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Catherine of Croydon

Community & participatory music

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Edited by Catherine Pestano, Sunday, 8 Jan 2023, 10:04

I currently offer a range of community arts opportunities, which are available through grant funding or your commissioning. 

These include community harmony singing, a Creative Café model and Arts in the Park events, including eco-activism and seasonal community celebration. These are offered through my organisation Creative Croydon, comprising musical and other creative participatory arts & music activity. Community groups and corporate groups commission this work and sometimes it is supported with grants and donations. 

My work includes facilitating the creation of others, and  and composing/performing small community songlets for wellbeing and activism. Many of my activities have a focus on community wellbeing and support with health conditions and other life challenges. This includes chant based singing and sounding for health and relaxation. Community Choirs, care home and hospital based singing have been significant areas of my work pre-covid. The metaphors around freeing the voice are very powerful.

I have been actively working in the field of community music as a practitioner and community arts manager since 1997, winning several awards. My many clients include Sutton and Croydon, Kingston and Lewisham Adult Ed services, Music Leader London and nationally, Sound Connections, Sing Up!, Trinity KS2 CPD programme, LEAN, TrinityLaban, University of Greenwich, University of Winchester, Croydon Cultural Services, Croydon Carers Centre, Croydon Youth Service, Pupil referral units, St Georges Tooting, Croydon University Hospital, Purley Cancer Centre and many others, including corporate, such as Credit Suisse and Mondial Assurance.  

This year sees the offer of both community singing and collaborative creative music making offered at affordable rates through local and online adult education providers. I enjoy supporting the training in Song Therapy which can be found here: https://www.songtherapy.net/

I am an active Honorary Fellow member of the OU Health and Arts research group, helping organise our inaugural face to face event July 2022. I have contributed on music related matters to OU Leadership conference Lifting the lid 2021, Death & Dying conference 2022 and two eco-activism & arts OU conferences. My blog for Open Learn, Refugee week 2021, can be found here, drawing on my community arts work with LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers. https://www.open.edu/openlearn/society-politics-law/reflections-on-resilience-lgbtq-asylum-seekers?in_menu=1414478

A passion is diversity and anti -oppressive practice in community arts. I organised the first international cross-community arts colloquium in 2010 and the first Music Teachmeet in partnership with Vital.ac.uk and the Open University in 2012. A more recent Music Teachmeet was run in partnership with KTV partners & Music Mark UK in 2021. I have been Chair (6 year) of the national organisations Sound Sense and Culture& (6 year) and am currently on the board of Women in Music UK and a longstanding member of the National network for Women Chairs.


My podcast about wellbeing and singing, on Deborah Walkers show, shared with kind permission: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3m9mD4wY60

Some of my publications and resources in the community music sector are listed below.

Pestano, C. and Blackburn, L. (2021) Waiting to exhale, together. In Borgstrom, E. & Mallon, S. (Eds) Covid & Experiences of Loss. Milton Keynes, England: The Open University 

Pestano, C. (2021) ‘Reflections on resilience for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers’ Open Learn, The Open University: Milton Keynes

Pestano, C. (2021). Caring for the Carers. In K. S. Hendricks & J. Boyce-Tillman (Eds.), Music and Spirituality Series: Vol. 7. Living Song: Singing, Spirituality, and Wellbeing. Oxford, England: Peter Lang.

Pestano, C. (2021). Improvisation. In K. S. Hendricks & J. Boyce-Tillman (Eds.), Music and Spirituality Series: Vol. 7. Living Song: Singing, Spirituality, and Wellbeing. Oxford, England: Peter Lang.

Pestano, C. (2021). The Change . In K. S. Hendricks & J. Boyce-Tillman (Eds.), Music and Spirituality Series: Vol. 7. Living Song: Singing, Spirituality, and Wellbeing. Oxford, England: Peter Lang.

Pestano, C. (2018) “Queering the space - Community music work with LGBT groups”. In K. S. Hendricks & J. Boyce-Tillman (Eds.), Music and Spirituality Series: Vol. 6. Queering freedom: Music, identity, and spirituality. Oxford, England: Peter Lang

Pestano, C., (2016) “Creative group work using community music with LGBTQ youth: Reflections on resilience” in PSYPAG Quarterly, Issue 101 December 2016, pp 45-49, The British Psychological Society, London, UK

Pestano, C. (2013), “Music Work with LGBT youth”  in Harrison, C. and Mullen, P. (2013),  Reaching out: Music with ‘hard to reach’ children and young people, MUSIC Mark, London, UK

Rathbone, M. and Pestano, C. (2013), “Border Crossings”, in Music Mark Journal,   Volume 1 (pp 72-76), Music Mark Publishers, UK

Pestano, C. (2012) “Music and Health” in Music Education UK Edition 2, Feb 2012, pp 48-51, London: Music Education UK

Pestano, C. (2008), “Music Project in Serbia”, in NAME Journal of National Association of Music Educators, Spring 2008, NAME publications, UK

Pestano, C. and Lissimore, T. (2007), “Get your Act together”, in: Coll, H. & Finney, J (Eds.) Ways into music: Making every child's music matter. Matlock: National Association of Music Educators, UK

Pestano, C. (2003), “Voice of the People”, in Grassroots Magazine, UK

Woodward, S. and Pestano, C. (2010), “Marginalized communities: Reaching those falling outside socially accepted norms” in Veblen, K.K. & Elliott, D.J. (Eds.). (2013).  Community music today.  Landham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, USA

I can be contacted at Catherine.pestano [at] open.ac.uk

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