Journey: Bridging Cultures Through Music


Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme


Journey: Bridging Cultures Through Music

A collaboration between the Orchestra of St John’s, the Oxford Spires Academy, TORCH and the Department of Music at the University of Oxford which brings together young asylum seekers and year twelve students for a cooperative music composition project.

This project will continue in Autumn 2020, and details of a 2021 performance will be announced as soon as possible.

Project Directors

  • Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, Postdoctoral Researcher and Associate Conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s
  • Dr Toby Young, Postdoctoral Researcher and Composer in Residence with the Orchestra of St John’s

Displaced Voices at King's Place January 2019


One of the things we all love so much about music is its ability to support or change our mood/how we feel—helping us to relax, focus or get energised to perform a task. Sometimes music virtually transports us to another place and time—a far away memory, perhaps, or a new horizon which we didn’t expect. Music takes us on journeys into and back out of ourselves and to places we have never seen before, connecting us with people we have never met. Music also tells stories, tales of who we are, where we’re from, and how we are in relation with each other.

Listening to music affords all of these experiences and so many more, but making music provides a whole new spectrum of possibilities. Whether making music on one’s own, or with others, we come into social relation with instruments and people—we interact. Even singing on one’s own, you interact with the physicality of your voice which responds in more or less expected ways(!). Through these interactions interpersonal connections are fostered, giving rise to new ideas and new ways of understanding one’s self and others.

Journey capitalises on all of these affordances of music in order break down cultural barriers between young asylum seekers and migrants who are part of Oxford Spires Academy’s STEP programme (Steps Toward English Proficiency) and other students their age in year 12. An outgrowth of Displaced Voices (see video below), a project that amplified the voices of young refugees through the combination of orchestral music and poetry, Journey scaffolds the composition process to engage participants in the creative act of writing an electro-acoustic orchestral piece of music. Through a series of workshops, participants explore and bring together their musical heritages to construct a musical narrative that shares the multiplicity of experiences—the journeys—of the individuals in the group with the wider community.

While research has revealed a lot about what music can afford, there is less we know about the impacts of such socio-musical initiatives on the participants themselves. An important part of this project is a collaboration with Professor Samantha Dieckmann and two postgraduate students: Rose Campion and Samuel Fouts, who are conducting a study on the experiences of young people taking part. Additionally, the project has provided a placement opportunity for music students taking the Music in the Community module and we are pleased to be working with three excellent undergraduates: Hannah Soares (Oriel), Ellen O’Brien (St Hilda’s) and Tristan Weymes (Trinity).

Public Performance at the North Wall Arts Centre originally scheduled for early July is now TBD.





Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, Director of Performance at St Catherine’s College and Associate Conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s. She holds postgraduate degrees in orchestral conducting, percussion and musicology; her research focuses on the social psychology and socio-political aspects of orchestral performance. Publications include ‘The Body Orchestral’ (2018), a book chapter exploring the cognitive mechanisms underpinning co-performer communication, ‘Digital Methods in the Study of the Nineteenth-Century Orchestra’ (2020) in Nineteenth-Century Music Review, and ‘Agency, Creativity and (Inter)action in Orchestra Performance’ for Making Music Together: Analytical Perspectives on Musical Interaction.












toby young

Dr Toby Young is a composer and researcher whose work explores the boundaries between pop and classical music. Since winning the Guardian/BBC Proms Young Composer of the Year (2006) and the International ABRSM Composition Competition (2009), Toby’s music has been performed by renowned ensembles including the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music, London Mozart Players, and the choirs of King’s College Cambridge, New College Oxford, and Westminster Abbey. He has also written and co-written for numerous pop artists including the Rolling Stones, Chase & Status, Duran Duran, and Ellie Goulding. Toby is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

journey whereicomefrom