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International Centre for Community Music

Our research

Find out about our current research and completed projects.

Three women listening to musician outside

Our current projects

An orchestra playing music.

Building bridges through collaboration: MetamorPhonics as an approach to socially engaged music making (2024 to 2027)

In collaboration with the Iceland University of the Arts in Reykjavík, the International Centre for Community Music has secured a research award from the Icelandic Centre for Research. The project will explore questions associated with the global growth of socially engaged and participatory music projects.

Part of the award includes resources to fund a dedicated MRes student who will setup and run a new community music project in York. Jo Gibson, Research Fellow for the Institute of Social Justice, will be a member of the core team with additional collaborators from the Guildhall, London and an independent film maker who is based at Bifrost University who specialises in cultural documentaries. 

Collaborators include:

Group of singers outside on hilltop, conducted by group leader.

Singing for Health Research Network (2023 to 2025)

The International Centre for Community Music (ICCM), York St John University, has received a 2 year grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to network researchers investigating the effects of singing on wellbeing and health, and musicians and health professionals providing singing for health groups in communities and health and social care settings. ICCM will work in partnership with the Royal College of Music, London, and in close association with the UK Singing for Health Network.

Since 2000, the research literature on singing and health has grown substantially. Research studies and systematic reviews support the value of group singing for physical, mental and social wellbeing but further larger-scale and better controlled studies are needed. It is important to further evidence the potential contribution of singing to social prescribing schemes supported by the NHS across the UK.

Through meetings in York and London and a series of webinars during 2023 to 2025, the project will address the following questions:

  1. What is the current state of knowledge on the relationships between singing and health and wellbeing?
  2. What theoretical perspectives help to understanding how singing impacts on health?
  3. What are the priorities for future research in the field?
  4. What guidance does research evidence provide to musicians and health professionals in the effective and cost-effective delivery of singing for health opportunities in communities and the NHS?

Completed projects

The Music for Childhood Wellbeing Initiative: 2023

With funding from the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs and led by Sarah Bartolome, the Music for Childhood Well-Being Initiative (MCWI) examined the use of music as an intervention for mitigating stress and increasing the wellbeing of children globally. We adopted an innovative research approach, blending biomedical and behavioural methodologies to provide a holistic and integrated biopsychosocial understanding of the effect of group singing and breath work with children.

The objective of this pilot study is to explore the impact of a group singing and intentional breathing intervention on small groups of elementary school children (n=10). We seek to provide a holistic, biopsychosocial understanding of the effects of a breath and singing-based musical intervention on the physical body as well as an understanding of the lived experience of the musical intervention from the perspective of the participants.

This study will employ existing, wearable, mechano-acoustic sensors developed and tested by the QSIB Rogers Lab Group. Data collected by wearable technologies will be used to learn more about the ways group singing and breathwork affect heart rate, heart rate variability, rate of respiration, and vocal use. Using heart rate variability as a proxy for stress, we ultimately aim to provide evidence of how music-making might be used to mitigate the effects of stress and potentially enhance wellbeing. In an effort to add a humanistic dimension to the data collection procedures, we will also solicit self-report data from the children and their caregivers, allowing them to share their perspectives on the ways the musical intervention affects their mood and sense of wellbeing.

Buffett Institute: Trauma, Music and the Breath Global Working Group

Ethno Research: 2019 to 2022

The International Centre for Community Music (ICCM) worked in collaboration with global youth music non-profit, JM International, on a 4 year research project focusing on 'Ethno', their international programme for folk, world and traditional music, aimed at young musicians (13 to 30).

The purpose of Ethno Research was to explore the hypothesis that the Ethno programme provided transformational sociocultural and musical significances for those that engaged in its activities. Against a framework through which the phenomenon of Ethno could be historically and contemporarily understood, 3 distinct lines of enquiry guided the research:

  • Pedagogy and professional development
  • Experience
  • Reverberations (the impact beyond the gatherings)

The research was conducted by Professor Lee Higgins (Principle Investigator) and Dr Sarah-Jane Gibson (Postdoctoral Researcher), along with an international team of 20 researchers.

The 4 year research project was made possible through a grant from Margaret A Cargill Philanthropies, as part of a wider programme of development for the Ethno programme.

