Online Music Gatherings - Applying existing knowledge about music and connection to online groups

Online Music Gatherings: Applying existing knowledge about music and connection to online groups

Lead researcher: Kat McFerran
Faculty of Fine Arts and Music
Team members: Grace Thompson, Anthea Skinner, Teresa Hall, Melissa Murphy

This project aims to examine the ways in which online music gatherings can respond to the additional levels of isolation and restriction experienced by members of the disability community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many disabled children, adolescents and adults engage in music making, listening, and singing in their everyday life, this project will offer a structure to scaffold social interactions with a new online community. The project team will partner with participants to evaluate how, when and why different types of online music gatherings might be of value, and to whom.

Research Outcomes
This was an action research project that focused on collaboration between music lovers of all abilities, facilitators, therapists, researchers and evaluators. We formed a series of online music gatherings which evolved iteratively through cycles of action and reflection to refine the uses of technology, issues of access and safety, suitable participants and musical foci moving towards clearer articulation of specific benefits for participants.

The findings were significant because they unexpectedly demonstrated that participants found the online music therapy sessions to be convenient, helpful and empowering. Although there were some challenges in technology and differences to face to face (F2F) sessions, there were also unexpected benefits such as convenience, ease of access, involvement of other family members, and ongoing connections with other members. This finding contradicted assumptions about online, group music therapy sessions being sub-standard and demonstrated that although adjustments were necessary, benefits were largely similar to F2F.

Journal Article
McFerran, K.S., Skinner, A., Hall, T. & Thompson, G. (2022). Structure, agency and community: Using online music gatherings to support social inclusion for people with disabilities in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, doi: 10.1080/08098131.2021.2

Conference Papers
Skinner, A., Thompson, G., & McFerran, K.S. (2021) Reconnecting Online During Covid-19 Lockdown: Negotiating Creativity and Leadership in Online Music Gatherings at the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability Annual Conference, (Brisbane - Online), November 13th.

Skinner, A., Thompson, G., Hall, T. & McFerran, K.S. (2020). Using online music gatherings to support social inclusion for people with disabilities in Australia during the COVID-19 Crisis, Musicological Society of Australia Conference, Melbourne, 5th December.

Other Media and Publications
‘For Children with Disabilities, the Lockdown has Opened New Doors’ by Elizabeth Callinan (2020), The Age, 13 September,

Podcast : 'Talking Vision', Vision Australia, 13 July 2020,