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Natalie Mason

Music, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

International and intercultural music-making with children and families in the West Midlands: routes from community to classroom and beyond

My research explores music-making that connects with contemporary and traditional international sounds in educational and community settings. The focus of my PhD is local musicking of newly-arrived and continually marginalised groups, in communities around the West Midlands, who have a connection to diaspora.

At the interface of an interdisciplinary area between ethnomusicology; music education; community music and applied ethnomusicology scholarship, my main areas of inquiry are:

  • participant-led, responsive praxis within intercultural music education
  • international music-making of children and families in the West Midlands.

In my fieldwork, I will be a participant-observer of music-making sessions and interview adult participants. A focus on participant-led practice has informed my decision to develop a child-centred approach to my PhD research, so I will hold focus groups with children to inform music sessions to test pedagogical ideas for international intercultural music-making. Due to the pandemic, I have made some adaptations to my research methodology to be able to do my research remotely, but remain connected to the music-making experience via the use of wearable technology. 

Research in this field is important to influence development of new pedagogies and equitable eduction, in a time when music in schools can be perceived to be under threat. I hope to contribute to better sustainability of this work and its future iterations, while creating important primary research into a little documented field of emergent music practice(s) in this region. 

Research Area

  • Music


  • Mason, Natalie and Cara Stacey (2019) 'Composing, Creative Play and the Ethical Incomplete: Practice-Based Approaches in Ethnomusicology'. SAMUS 38
  • Mason, Natalie (2019) Book review - Davida, Gabriels, Hudon and Pronovost, eds. Curating Live Arts: Critical Perspectives, Essays, and Conversations on Theory and Practice. 'Book Notes' in Yearbook for Traditional Music 51
  • Mason, Natalie (2016) 'The Edge Suite'. In Insights into Collaborative Practice by Artists on the Edge. Birmingham: ARTicle Press
  • Mason, Natalie and Cara Stacey (2012) Website review - The South African Music Archive Project (SAMAP). The World of Music 1 (2)


January 2022: Presented paper in 'Musical Ethnography' session at British Forum for Ethnomusicology / Royal Musical Association Research Students Conference 

June 2021: Presented in research relay at Midlands4Cities research festival

May 2021: Chaired and presented poster at University of Birmingham School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music research conference

April 2021: Presented poster at Midlands Music Research Network conference

March 2021: Presented poster at European Association for Music in Schools conference as part of Doctoral Student Forum 

November 2020: Guest lecture on community music practice for students at North-West University, South Africa

Public Engagement & Impact

This research is inspired by a decade of community music work in the UK and South Africa. Since 2015 I have been Creative Director of the Youth Music funded 'Multicultural Music Making' project in partnership with Friction Arts, working with children and families in Birmingham and Walsall. The MMM project provides community music education opportunities and creative intercultural space for school pupils, plus training opportunities for musicians and teachers. I feel this research will immediately benefit the ongoing MMM project, and extend the reach of this work more broadly, with the potential to impact music education policy and curriculum design. 

Other Research Interests

  • Ethnomusicology
  • Music Education 
  • Community Music 
  • Applied Ethnomusicology
  • Education
  • Practice-based research 
  • Culture Studies


  • British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) 
  • Sound Sense
  • Peer reviewer for British Journal of Music Education (BJME)