Music of Life helps disabled children

The Masonic Charitable Foundation recently received a request for support from the Charity Music of Life and approved a grant of £15,000 to be donated over a 3-year period.

Mark Russell contacted Maria Teterina, the Charity's Chief Executive, to find out more about their work, especially in the London area.

Maria explained that she started the Charity in 2003 whilst she was a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music. She says that she was born into a musical family in Moscow and, having been surrounded by music from an early age, she took it for granted and never thought that being able to make music was any form of privilege.

Throughout her teenage years and early twenties, she came to realise that she was empowered by her professional musical experiences and that being involved in music had a powerful beneficial effect on a young person's confidence.

During her student years, she worked with her parents' Charity in Russia, "Mir Iskussva" (World of Art), which helped talented disabled children and young people from across the Russian Federation to study music and perform with some of the world's most illustrious musicians, such as Montserrat Caballe and Cecilia Bartoli.

This inspired her to conceive a similar organisation in the UK, with the vision that all disabled children and young people should be able to access, and benefit from, music-making opportunities.

The mission of the Charity is to build and strengthen the life skills, well-being, and confidence of young people through music making. They hope to achieve this through a variety of programmes:

  • Choirs at special schools
  • Individual music lessons
  • Teacher training & work experience
  • Community integration

Music for Deaf Children

Specifically in London, Music for Deaf Children is a programme headed by Ruth Montgomery, a professional deaf musician and music educator. Ruth was born profoundly deaf, is fluent in British Sign Language and, as a flautist, earned a Bachelor of Music Honours Degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music. Since 2017, Ruth has been designing and delivering music teaching programmes to deaf children in schools in Camden, Woodford, Haringey, Greenwich and St Albans. The programme also gives hearing musicians opportunities to train to work with deaf children.

The benefits of this programme can be summed up in comments from the Headteachers at the schools she works with:

"The children absolutely loved having a deaf adult teaching them music and being excited by music, exploring different ways of how to enjoy/listen and feel the music."

"Her sessions have impressed so many parents, they commented on the change in their child's attitude towards learning music."

As well as developing musical skills, improvements have been seen in other areas such as the student's emotional well-being and confidence, health, behaviour, social and communication skills, as well as speech and language.

The benefits of working with Music of Life are shown in the following quote from one of the teachers: "Kabir is much more grounded and calm since having piano lessons. He goes back to class in a happier mood and always responds well to music".

In the 2021-22 academic year, Music of Life provided 23,252 individual music-making opportunities for students culminating in a special, sold-out celebration concert, "With a Smile & a Song" held in Birmingham Town Hall. In addition, each school has end-of-term concerts where students perform in front of live audiences. Every year deaf students from Frank Barnes School participate in the Camden School Festival. Bi-annually this is held at the Royal Albert Hall.

Of the MCF's donation, Maria says, "All our programmes are long-term commitments to our students. We are grateful to the Freemasons for the grant, which will enable us to plan ahead with confidence".


This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 50 December 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 50 here.