OpenUp Music

Empowering young disabled musicians to build inclusive youth orchestras.

OpenUp Music works with disabled young people to develop musical instruments that can be played in real-time using any part of the body, including the eyes.

"More and more young disabled people are realising their independence through music and technology, showing both their schools and their parents that they can achieve and aspire to more in life."

Doug Bott, Musical Director

The challenge

The barriers to playing a musical instrument are immense for disabled young people. Existing accessible instruments can cost over £3,000, so they can rarely buy them or take them home to practice.

Barry Farrimond is a leading mind on the development of assistive music technology. He founded OpenUp Music in 2013 with Doug Bott, an expert on accessible music. They wanted to raise expectations for young disabled musicians.

The aim of the project

Over the past three years the team has created new, easy to use, accessible music instruments including the Clarion – a bespoke custom made digital musical instrument. The instruments are co-designed with disabled young people, harnessing technology to help them express themselves independently through music, and because they are software-based, they can be used with everyday devices; dramatically reducing the cost and making playing music more accessible.

With Nominet Trust funding, OpenUp Music has been able to develop open musical instruments to support more young people to play and create music. The team also lead the South-West Open Youth Orchestra (SWOYO) – the UK’s only disabled-led regional youth orchestra, delivered in partnership with the internationally renowned British Paraorchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Bristol Music Trust. Their ambition is to launch the UK’s first National Open Youth Orchestra.

Positive outcomes

More than 120 young disabled musicians have played in OpenUp Music orchestras in the South West and many are using open musical instruments. Further expansion is expected with new Open School Orchestras in the North East, Cornwall and the Midlands, benefitting 170 more young disabled musicians. In 2016, The South West Open Youth Orchestra also played live on Radio 3 on BBC Music Day. The launch of a National Open Youth Orchestra is planned for 2018.

Watch the orchestra in action in this short video clip

Further Resources

To find out more about OpenUp Music visit their website.