Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Sarah Mawby

PhD Candidate in Music Psychology

Sarah’s research explores how music education and music therapy are used in schools for children with special educational needs. She is co-supervised by Dr Karen Burland and Dr Alinka Greasley and her research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the White Rose Consortium of Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH).


Sarah holds a BMus degree in Music Performance and a MMus degree in the Applied Psychology of Music from the University of Leeds. A singer by trade, she became interested in researching music education for children with SEN whilst studying abroad at The University of North Texas. In addition to her research experience, she has also worked and volunteered as a community music leader for organisations such as the National Autistic Society, the NSPCC, Age UK, KIDS, and the Lavender Hill Mob Theatre Company (an inclusive theatre company in Norfolk).

Research Interests

  • Music Education
  • Music Therapy
  • Cognitive Neuroscience of Music
  • SEN Education
  • Disability Studies


PGR Student Representative

Co-organiser for the 2015-2016 School of Music Research Seminar Series

Project Researcher: Musical Leisure: Exploring identities at work and play

Research Projects & Grants

Recipient of an AHRC funded WRoCAH PhD Studentship

External Appointments

Chair of the University of Leeds ‘Resonances’ Qualitative Research Reading Group

Lead organiser of the ‘Resonances’ 2015 Qualitative Research Conference: https://resonancesconference.wordpress.com

PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision

Co-supervised by Dr Karen Burland and Dr Alinka Greasley

PhD Thesis

Sarah is interested in exploring what constitutes music education and what constitutes music therapy in schools for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN). She has carried out two research studies to date (prior to PhD study). Both were single case-studies which explored practitioners’ experiences of the way in which music teaching and music therapy were implemented in their respective schools. Interviews were carried out with the Head Teacher or Deputy Head Teacher, the Music Therapist, and the practitioner with lead responsibility for music teaching in the school (in one school this was a specialist Music Teacher, in the other a designated Music Coordinator). Observations of music therapy sessions and music lessons were also carried out. Overall, the findings showed that despite there being some key differences in approach to music therapy and music teaching, there were several similarities between the two practices in each SEN school. As such, there was considerable overlap between the aims and approaches of each practice. This is in-keeping with findings from previous research. However, it was also seen that the extent to which each practice overlapped varied widely between the two schools depending on the way in which music therapy was integrated into the curriculum. For example, one school saw music therapy as a comprehensive component of their overall curriculum whereas the other viewed its inclusion in the school time-table as an extra-curricular activity. This difference in approach to curriculum design affected the way that participating practitioners felt able to collaborate with one another on shared goals and aims in their respective schools. Sarah is continuing this research for her PhD.

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