Deaf and Disabled Music Leader Development Programme

Since 2014, Orchestras Live has led a significant mentoring initiative to develop Deaf and Disabled music leaders, with the aim of providing a pathway for emerging artists into the orchestral sector and beyond.

What we wanted to achieve

Orchestras Live wants to broaden the range of music leaders who work in the sector to deliver workshops and projects, particularly cultivating skilled Deaf and Disabled music leaders.

We want to encourage a more diverse orchestral workforce that is representative of society and provide positive role models for project participants, audiences and the orchestral sector.

What we did

The first phase of consultation and mentoring developed through our partnerships with Essex County Council Cultural Development and Essex Music Hub, who shared our aspiration for there to be more locally-based diverse arts professionals in creative leadership roles.

Following some pilot taster sessions with specialist disability arts organisation Zinc Arts in Essex, in 2016 we commissioned Drake Music to undertake more widespread research into existing musicians living in the East region who identify themselves as Deaf and Disabled.

A man playing a guitar with a man in a wheelchair using a pointer device attached to a headset.

Music Leader Tim Steiner and conductor James Rose at a music workshop.

Credit: Stuart Bruce

Orchestras Live leads the way nationally in inclusive and accessible approaches to Orchestral music.

~ Essex Music Hub

Musicians attended a series of taster music workshops where they met and made music with a team from Drake Music and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). A mentoring programme was created which was tailored to the needs of specific individuals, developed with support from orchestra professionals.


Participants from this programme have gone on to be engaged by RPO Resound and the Royal Society for Blind Children, joining an RPO team delivering music workshops with Blind children, and elsewhere with City of London Sinfonia to co-present the tours of Lullaby Concerts for audiences of young children and families in rural and coastal communities.

A woman using British Sign Language to interpret a performance by an orchestra.

Ruth Montgomery, Assistant Music Leader for Lullaby Concerts tour with City of London Sinfonia in 2017.

Credit: Paul Coghlin

After the morning’s Stowmarket workshop, a teacher of the Deaf came up to me expressing how fantastic it is to see a Deaf person working with the orchestra … I felt honoured and proud to be involved, with Orchestras Live I felt I was out in the public, promoting a positive message on diversity.

~ Ruth Montgomery, Assistant Music Leader for Lullaby Concerts in 2017 and 2018

Future plans

As well as encouraging production partners and orchestras to work with the musicians from our initial programme, Orchestras Live is embracing this work within our wider training and mentoring schemes throughout the country, further expanding the national pool of diverse freelance music leaders available to orchestras and other arts organisations.


Essex County Cultural Development, Essex Music Hub and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.