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OHMI Music Makers

OHMI Music Makers is a youth music charity that gives children with physical disabilities the chance to learn to play specially-adapted instruments alongside their friends. They pioneer the development and adaptation of musical instruments for children who are physically disabled, offering creative opportunities.

The OHMI Music Makers Trust pioneers the development and adaptation of musical instruments for children who are physically disabled. It gives them the chance to learn to play an instrument that would normally be inaccessible. Lessons are given in school time, so children learn alongside their peers. OHMI’s objective is to remove the barriers to music making faced by all types of physically disabled people. “OHMI stands for ‘one handed musical instruments’,” says Rachel Wolffsohn, General Manager, “but the Trust faced difficulties explaining that a physically disabled person doesn’t have to have a limb missing to use their services. Participants often have conditions, such as cerebral palsy or arthritis that stop them using regular instruments, too, hence the abbreviation.”

The organisation was established in 2011 by Dr Stephen Hetherington, who began his own career as an orchestral musician. It was having his hemiplegic daughter, Amy, which alerted him to the lack of instruments available to disabled musicians. Her case was far from unique, with one in every 1,000 children having some form of hemiplegia, which results in total or partial paralysis of one side of the body.

OHMI has been proactive in procuring innovative designs for instruments that can be played with restricted use of the upper limbs. As new instruments have become available, they’ve begun to work with appropriate organisations to teach and promote their use to anyone previously excluded by their disability. It also runs a national hire scheme to make adapted instruments available to anyone who needs them.

Music Makers is the charity’s teaching support programme, supported by Arts Council England, which provides one-to-one music lessons and ensemble groups using the recorder and adapted brass instruments. It also makes around 50 school visits per year. After launching in Birmingham in 2015, a year later the project was rolled out in Surrey and Hampshire, and there are now plans to support children with upper limb disabilities across the UK. Further funding from The National Lottery Community Fund has been used towards management costs.

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