Understanding the effects of a community music programme for people with disabilities: a mixed methods, person-centred study

Una MacGlone, Graeme Wilson, Joy Vamvakaris, Raymond MacDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People with disabilities face inequalities in mental wellbeing, for which social exclusion is a contributing factor. Musical activities offer a promising but complex intervention, making impacts on a population with highly varied characteristics and needs challenging to capture. This paper reports on a mixed methods, person-centered study investigating a community music intervention for such a population. Three groups of adult service users with varied disabilities (either physical, learning, or both), took part in weekly music workshops in different locations. Music staff, housing and resource center staff, as well as participants and members of their families, took part in semi-structured interviews. A quantitative measure administered by service staff was used to rate service users’ social development. Two lay researchers, both individuals with a disability contributed to all aspects of the study. Interviews were analyzed through thematic analysis. Improvements in individuals’ self-expression, confidence, mood, and social skills were consistent with previous findings. Differences in effect between centers included: Group 1, some of whom had previous experience of workshops, showed an improvement in musical skills; Group 2 showed a mixed response, some participated with enthusiasm but others chose art activities over music workshops; Group 3 had lasting positive impact, this group had very limited opportunities for music due to their rural location. Quantitative analysis showed significant increase over all groups in communication, interaction with others, and joint attention. The intervention was beneficial for participants in separate locations in similar ways, but also highlighted that context and prior experience mediated effects in distinct ways. The lay researchers enhanced the qualitative analysis by emphasizing (1) the importance of recognizing participants’ self-expression in non-verbal modes of communication and (2) the importance of having music staff with a disability to provide a positive role model. This paper proposes that mixed methods person-centered research is the most suitable approach to capture and understand the multiple and varied effects of this complex intervention for a diverse group of participants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2020


  • community music
  • person-centered research
  • mixed methods
  • impact
  • individuals with disabilities
  • wellbeing


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