Adrian Snell is known for albums such as ‘The Passion’ and ‘Alpha and Omega’, and has performed at concerts across the world at venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and Yad Vashen, Jerusalem. In the late 1990s Adrian semi-retired as a professional composer / singer to train as a music therapist (MT). A bold move by an artist whose albums and concerts attracted audiences of tens of thousands across Europe and had significant BBC commissions to his name. Today he works as a MT and Arts Therapy Consultant for children and young people with special needs at Three Ways School in Bath. He also regularly visits Korce, Albania, where he offers MT training and works with a wide range of people, from 'street children' to the elderly, from young children in an orphanage to men in a high security prison. Inspired by the people he works with Adrian has just launched a new album, ‘Fierce Love’. Adrian talks to us about ‘Fierce Love’, his work as a Music Therapist, and the impact this has had on his faith. “My music room at Three Ways is a world away from the concert stage and recording studio, but I have no regrets about my transition from international performer to music therapist, it has been the most important step in my career as a musician. I have always described music as 'the language of the heart' and in the world of special needs, where many of our children are either unable to communicate through the spoken word, or choose not to do so, the idea of music as a language, naturally, takes on a deeper meaning. I am profoundly inspired and enriched by working with people whose view of the world is coloured by their 'special need' and consequently their struggle to conform to society’s expectations...or perhaps a lack of understanding as to 'why' conforming might lead to more acceptance or opportunity. Within this community, from children and young people with acute and complex needs, to those at different points on the autistic spectrum, music so often becomes the bridge in the forming and development of a relationship. One of the great privileges I have as a music therapist is that I am focusing on what our children and young people CAN do, beyond their limitations or difficulties. As a Christian working in a community of special needs there’s something about church that I've become acutely aware of. Across the country, whatever the size, demographic, affluence and cultural, almost every kind of 'community' is represented: young, old, wealthy, poor, black or white, gay or straight, but not the community of people with special needs, where are they? I am not talking about the individual standing out rather obviously in a congregation of ‘normal’ people, I'm speaking of a whole community, a section of society numbering in their hundreds of thousands, of those with special needs who surely should be amongst the most welcomed, most accepted, most understood, most cared for, if we are to truly understand the world of Christian community as the place where those who are most vulnerable feel at home?
I have come to the conclusion that we have failed to offer a theology of inclusion. We have failed practically, we have failed in the content of our service and we have failed spiritually. Thatâ€™s my diagnosis, but what are the remedies? Some solutions are surprisingly obvious, yet often are not implemented. Access into the building is crucial, it should be as easy to move inside and around the building for someone with learning or/and physical disabilities as it would be for any other person in your congregation. There should be ramps or lifts in addition to stairs, at least one broad entrance to reduce the need for queuing or waiting, space inside for easy movement and free seating and a â€˜safeâ€™ space where those who are unable to keep still for long have the freedom to move without disrupting others or meeting disapproval. Making sure your building or space is warm, inviting and welcoming is also key. How would you want to be welcomed into a community of strangers and friends? The use of materials, pictures, props and lighting suggests somewhere awaiting exploration; a place that is intriguing and feeds the imagination can be helpful for newcomers. When using music remember it is the common language for those with special needs so participation is easy and can help to provide a safer atmosphere. Most of us can use our voices in some way or another and words don't have to be involved. If we have no recognisable speech, we can hum, sing to 'lah', 'nah', 'ooh' or any other form of vocalisation we choose. If our speech is limited, then we might be offered a word, or a short phrase or sentence, which can be repeated and become part of the overall soundscape. There are countless tuned and untuned percussion instruments that are accessible to those with special needs - from moderate through to complex; wind chimes, drums, shakers, cymbals, as well as homemade percussion - saucepans, cutlery, rice in containers - the possibilities are endless! And guitars, stringed instruments in general, xylophone, metallophone, all either custom tuned to appropriate notes in the song key, or chosen because the pretuning fits the song. All of us need all our senses to be engaged at certain points in any given day - taste, smell, touch, visual and oral stimulation; usually this happens without us being aware of it. For many folk with special needs, the world is more accessible when a theme is explored using more senses than just the spoken word. If I am honest, invariably it's the teaching, the readings, the prayers and the sermons that include 'objects of reference' (props!),
captivating sound and visual scales, tastes, smells, textures - all with maximum interaction and participation, that I usually remember the easiest. When we are 'immersed' in a theme, it becomes a whole body experience, and those are, in my opinion, the experiences that shape and form us most powerfully. These factors should help this community to feel included in the congregation. I am convinced that if you 'get it right' in all these respects, for those we have been considering here, then actually, you probably 'get it right', for the rest of the congregation too. As an example, people from 'mainstream' education frequently come to Three Ways School, witness our 'multi-sensory' approach to teaching leave saying, "why on earth don't we offer this way of education to more of our students... If the shape and content of a service takes account of our need to have all the senses engaged, the more meaningful and memorable that service can be. The world of learning disabilities can be vivid, intense and raw . . . maybe that is also why the love found here [at Three Ways School] is a 'Fierce Love', a love that reflects the love of God himself. Fierce the love that binds us Guides the hand and shapes the heart Love that dignifies us Sees in you a work of art... (Taken from ‘Fierce Love’ by Adrian Snell) "Fierce Love" as a whole integrates all that I have become over these last years, with the journey from recording artist to music therapist. The album is influenced by my work at Three Ways School, both in the relationships I have formed and the extraordinary range of instruments that are central to my work - their sound, shape, texture and resonance.” Fierce Love was released on the 28th September 2013 and is available on Adrian's website, itunes, Amazon and from other retailers. To keep up to date with developments please do ‘follow’ and ‘like’ us on twitter and facebook. Video: youtu.be/Jm7dRyI_fcs www.twitter.com/SnellMusic www.facebook.com/AdrianSnellMusic www.adrian-snell.com