Dr Natalie Bradford
Natalie Bradford is passionate about providing equal access opportunities to music participation for everyone, irrespective of their needs or challenges. She is a musician, teacher and academic researcher, with a special interest in understanding how participating in music can enhance well-being and support people in achieving happy and fulfilling lives within their community. Having spent her summer holidays as a student volunteering at a local special needs school, an interest was sparked which was going to become a life-long venture.
Natalie studied for her first BSc Degree in Psychology at London University, with special needs education forming an integral part of her studies and dissertation. After working as a stockbroker in the City for a few years and raising three daughters, Natalie then returned to education. She moved into the world of music and embarked upon an exciting journey that has led to worldwide international travel and academic study at the famous Royal College of Music Conservatoire in London. Learning to play the violin as an adult and having progressed through all the grade examinations, a performance-based music degree seemed to be the next logical step. This was undertaken at Colchester Institute Music Department (University of Essex), where a first class BA Music Degree was awarded in 2014. With a keenness to pursue further musical expertise, the next step of the journey involved a Masters’ Degree at the Royal College of Music (Performance Science). Upon successful completion of this, Natalie was then invited to remain at the Royal College of music and undertake a PhD, as a scholarship award candidate.
In the summer of 2014, following completion of her music degree, Natalie was introduced to David Stanley and the Music Man Project. After several months of training and observing alongside David, Natalie opened the first Music Man centre outside of the Southend area. Maldon MMP was thus established as the first satellite group running alongside the original Southend centre. This marked the start of the national and international expansion programme and highlighted a significant first step towards the future vision for the Music Man Project.
The Maldon students very much enjoy performing both at their own concerts, and in conjunction with the other MMP groups for the larger scale productions. Natalie has played lead roles in the major Music Man performances, including both of the London Palladium shows (2015 and 2017) and the more recent production at the Royal Albert Hall (2019). Natalie is significantly involved in expanding the Music Man Project both nationally and internationally. She has also been instrumental in organising overseas trips, namely South Africa (Sizanani), India (Bangalore) and Nepal (Kathmandu). She has been heavily involved in all aspects of these visits, which have provided an amazingly interesting insight into the cross-cultural aspects of the benefits of music participation.
Natalie has recently completed her PhD after five years of study and the Music Man Project formed an integral part of this research. She explored the benefits of participating in music on the well-being of adults with Down’s syndrome. As musicians we all know and see the wonderful benefits of music on a daily basis. However, empirical research was lacking to support these anecdotal claims. The results provided ground-breaking evidence to suggest that music can support all aspects of well-being in adults with Down’s syndrome, including both students that attend music classes on a regular basis, and those who undertook a 10 week programme of music-making, within the MMP environment. This project was original both in methodological design and its contribution to knowledge, in this new and under-represented field of research. For those interested in further details of the project, the entire PhD is available for download.
Outside of her Music Man role, Natalie enjoys playing her violin and saxophone. She is a member of All Souls Orchestra, Langham Place, and has enjoyed performing at the Royal Albert Hall on several occasions for their annual Prom Praise flagship concerts. She also enjoys teaching at an adult community music school, leading a string ensemble and teaching individual violin lessons. When not involved in music, she can often be seen out running with her crazy Springer Spaniel Skye!