Community Music

Community Music: A Handbook (Pete Moser and George McKay, eds., 2005)

The emergence of what is now generally termed Community Music has been charted elsewhere, notably in Anthony Everett’s (1997) comprehensive and compelling survey Joining In and, more recently in Pete Moser’s and George McKay’s engaging handbook of Community Music published in 2005…. In Chapter 3 [of Community Music] … we find improvisation directly linked to the development of community music in Britain. In a succinct passage subtitled ‘from improv to institution’ George McKay outlines this link, showing how improvising musicians, pioneers such as John Stevens, Edwin Prevost, Maggie Nichols and Trevor Watts who cut their teeth in the freedom music which grew largely though by no means exclusively from avant-garde jazz in the sixties, became some of the early movers and shakers who brought improvisation to people in diverse places, upstairs rooms in pubs, school classrooms, higher education colleges, where improvisational practice was often marginalised or misunderstood…. [O]ne aspect of Moser and McKay’s book which carries some of the depth potential of participatory music and which makes this book such a gem are the poems by Lemn Sissay which are interspersed with the chapters. Here we find the archetypes, the images, the ambiguities and the contradictions which connect people to the dance, to time and to each other. In ‘Applecart art’, for example, Sissay plays richly with words, melodies, rhythm and images to create an energetic and iconoclastic call for creative renewal – ‘Upset the art. Smash the applecart!’ Rod Paton, Lifemusic: Connecting People to Time (2012), pp. 197-198

As close to a definitive book on community music as we are likely to see for some time.… [McKay’s chapter] is a short history of the movement (and an admirable introduction to its philosophy). Andrew Peggie, review article in Sounding Board (Spring 2005), 11-13

Music and songwriting are great at getting people together to express themselves. Community Music is a wonderful tool for all those who wish to tap into this latent creativity. Inspirational.  Billy Bragg

… an important book for both the community music clinician and the music educator…. offers veteran and novice community music practitioners insightful approaches to group music  making.… a mandatory read. Stephen Baranski, International Journal of Community Music 1:1 (2007), 131-36


Although this book is primarily designed to be used in the running of workshops and participatory music in community sessions, informal education and street performance, it clearly can have a much wider usage as a handbook of resources that can be used in many other contexts. The ring-bound format makes it user-friendly. Each chapter starts with a poem by Lemn Sissay, setting a tone of creativity. The first chapter on starting a musical session of any sort is full of inspiring energetic pictures that show this is not about being a wonderful musician, but about expression and connected group work. Ideas are presented as simple and flexible. The remaining chapters focus more deeply on specific musical themes (for example, rhythm), illustrated with case studies and numerous exercises to experiment with. I would imagine this text could make musical ways of working accessible to non-musicians and would be a valuable resource for anyone looking to use non-verbal, creative modes of communication in their work. Worth taking a risk and trying an experiment or two. And there’s an excellent resource and reading list (including websites) at the back. Joy Gravestock, Community Care (8 September 2005)

… it is testament both to a decade of grassroots experience and a collection of best practice methodologies from within and for the community music sector.… It’s an approach that works well, not just because it enables different voices to be heard but also because it affords tangible examples of what is achievable.… What impresses about the volume is its ability to embrace different schools of thought—academic and experiential—while remaining focussed. Link magazine (Spring 2005), 49

Offers guidance, tips, exercises and first-hand experiences about making community music, running workshops, building up relationships, group work and planning and performance & culturally diverse… a comprehensive guide to anyone who wants to explore music-making. Care and Health magazine (April 26 2005), 33


I read this excellent ‘how to’ book in one sitting and then went back for more. As the editors so wisely point out, learning to play an instrument is ‘a lifetime journey’. But all journeys start with a first step, and Community Music provides the ideal starting point.…  The 203 pages are brimming with thought-provoking exercises, personal experiences, musical exercises, and useful advice for community arts workers, music teachers and people involved in alternative informal education. The opening chapter, ‘Ways into workshops’, covers starting workshops, building relationships, warm-ups and logistics and preparation. It takes you back to the beginning, makes you stop and think and consider what you are doing, and the how and why of. Every workshop leader should read this, even if they have been running workshops for years…. In addition, there is an interesting chapter about the history and development of community music in the UK, followed by a case study of More Music in Morecambe. There are also some informative pages on new technologies and, in particular, on the wonderful Drake project that runs music programmes for people with special needs…. So while it may not be the definitive guide to community music, it is as close as you can get. So buy it, read it and do it. Erika Woods, ‘Top tips for creating community music projects’, Children and Young People Now magazine (25 May 2005), 21

We highly recommend Community Music to those working in the field of community arts, whatever the age of the targeted participants.… [I]t gives a broad and personable study of the introductory, historical, practical, developmental and psychological aspects of community music. This study is thorough and inclusive and commendably does not restrict itself to any particular musical genre … a unique handbook. English National Youth Arts Network (2006)

Instructive and inspiringSounding Board

Excellent … will be of value to music makers of all kinds and to those who are not.  Youth and Policy

highly recommended. Music Manifesto website (2006)

Beautifully designed by Space Lounge design studio in Lancaster, it is full of inspirational thoughts, ideas and advice. It even features a series of newly-commissioned poems by Manchester-based poet Lemn Sissay. To get an insight into different ways of working, the book features nine musicians who work in the sphere of community music. The featured artists include Lancaster composer, singer and musician Steve Lewis and Dan Fox, a musician and composer from The Lanternhouse in Ulverston. The Visitor (5 May, 2005)

Pete Moser’s leadership of More Music in Morecambe has been one of the great success stories of the UK community music movement and I recommend anyone involved with teaching samba or community music of any sort to get this book.

A more discursive publication Community Music: A Handbook edited by Pete Moser & George McKay gives valuable insights into working in the community music sector…. (2007)

This collection was produced with the aid of grants from Arts Council England, Youth Music Action Zone.

One reply on “Community Music”

Hi! I will love to buy the book Community Music: A Handbook (Pete Moser and George McKay, eds., 2005). I’m in Portugal. Do you deliver to here?
Thank you

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