Adaptive Music Bridging Program

The Adaptive Music Bridging Program is open to students aged between 8 and 14 years, who have a disability, chronic illness, mental health condition or are Deaf or neurodiverse. It is suitable for both new learners who have struggled to access instrumental music education, and current players whose needs are not being met by standard instruments or teaching techniques.

Students will meet once a week, rehearsing at the same time and in the same buildings as other ensembles in the MYO community. The team will work with students to assess their physical and musical skills and preferences to help them to choose and/or adapt an instrument that is suitable to their needs. The team will then work with them to provide the foundations of instrumental music education, including music literacy, performance and ensemble skills to prepare them to audition for MYO ensembles or take part in other musical experiences depending on their interests.

The Adaptive Music Bridging Program is part of a research project run by the University of Melbourne to help researchers better understand the needs of instrumental music students with disability. Participation is free, however students will need to purchase their own musical instruments. Student lessons and assessments will be video recorded for research purposes.

About the Instruments

Musical instruments used in this program fall into three main categories:

  • Standard Instruments
  • Standard Instruments with Adaptations
  • Specialist Adaptive Instruments

Standard Instruments

Many students with disability will be able play a standard musical instrument bought off-the-shelf from any music store. We can support students to choose an instrument that is most suitable for their needs. We can also advise on simple ways to make standard instruments more accessible, using commonly available equipment like stands, neck straps and compression gloves.

Many students with disabilities who play standard instruments can also benefit from inclusive teaching techniques and specialist equipment. For example, students who have intellectual disabilities or who are neurodivergent may benefit from support with music literacy, or in understanding the expectations of them when rehearsing or performing in a group ensemble. Students who are blind or have low vision may use Braille or other tactile forms of music literacy or benefit from technologies like haptic batons that allow them to feel the conductor’s beat. Meanwhile Deaf and Hard of Hearing students may need support in areas like music appreciation and comprehension, and for effective communication in noisy rehearsal environments.

Standard Instruments with Adaptations

Musical instruments can appear to be extremely complex and expensive machines, but with the help of 3D printers many can now be easily adapted to meet a range of needs. These adaptations can be on the instrument itself, for example rearranging clarinet keys to bring them within reach, or on related equipment like stands, prostheses, or braces.

Specialist Adaptive Instruments

There are now a wide range of instruments available that are specifically designed to be accessible to people with disability. While these may not always look like the instruments we’re used to seeing on stage, that doesn’t impact on the quality of music they can produce. In the Bridging Program students can try out the leading Specialist Adaptive Instruments currently available, to see which one suits them best before deciding whether to purchase their own. There are instruments that can be played without the use of hands or feet, wind instruments that can be used by people reliant on ventilators and ones that connect to Eyegaze technology. If we can’t find an instrument to meet a student’s needs, our team can even design one especially for them.

How long is the program?

There is no set length of time students are expected to stay in the Bridging Program. Every musician is different, and students are welcome to stay for as long or as short a time as they need to. Some students may be able to move into mainstream instrumental instruction as soon as they receive their adapted instrument, while others may stay for six months to a year receiving specialist tuition in a small group environment.

What Happens at the end of the program?

Learning a musical can be a journey that takes a lifetime, and we hope that students will continue to play long after graduating from the Bridging Program. Our team can support you to find a music teacher who is confident to teach your instrument and meet your needs, or we can work with your existing music teacher to provide them with the skills they need to help you continue your musical development.

Playing in bands, orchestras or other ensembles is also an integral part of becoming a musician, and we encourage and support graduates to audition for MYO’s ensemble program, or other ensemble programs that suit their interests. Our team will provide ongoing support to both teachers and students in MYO’s ensemble programs. Whether you choose to continue playing with MYO or not, all Bridging Program graduates are welcome to contact us if they need further learning or technological support along their musical journey.

Support for teachers and conductors

For music students to be successful, it is important to support the teachers and conductors who work with them. In recognition of this, the Bridging Program team will work closely with teaching and conducting staff at MYO to ensure that they are knowledgeable about both your instrument and your specific learning needs. We are also happy to provide your teachers and conductors at school, in private lessons or in other ensembles with the information they need to make sure that your needs are met. We are always happy to speak to teachers, parents or former graduates themselves about their ongoing musical needs.

Further information

University of Melbourne Research Consent
Plain Language Statement
Participant Information