My top tips with Holly Phelps

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Facilitator and electronic/folk pop artist Holly Phelps (aka IORA) shares her top tips for making music sessions more inclusive…

My top tips with Holly Phelps
14th November 2019

Facilitator and electronic/folk pop artist Holly Phelps (aka IORA) shares her top tips for making music sessions more inclusive…

Holly Phelps (aka IORA) is a music facilitator and electronic/folk pop artist from Manchester.

Holly recently completed a traineeship with us to develop her skills in leading music workshops for young people. For the past few months she’s been helping to deliver Sing City, our music group for 13-18’s. Here she shares some of what she’s learnt about making music sessions inclusive…

1. Tailor each session specifically to the young people

This means that the music making truly reflects the young people’s interests, with recognition of their already existing musical identities. By finding out specifically what they want to develop, we are able to cater to everyone’s needs. As music facilitators, we are then able to pick up on areas the young people are passionate about, which they might have struggled to communicate in another setting.

2. Set up an environment for the session that is a safe creative space

Everyone needs to feel able to share and contribute their opinions. By making this clear, the young people will experience a higher quality of engagement, and no participant is discriminated against. This ensures that the sessions are really respecting every young person’s opinions and interests. It works really well at encouraging those who are less confident, making sure that their voices can be heard too.

3. Don’t restrict sessions by a set curriculum

Being outside of a formal, hierarchical education system supports the young people’s creativity as they are more motivated as a group. We are able to have open discussions which are led by the young people’s passions, for example wanting to learn more about particular genre and bringing that to the forefront of the session.

4. Be flexible

Don’t plan too far in advance. That way you’re able to stay connected to the young people’s interests. It’s very much planned in the present –  week to week skills that they would like to learn. I’ve learned that within one group, the young people can be at very different stages from someone very well trained in instrumental-specific techniques, to others at a beginner level. Being flexible in your delivery ensures every person is encouraged, supported and appropriately challenged.


If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive music practice, click here to find out about the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England – a movement for change throughout music education.

Read more of our Top Tips from artists, music educators and the Brighter Sound team here.