Social Impacts and Pathways – Paragon Music

Paragon are an inclusive music and arts organisation, who dedicate themselves to uniting people through music, dance and theatre. Their whole purpose is to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere in which participants can get involved in the workshops. They provide workshops for people with additional support needs, breaking down the barriers that they are likely to face on a day-to-day basis. Within these environments, everybody works together to get creative, making anything from music to dance performances. Most importantly, they break down all the boundaries of stereotypes and common presumptions in which some believe that factors such as being in a wheelchair restricts them from dancing for example. Paragon eliminates these boundaries. As well as this, the actual music tuition isn’t the most important focus, which further-removes Paragon from the exclusive nature of school and/or education. This laid-back environment further develops the fun atmosphere of taking part in a Paragon workshop.

The social impacts of Paragon are evident upon sitting in on only one music or dance session. It only takes one look around the room – where everyone is cheerily smiling along as they contribute to the overall performance – to accentuate the evidence that attending Paragon offers positive changes in terms of social skills to participants. It is always a very upbeat atmosphere, where everyone is made welcome and their contribution to the group is valued. In relation to pathways, Anthony Flanagan is a perfect example of how Paragon can aid with the transition through life as a musician, in terms of support and tuition. Anthony’s extensive skills as a musician have seen his path taking the route from a participant in the “Play On” programme but now as an assistant drum tutor. On top of this, he volunteers at many of the Paragon workshops. Therefore his pathway has been enabled through experience and opportunity gained whilst working there.

I discovered Paragon through my older brother, Lewis, who attended the programme that was once known as “Play On’ and is now called “Tune”. Lewis has been attending various Paragon workshops since about 2012. My opinion of Paragon has always been very positive one, as a result of seeing the impact that it has had upon my brother over the years. These impacts have mostly been social, in which he has gained more confidence in general interactions, but also in his performance. He has gone from a shy teenager who wouldn’t dream of singing in front of his own family to an outgoing young man who would happily shake hands with any new acquaintances. As well as this, he’s now willing to perform any of his favourite Elvis songs in the most wonderfully confident manner to anyone willing to listen. Also, he’s gained skills in keyboard, learning chords and performing various different genres of music; as well as gaining interest in technical sides of performance such as different sounds that can be made by experimenting with settings and pedals, for example.

I have attended many workshops with Lewis, and not only observed a positive change in him, but also other participants. I can recall being aware of everyone’s behaviour changing throughout the course of only one music session; not to mention over the period of a whole year. It is apparent that the atmosphere within a workshop is so inclusive and open-minded that it seems to transfer over to anyone that is present at the time. There are no restrictions on the participants – every contribution that is made is taken onboard and the overall performance is always reflective of this. Nobody gets left out or ignored in any shape or form, adding to the ideology of Paragon being an inclusive music organisation.

It is always very apparent that the inclusive environment works in Paragon’s favour in every case, in terms of making the most of a music or dance session at one of their workshops (such as Tune, Resonate or M3). This is because the outcome is always exemplary. Everything is always approached in a calm, upbeat manner, which is essential in terms of creating a calm atmosphere. For example, my brother who has autism finds that carrying his favourite technological items with him a coping mechanism for his anxieties and general difficulties that he faces on a day-to-day basis. A struggle for him that really stands out is wires, in the form of charging cables and earphones. They approach it in a patient manner, Paragon have taken to carefully providing a small table by Lewis’ side while he plays keyboard so that he can sit his toys by his side – assured that they are safe whilst still being able to contribute to the music performance.

Lewis has progressed in his pathway as a young musician through attendance of the ‘Horizon’s’ programme. He started attending in May 2018, in which he has developed his skills on keyboard and performance skills. Through attending, his stage presence has been approached in a more confident manner. Paragon have helped him through this process – which he has thoroughly enjoyed. Issues such as light sensitivity, which makes Lewis feel unable to sit in a room if he’s uncomfortable with the lighting has been something that he’s been helped to overcome. In no time at all, Paragon were able to identify and eradicate the issue, providing softer lighting in which Lewis felt more able to work.

In conclusion, socially, everyone benefits from attending a Paragon workshop. Sometimes, it can be observed that within the group, everyone wants to get as much time playing their instrument as possible and may not be too considerate of listening to each other and therefore working as a collective group. Over a period of time, everyone can be seen to develop a sense of understanding for each other. In brief, the musicians all learn to take their turn and appreciate how all their contributions add to the overall impact of the final performance. This social skill that has been seen to develop in certain individuals is another example of how the inclusive environment of Paragon helps the students to work together in a group.

Antony Flanagan kindly allowed me to interview him in relation to my theme of pathways, as his pathway through into adulthood as a musician has been aided by the support of Paragon.

1. How did you discover Paragon and what programmes have you taken part in?

Whilst at high school in 2013, I was given a letter by my former headmaster from Ninian Perry, Creative Director at Paragon Music, asking if any pupils with Additional Support Needs would benefit from one-to-one and group lessons at the then ‘Play On’ programme. To coincide with this I had also begun to form a band with fellow pupils in which we performed covers of popular music, so I declined the offer at that time.

It was not until I reached the latter years of high school that I was studying music at National 5 and Higher grade that I discovered I may have needed extra support with the practice of my instruments. I then contacted Paragon myself to inquire if there was still space from to partake in the programme. Luckily, there was and I had attended Play On for two years for lessons with tutors to develop my skills on drum kit and tuned percussion.

Since May of 2015 I had continued to attend Play On (later rebranded as Tune) in a voluntary capacity and later employed as an Assistant Drum Tutor. I have been in this position for the last five years.

As well Tune, I also attend Paragon’s six other in-house programmes e.g. Stride, Beat It, Mindful Drumming, Horizons, M3 and most recently, Train and Play delivering Disability Equality and Child Protection Training to incoming trainees.

Part of my role within Paragon is acting as an advocate of their work. I have attended events in Glasgow and Edinburgh such as Glasgow Disability Alliance, Bobath Scotland, Scottish Transitions Forum and Music for Youth. I have worked alongside students and staff of higher and further education establishments such as Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University, delivering lectures and workshops in inclusive music education.

2. What school/college courses helped to shape you and get you on the path that
your life as a musician is taking you?

Upon leaving high school in July 2016, I studied a HND in Music Performance at the Glasgow campus of the Academy of Music & Sound in August 2016 until July 2018.

3. What instruments do you play? What inspired you to learn them?

My main instrument is drum kit. I began to strike in this through watching videos on YouTube and receiving private lessons for two years before deciding to study it and pursue a career in the creative industry.

4. When did you develop a passion for music & what motivated it?

As far back as I can remember, I have always had a love for music and found it to be a way in which I can comfortably express myself. From a young age, I had a good feel for rhythm and sound which helped me feel grounded and happy. I would press my hands against the loudspeakers of the television and be able to feel the beat.

5. What do you enjoy best about working with Paragon?

The most enjoyable part of working with Paragon is the people I work with and the participants whom I support. I feel privileged to be part of such a group, working with a range of experienced and specialised musicians and being involved in different projects with many young people and adults.




Cara Smith (Placement Student)

Glasgow Kelvin College