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Reshape Music

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Co-researcher Jess Fisher performing on stage

Reshape Music

Reshape Music:  A report exploring the lived experience of Disabled musicians in education and beyond sets out the significant barriers faced by Disabled musicians to access music education and music-making.

Developed with the Take it away Consortium, a group of leading music charities, the report includes the first-ever national survey into Disabled people’s experiences of music education and music-making. The research team, including eight co-researchers who are all Disabled musicians, gathered the views of hundreds of music makers, music educators, and music retailers. Funding from the National Lottery via Arts Council England enabled Youth Music to carry out this work.

The upheaval of 2020 provides an opportunity for music education, retail and the wider industries to build inclusivity into the recovery. Reshape Music sets out the urgent need for educators, retailers, and the music industry to improve access and choice for Disabled musicians, to increase representation of Disabled people in the paid workforce, and to upskill music teachers to better support Disabled musicians.

Young musician playing brass instrument with one hand
Photo from OHMI Trust

Alternative formats

Download large print and summary versions. (Easy Read and audio versions coming soon).

Need another format to help you access the report? Let us know:

Black and white photo of man leaning on guitar

Blaine Harrison, musician, Mystery Jets

"Giant leaps in tech over the past 25 years have given artists new tools and instruments to realise their creative potential, but how many of these instruments are designed with possible adaptations in mind, and how easy are they to try out? 

"My own entrance into music was via the drums at a young age - but lacking adequate muscle control over my lower body, I found myself drawn to synthesisers and guitars instead. Had I grown up around the technology available today, my story may have been somewhat different.

"What sets this report apart is that it has been led by the people most affected by the conversation around inclusion in the arts - young people with a lived experience of disability themselves, and I consider the findings to be of great interest. Both to anyone looking to carve out a path in music, and equally those on the sidelines, looking for new ways in which that landscape could be improved for the bright lights of tomorrow."

Key findings: learning needs

  • The majority (52%) of Disabled people surveyed have not been able to find a teacher who meets their learning needs and understands what additional support they require
  • Only 25% of Disabled people surveyed know how and where to source an adapted musical instrument

We’re passionate about this because it affects us personally – and we’re not just saying it to be moody or difficult, but because it needs to change.

Jess Fisher, co-researcher

Interviews and resources

Interview with Leo Long, co-researcher

Leo is a folk musician who plays bodhran and banjo in various ensembles and orchestras. He is diagnosed with severe speech and language disorder and ASD. Earlier this year, Leo was selected to be a special artist in a project called New Horizons at the Barbican Centre in London. Through his own experience, Leo is keen to change the music industry to make it more Disabled-people-friendly and an easier place to work.

Interview with Holli Pandit, co-researcher

Holli has just finished her A levels in Music, Chemistry and French at Watford Grammar School for Girls. Next year she hopes to go to a Conservatoire to study towards a BMus qualification with harp as her principal instrument. She has been at Junior Guildhall for two years and will stay for her gap year. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s when she was 11 but started playing harp when she was 9.

Interview with Hunter Stiles, co-researcher

Hunter is a student at Falmouth University in Cornwall, where he is currently working towards qualifications to teach students labelled as having special educational needs. He has spent most of his life campaigning for equality for Disabled people. After completing his undergraduate degree, Hunter is keen to carry out additional research and ultimately complete a PhD which focuses on the impact of music in healthcare.

Interview with Georgina Spray, co-researcher

Georgina started playing the tenor horn when she was 7 and moved onto the French horn when she was 12. She has just graduated from the University of Huddersfield with a BMus (Hons) degree and is now actively seeking to start her career in music, focusing on music and disability.


The findings from Reshape Music tell us that a number of changes are required to make music and music industry careers more accessible to Disabled people.

The Take it away Consortium

This report originated from surveys produced by the Take it away Consortium: a partnership between Creative United and Take It Away, Drake Music, Music for Youth, The OHMI Trust, Open Up Music, and Youth Music.

Guide to buying adaptive musical instruments

From the Take it away Consortium, this guide includes details of more than 80 musical instruments and products, from prototypes and bespoke to commercially available and common accessories. Many have been specifically designed to make learning and playing musical instruments of all kinds as accessible as possible for disabled players of all ages.

Attitude is Everything

Attitude is Everything improves Deaf and disabled people's access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists and the music industry.

Two women in a recording studio, one using mobility scooter, one standing and pointing
Nadine Shah working with musician Ruth as part of a Generator project, Newcastle. Photo by Victoria Wai.

Funding from Youth Music

Youth Music invests in music programmes for children and young people, and work that helps organisations to diversify and be more inclusive. Supporting Disabled young people is one of our priorities and we are actively seeking applications for this area of work, and from Disabled-led organisations.

If you identify as Disabled and need further support to make an application to Youth Music, you can apply to our Access Fund. This provides funding to cover any additional access costs that might be required for you to make an application to one of Youth Music’s main grant funds.

Key findings: financial barriers

  • 80% of Disabled people surveyed find music-making a positive experience, but only 61% know how and where to access financial support to make it viable
  • 67% of Disabled people surveyed cited financial reasons as a severe barrier to access
Musician playing electric violin
Photo from OHMI Trust

Spread the word on social media

Youth Music and the research team want to hear from Disabled musicians about their experiences, their successes, their struggles, their music: join the conversation on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReshapeMusic.


Key findings: music education

  • Only 7% of Disabled children and young people surveyed are making music in groups run by their local Music Education Hub
  • Just 48% of music educators surveyed feel confident teaching music on adapted instruments and only 27% of Music Education Hubs provide adapted equipment as part of their instrument loan service

Music from Disabled artists

Disabled musicians are often forced into choosing an instrument because it works for them, not necessarily because it is what they want to play. I’ve always loved music and since discovering the drums at fifteen I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

John Ramm, co-researcher
Man in yellow shirt making a speech on stage
Photo by Amos Mukombero

Matt Griffiths, Youth Music CEO

“At Youth Music, thanks to the support of the National Lottery and Arts Council England, we will continue to strive for a more equitable and just music education system, and at the same time, take our own organisational actions to drive change.

"These include increasing representation of Disabled people in our team and on the board, allocating specific resources to ensure that Disabled children and young people can access music education and music-making, and working with experts with lived experience of disability to shape our programmes and practices.”

Key findings: music retailers

  • 63% of music retailers surveyed are unaware of any specialist products or adapted instruments to make music more accessible for Disabled people, and only 38% know how and where to source adapted instruments


Man in a bowler hat and waistcoat in a flower shop

2020/21 Emergent Commission call out

Drake Music, in partnership with Saffron, have 3 exciting opportunities for early-career Deaf, Neurodivergent and/or Disabled musicians to create a new piece of music responding to the theme of ‘Risk’, involving the use of music technology in their creation.

Deadline for proposals – 5pm, Sunday 15 November 2020

From Knowle West Media Centre, Bristol. Photo by Dean Ayotte.

Youth Music campaigns

We campaign alongside young people to advocate for those who are missing out, to invest where it’s needed most, and to drive change in the music industries and education.