in Exeter, as part of Daisi’s Youth Music funded Inclusive Music Project. We have supported Gemma and CEDA with 40 musical sessions during the last year (2020/21), exploring the benefits of sound and music for disabled young people and finding ways to take action and break down barriers to musical access for children and young people. 

Gemma highlighted the benefits of being involved in this project when she said, “It’s been amazing! Testing and really pushing me out my comfort zone, but it’s taught me so much, it’s been a journey for the guys I work with but also for myself, it’s been a great experience” 

Working throughout the pandemic, Gemma was able to work with the same young people over the whole course of the project. Normally she would be working with different children almost every week, but she found having a consistent core group has been really beneficial to the projects progress and for her own working practice. It has enabled her to really see the overall impact of her work and allowed room to find out what has and hasn’t worked along the way and the time to unpick and adapt to each individual’s need. Gemma explained, “I work with lots of young people who are non-verbal and this opportunity has given me the time to really build on those relationships and trust and understand what they’ve been enjoying.” 

We asked Gemma to reflect on some of the key learning she’s found from being part of this project and how she will take this forward and continue to develop her own practice. 

“I have been working with non-verbal service users and using a much more sensory based way. I have learnt over the last few months to keep offering different input instruments, as it is important to understand that even thought they might have a preference in a particular instrument it is important to keep the opportunities open to ensure they try others also.” (Gemma Gardner) 

Gemma has been using instruments with a range of frequencies, such as Himalayan Bowls, Crystal Bowls, Vibrational Body Massage drums & Therapeutic Percussion. she was able to explore a tailored approach and she has blended music making and wellbeing to suit the young people’s needs.  She told us a bit more about her process: 

“The Himalayan singing bowls are gentle and nurturing and are therefore very beneficial for people with stress related symptoms as well as those needing deep relaxation. The bowls can also be effective to be able to stimulate the mind and body if you need a boost of energy. 

As well as off the body therapeutic process there is also an on-the-body Himalayan bowl massage which can help relieve muscle tension and pain. 

When we placed water inside the Himalayan bowl and allow it to sing through the use of the suede mallet, (this was the most engaging session and the kids really enjoyed this!) The vibrations cause the water to bubble. Our bodies are made up of 80% water, just imagine what the vibrations from the Himalayan bowl can do to your body!!  

The vibration of the frequency stimulates the nervous system to enable relaxation. The body then can begin the healing process along with clarity of the mind.” 

Gemma Gardner 

A large part of the work is not only creating exciting, beneficial activities that celebrate music making in all its forms, but also noticing the positive impact, Gemma said that they had seen evidence of: 

  • improved sleep 
  • reduced behavioral issues 
  • improve respiratory rate 
  • reduced depression 
  • improved general well-being 

“Because of these sessions I am now looking into the benefits of Sound on those with ADHD which has now become my area of CPD.” 

Gemma Gardner

A huge part of our inclusive music project is ensuring young people’s voices are listened to.  In all our working relationships and partnerships, we strive to ensure young people are consulted and included and are able to lead and direct the activity to suit them, using it as an opportunity to express themselves and share their unique voice and opinion. We asked Gemma how she involves the young people and supports them in taking ownership and what benefits of working in this way has: 

“I have been much more flexible in my style & approach to the sessions and the small amount of rigidity that was left for ‘session plans going to plan’ has now pretty much disappeared.  

I have more awareness and reflection in the moment to see small moments of absolute brilliance that could be missed if we are wrapped up in expectations of an outcome for the session.   

A continuation of children allowed for them to develop a sense of ownership for what they want to do within the session, coming in and leading their own session. Asking for particular things such as ‘to learn a particular song’ or to engage with a sensory instrument to a higher level showing that they are more interested in that particular option for this session. Choosing and developing skills to be able to enhance awareness of self and environment, improve self-direction and independence, increase involvement and participation and improve and increase appropriate responses. 

It’s honestly been amazing!” 

Gemma is now taking part in our Youth Voice Partnership project which is a specific piece of work to explore different models of working with their young people, co-designing meaningful ways of bringing young people’s voice into their own organization’s development as well as the wider community. Particularly focused on supporting the voice of more vulnerable young people and is aimed at gathering the views, thoughts and ideas of young people that may face certain barriers to accessing musical opportunities.