Ethno Reseach Project findings

MOVE Evaluation: 2021

Between July and October 2021, the research team at the International Centre for Community Music (ICCM) undertook evaluation with MOVE, an international music and youth leadership exchange program.

The aim was to understand and highlight MOVE's developments and impacts between 2012 and 2020 and support the program partnership in its future developments. The project centred on the question: how is MOVE understood, as an experience and as a concept?

We asked this question as a way to learn more about the people who make MOVE happen, the musical and leadership experiences they have, and how this could be understood in the context of international development, cultural participation and learning, and music education. To support this, the MOVE research team conducted a literature review.

The literature review, led by Dr Jasper Chalcraft and supported by Dr Ruth Currie focuses on 3 concepts: transcultural capital, cultural hospitality, and embodied participation. A summary of this literature review can be found in our final report. However, it was important to ensure that the full literature review was available to anyone engaging with the report, or those who may like to know a little more about these concepts.

The research was conducted by Prof Lee Higgins (Principle Investigator), Dr Ruth Currie (Co-Investigator), Dr Jasper Chalcraft (Research Associate), Karen Boswall (Research Assistant), Shoshana Gottesman (Research Assistant).

For more information about the MOVE Evaluation, please contact Prof Lee Higgins:

MOVE: Literature Review (PDF, 0.1 MB)

MOVE (2012-2020) ICCM Report (PDF, 10.3 MB)

News article: MOVE research grant

Singing for Health in Morecambe: 2019

The International Centre for Community Music (ICCM) was invited to respond to an existing brief that sought to understand how two new singing groups were developing.

This was part of a pilot project established to connect with older people experiencing isolation, and, young people who were connected with the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

These singing groups were set up in partnership with a local GP practice and a local CAHMS team to explore possible arts partnerships as a way to challenge health inequalities relating to mental health experiences in Morecambe.

Singing for Health Summary (PDF, 90.7 kB)

Singing for Health Report (PDF, 3.4 MB)

MUSOC - Music and Social Intervention Network: 2017 to 2019

Made possible through AHRC funding, this project brought together scholars engaged in a broad variety of research and focussed on musicians who provide active interventions within the fields of music therapy, community music therapy, community music, music education, music and health, music and wellbeing, and music and rehabilitation, in order to initiate dialogue, to identify areas of both conceptual difference and synergy, and to help develop a more holistic epistemology for this fast-emerging field.

Through exploring a series of research questions, the network's objective was to foster debate, inspire dialogue and create new discourses surrounding excellence and inclusion within music interventions.

Our aims were to:

  • Identify different constructions of excellence and inclusion from the perspective of different fields of study that intersect community music.
  • Subject these constructions to critique in order to question and challenge the way they are interpreted through research, and how they affect practice.
  • Generate a network of researchers and practitioners from across different fields of study, practice, and locations, opening up the debate to the wider international community and move knowledge and understanding forward.

Three public events provided an opportunity for those working in the field to meet and discuss issues surrounding excellence and inclusion. You can access responses to the events using the links below:

Looked after children and music making: 2016 to 2018

Commissioned by soundLINCS and funded by Youth Music, this research focused on the efficacy of a training initiative which sought a greater understanding of music, and its value as a resource and intervention for Children's Services Practitioners (CSPs) in Lincolnshire.

The research team took part in a number of training days and engaged the participants in interviews and focus groups exploring the interaction between the Community Music Facilitator and the Children's Services Practitioners, the music skills being passed on and their potential impact on the workforce.

Questions included:

  • What are the distinctive approaches to music development CPD in the soundLINCS project?
  • What are each stakeholder group’s experiences of music development CPD?
  • What is the perceived impact of music development CPD from the perspectives of each stakeholder group?
  • What are the wider implications of the project?

Fusion Project Summary (PDF, 0.3 MB)

Fusion project Final Report (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Converge - educational opportunities for people who use mental health services: 2014 to 2015

Led by Dr Liz Mellor, this project looked at the the impact and benefits of shared musical experience with adults who use mental health services within Converge, a social enterprise in a university setting.

The Converge Music Research Project met the claims of the research to evidence not only that Converge Music Courses benefitted participants, but also, that there were a wide range of psycho-social and benefits of music education. Importantly, the shared music experience emerged as a key driver to support psycho- social change for Converge Music Students.

Converge Final Report (PDF 0.4 MB)