A ground-breaking new gesture language pioneered in Ireland is making it easier for children with disabilities to create and play music.
Dr. Denise White is a multi-award winning, experienced educator from Derry who has gained global recognition for her work with vulnerable children and adults. Shaun Healy is the world’s first person with severe intellectual disabilities to conduct an orchestra. Together, they invented the scientifically-proven concept, called ‘Conductology.’
The methodology took six years of extensive research, trialling and refining at Foyle Arts on the Derry Campus of Ulster University. Conductology can be used within any music and sound environment introducing every child and adult to inclusive and accessible music-making including via the means of adaptive music technology and a range of sound objects.
Shaun who lives with ‘global development delay,’ described his life before Conductology as: “I was trapped in a dark tunnel with no way out.” He had attended a Special Needs school, cannot read or write, has a tremor in his hands and suffered extensively from what he called “his anxiety monster.” He had little confidence or feeling of self-worth, limited communication skills and lacked focus, discipline and concentration.
However, now Shaun has no anxiety, his hands do not shake when he conducts using the Conductology system and he has defeated the ‘anxiety monster.’ He is a Master Conductologist, training and mentoring in the ground-breaking methodology. He conducts orchestras, choirs and ensembles and has delivered speeches and presentations to policymakers, influencers etc. as well as significantly advancing many skills. Shaun’s first ensemble included performers with Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Asperger’s syndrome and global developmental delay.
The scientifically-proven methodology significantly advances creative thinking and a plethora of skills. It has been proven to enhance confidence, self-worth and emotional well-being and can be utilised within any age-group, background, ability or culture.
Deborah Kelleher, C.E.O. Royal Irish Academy of Music, described the concept as “… a real game-changer,” Professor Frank Lyons MBE, Ulster University, “When people hear the music for themselves, their perceptions of those with disabilities is brought to a whole new level.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise and Shaun have developed an online Academy, ‘the University of Conductology,’ with its own social network so that the academic, physical, mental and social benefits of Conductology can be enjoyed without breaking ‘Physical-distancing’ guidelines.
Conductology (Ireland) Ltd is a small company but with a mission to make a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities throughout Ireland and further afield. This will mean opportunities for all to participate in local orchestras or ensembles either remotely/online or via mainstream schools and colleges when they reopen – opportunities that have been denied to 1 in 7 of the population in the Republic of Ireland, 1 in 5 in the UK, for generations. Now, not only can any child, young adult or adult with any disability ‘go to college,’ make new friends, and advance many skills but can also enjoy creating and playing high-quality music.