Our special schools projects are led by freelance musicians who have an enormous amount of experience in working with children who have additional needs. Assisting them are young musicians who are at an earlier stage in their careers, but who have typically completed postgraduate study in community music. Our ‘bank’ of musicians is growing steadily; meet a few of them here.
Mark Withers has worked with Jessie’s Fund since the early days of the charity. He leads training work for hospice and special school staff and is involved in the charity’s work in hospitals, as well as the programme in schools. Away from Jessie’s Fund, he works both as a clarinettist and as a leader of creative projects. Mark leads LSO Create at the London Symphony Orchestra and collaborates regularly with orchestras, opera companies and conservatoires around Europe. Since 2010, Mark has been associated with the Aix-en-Provence Festival for whom he has designed numerous pieces. He also directs their training programme taking young artists into the wider community. You can find out more at www.markwithers.net/
Tom is a musician, music leader, trainer and composer. He studied Jazz at Leeds Conservatoire and uses improvisation as a core principle for creating shared musical experiences. Tom has extensive experience working with vulnerable people in many settings, including special schools, healthcare environments, prisons, secure units and in the community. One of his long-term projects in a community setting involves supporting young people with additional needs to write their own music and perform on stage with their peers. Tom endeavours to bring these principles of creativity and inclusion to all of his work as a musician.
Hannah McCabe is a diverse musician whose career as a clarinet and sax player includes work with Manchester Camerata, Sinfonia Cymru, Opera North, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Unthanks, BBC Folk Awards, Kabantu, Giffords Circus and live broadcasts on BBC radio 3, BBC radio 2 and television. Developing inclusivity, access and engagement within the Arts is a valued strand of her career and Hannah works with a range of organisations to design and deliver creative outreach projects with different communities. Her work focuses on delivering participant-led creative projects alongside staff training and mentoring. In 2014, Hannah was appointed Fellow in Creative and Professional Practice at the Royal Northern College of Music and in 2015 she was made Senior Lecturer of Clarinet at Leeds Conservatoire.
Joe Harrison-Greaves is a musician and education consultant who has worked in music education for over a decade as a musical director, facilitator and project manager with organisations such as the BBC, The Guildhall School of Music, Curious Minds and Brighter Sound. He has specialised in working in special needs’ settings, focussing on the development of a whole school culture of music, and is a co-founder of the Slow Education movement. Joe has also performed around the UK in a wide variety of bands over many years.
Clarinettist Ros is a music leader, trainer and consultant specialising in non-verbal musical interaction. Her work focuses on using a child centred approach to enable communication, interaction and expression, and is informed by over 15 years’ experience as Musician in Residence at Seashell Trust, a residential school for children and young people with complex communication needs. Ros works nationally and internationally, delivering music education, training and evaluation projects in health and disability contexts, and has worked with the Hallé Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Northern College of Music, MusikAlliansen (Sweden), Musique et Santé (Paris), Figura Ensemble (Denmark) and The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus (Denmark). Ros has also written a PhD on her work making music with children in hospital (2021; SOAS, University of London). www.roshawley.com
Chris has worked extensively as a musician in a wide variety of education and community settings. For many years he was a senior lecturer in music at York St John University, where he led the community music programme. He has also delivered numerous arts projects across the UK, including work for Jessie’s Fund, Sing Up, Opera North and Accessible Arts & Media. He currently specialises in singing for health and wellbeing, which includes leading the highly successful ‘A Cuppa & A Chorus’ sessions at the National Centre for Early Music, and directing ‘Communitas’, a choir for people who use mental health services, part of York St John University’s Converge programme. Chris is a professional multi-instrumentalist and vocalist with the alt-folk trio White Sail, playing guitar, trumpet, mandolin, recorders and percussion.
Ali Mac is a drummer, percussionist, SEND music practitioner, contemporary dance accompanist and workshop leader. Graduating with a Jazz Studies degree from Leeds College of Music in 2009, Ali’s career highlights include signing to Virgin/EMI Records in 2014 as a co-writer and percussionist for Zimbabwean soul artist ‘Thabo’. As well as a career in performance, he is proud to be a musician/accompanist at the prestigious Northern School of Contemporary Dance, as well as guest accompanying Rambert on tour during their 2019 residency at the Manchester International Festival. Ali enjoys creating musical activities to help encourage the self-expression and communication of young people with learning difficulties and multiple special needs. Over the past 12 years, Ali has visited dozens of SEND schools, as well as young offenders’ prisons, medium secure units, adult day centres and nursing homes, delivering interactive performances, one-to-one sessions, staff training events and workshops. www.alimacmusic.com/
Sam is a bassist, composer and music facilitator based in Manchester, UK. He has performed internationally with numerous artists, including The Cinematic Orchestra (Ninja Tune), Kandace Springs (Blue Note Records) and Manu Delago. He has been fortunate enough to perform at some esteemed venues and events, including the Walt Disney Hall (LA), The Royal Albert Hall and Later with Jools Holland. Sam is passionate about improving the accessibility of music creation. He has been performing, running workshops and helping create music curriculums in SEN settings through the charitable organisations Jessie’s Fund and Live Music Now. Most recently, Sam has been producing a number of interactive videos to be used as sensory aids in the home for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Sam is also a senior lecturer at Leeds Conservatoire and an external assessor at The Royal Northern College of Music.
