Since 2012, through a partnership with the Lotus Centre for Special Music Education, musicians from the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) have presented music programming for people with exceptionalities in the Music Circle program. Expanding the Music Circle aimed to bridge both difference and distance through networked improvisation. Networked music is making making music together on-line in real time from separate physical locations. Improvisation is a flexible and creative type of musicking that has the capacity to foster hope and build equitable relationships through co-creative collaboration because of its emphasis on listening, responsiveness and reciprocity. As Tucker et. al state, “to improvise across abilities is to stretch sound, communities, and consciousness” (2016, 198).

Our goal was to expand the Music Circle through the development of a networked musical improvisation pedagogy in collaboration with 6 NACO musicians, 3 special music educators from the Lotus Centre, and 7 adults with exceptionalities, and by extension to demonstrate an innovative model for increasing equity and access to musical participation for everyone.

During summer 2021 we worked with the Sonshine Community Inclusion Centre to hold a series of improvisation sessions on Zoom with all three groups. Thanks to the generous participation and feedback of the participants, we learned a lot about creating a joyous integrated ensemble!

Outputs: In 2022 we presented at the International Society for Music Education and the Society for Ethnomusicology. We also prepared a report for the NACO with recommendations for expanding the Music Circle program and we co-authored an academic article. In 2023 we presented for the Institute for Music and Health along with participants from Sonshine, and we capped the project off with a musical jam in person at Sonshine Community Inclusion Centre.

Read the Report: Expanding the Music Circle (PDF)


  • Ellen Waterman (PI)
  • Erin Parkes (co-applicant)
  • Jesse Stewart
  • Geneviève Cimon


Funding by SSHRC Partnership Engage COVID-19 Grant (2020)