The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has commissioned a research project into how attending concerts can help the parents and carers of children with autism.
The research will be carried out by a team of academics at the school alongside Noriko Ogawa (pictured), the Japanese pianist behind the Jamie’s Concerts series for the carers of children with autism.
Ogawa launched Jamie’s Concerts 11 years ago, inspired by the son of a family she had been lodging with in the UK. They are intended to give parents and carers a formal opportunity to relax, unwind and share experiences.
Ogawa said: ‘I have always wanted some form of academic backup for what I am doing. It has always been emotionally driven, but I would like to find out if the concerts can be considered objectively good as well. And if anything could be done better or help us to achieve more, I would like to know.’
Jamie’s Concerts take place regularly in Japan, and in 2010 Ogawa also launched the series in the UK. This year, they will take place at venues including the Guildhall and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. She has been made a cultural ambassador for the National Autistic Society in recognition of her work, a role that will be formally launched in the spring.
Ogawa first approached John Sloboda, director of the Guildhall’s Understanding Audiences research programme, in autumn last year. The pair submitted an application to the school’s Research Centre and last week were awarded a grant of £2,460 to fund research from now until December.
Sloboda will carry out the research alongside psychologist, singer and teacher Karen Wise and music therapy specialist Alison Barrington. The team met for the first time on Wednesday and will begin the project by handing out questionnaires at Jamie’s Concerts before selecting volunteers for more in-depth research.
Ogawa said: ‘This is extremely important to me because it comes from my own personal experience. I lived with the family for two years and I understand what it’s like. It was very tough to cope with Jamie. I wanted to help him but I couldn’t, so I decided to help his mother. I’m not a doctor, a nurse or a teacher, but what I can do is give a concert.
‘I just want to know that the concerts are a good thing. I’m not expecting anything but if the research shows an overall positive effect, that would be great.’
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