Andrea teaches percussion at the RNCM, JRNCM and Chetham’s School of Music. As a creative practitioner, she specialises in junk and environmental percussion. Her workshops explore a variety of genres/creative starting points including story-telling, soundscapes, junk percussion, drumming circles and authentic world music grooves from Latin America and Africa, with plenty of opportunity for improvisation and composition. Workshop highlights include a five-month community residency in the Shetland Islands, writing and recording wake-up calls for NASA’s International Space Station and directing the world’s first Bucket-and-Spade Orchestra in Caernarfon. Andrea also enjoys a varied career as a freelance percussionist. She has worked in the West End, appeared on BBC2 with Lewis Capaldi and toured with Lesley Garrett and Paul O’Grady. She plays regularly with orchestras including Royal Northern Sinfonia and Manchester Camerata.
Andy Baker enjoys a varied and interesting musical career making all kinds of music with all kinds of people. As a freelance double bass player, he has performed with many of the UK’s leading orchestras, both playing and leading hundreds of outreach projects as a ‘Community Musician’. As a music educator, he works regularly in mainstream education and with children with additional needs, and has recently developed a programme of work for children of all ages on the Autistic Spectrum. He has also formed an orchestra for people living with Dementia which was featured on BBCTV. He plays guitar, bass guitar and piano in rock and jazz bands and his work with HMP Verne inmates was nominated for a prestigious RPS National Award. He also coaches and leads workshops for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
Jess Baker is a community musician and singer songwriter. She has worked in mental health and SEN settings for 12 years following a Masters in Community music, always with a focus on wellbeing and fun. Jess has recently spent two years studying improvised voice on an international programme with Rhiannon (of Bobby McFerrin’s touring group Gimmie 5). Jess is in several bands, including Endorphinmachine Prince Tribute and The Yellow Goose Dance Band, and performs original songs using voice and electronics.
Scottish singer, pianist, animateur, choir-leader and teacher, Aimee loves helping others to find their voice. After graduating from the University of Glasgow, the RNCM and English National Opera’s ‘Opera Works’ scheme, she has enjoyed a varied career working in education and outreach with organisations including the RSNO, the RCS Junior Conservatoire, NYCOS, Luminate, Jessie’s Fund, The Citizen’s Theatre, HMP Barlinnie, Alzheimer’s Scotland and Armonico Consort, amongst others. Other experience includes BBC Proms in the Park, coaching the National Girls’ Choir of Scotland and presenting for the Scottish Association for Music Education. Awards include an Evening Times Community Champion award for work within dementia care units and the Action for Children’s Arts Members’ Award 2019 for Discovering Lieder, which has now introduced over a thousand primary-aged children to classical music. www.aimeetoshney.com
Hello, I am Katie Heller, a violin/viola player who has been lucky enough to spend my whole life making music. Some days it will be engaging with babies and tots, other days creating songs with children or maybe discovering calm sounds with a youngster who just needs some peace. I play in orchestras too, enjoying Opera festivals with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the City of London Sinfonia and often sharing music in a variety of settings. During the pandemic, we found ways of recording music and sending it into care homes to try and reach residents who were very isolated. And with Jessie’s Fund, we were able to deliver live music sessions over the internet into special schools. I developed a whole new set of skills that I could not have imagined I would ever need! I really do feel that music helps us all in the world, whatever the genre, and I feel very privileged to be part of the creative wheel.
Sarah Atter is an award-winning Manchester-based musician with extensive experience of devising and delivering education and community projects, alongside student and teacher training, large-scale residencies and consultancy work. She works across a variety of fields including music in healthcare, music in the community, music in education, music in criminal justice and collaborative cross-art form projects. Sarah works both as an independent practitioner and in partnership with organisations including Manchester International Festival, Manchester Camerata, Streetwise Opera, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Music in Prisons. Sarah also lectures at The University of Manchester, RNCM, and designs and delivers artist development training for TiPP and Chetham’s School of Music. As a flautist, Sarah works across the country in orchestras and chamber ensembles, and inspires the next generation, teaching flautists of all ages. www.sarahatter.co.uk
Emma Richards is a violist, educator and community musician. She is a specialist in the creative and person-centred use of music in special schools, hospitals, prisons and community settings. She was trained by Musique et Santé and LIME Music for Health and went on to work for many years in Manchester Children’s Hospital, delivering music on the wards and by the bedside. As a performer, she freelances with orchestras across the UK and specialises in contemporary music, working in collaboration with composers and championing new and lesser-known works for the viola. She has worked for Jessie’s Fund since 2017 and loves working with the students and teachers she has met on projects. She is currently teaching herself the ukulele so that she can pursue her love of singing folk music.