Susan Donnelly


BA (Hons) Music, MA in Contemporary Performing Arts (Music), Cert Ed (Post 16), QTLS, MSET, FHEA.

I am currently HE Pathway Leader for Music and Music Technology at Barnsley College H.E. My main areas of interest as a freelance arts worker and researcher are in community music and community music research, particularly within the women's refuge setting and NHS settings.

I have worked as a music lecturer/course leader since 1994 and have also taught and led programmes in A-Level Music/Music Technology, Vocational Music, Music Technology and Performing Arts and degree courses in Popular Music and Music Technology. I also spent a number of years teaching music and performing arts to students with learning difficulties and disabilities, we often devised musicals and operas open to public performance.

I began working for Barnardos Family Centre as a therapeutic music worker whilst taking my Master's Degree. At the same time I was invited onto the steering group for Corridor Arts, a pioneering arts organisation aiming to promote the arts within the most economically deprived areas of Barnsley. During this time I delivered projects in a variety of community settings including youth groups and schools, I also wrote original music for the Worsborough Mystery Plays.

More recently I have worked for IDAS women's refuges, offering music and art sessions.I am an advocate for social prescribing and social justice and recently talked about music in the refuge for a ‘Young Musicians for Social Justice’ podcast (02/04/2021). I also spoke at the Internationational Centre for Community Musicians (December, 2021) about my practice and research as a community musician. 

I am researching the role of music within recovery for my PhD at Leeds University.Post Graduate Areas of research have included:

  • An analysis of the music of Cornelius Cardew in relation to social/political belief and enlightenment. This research included interviews with John Tilbury, Michael Parsons and other friends of cardew. Copies of Cardew's hand written scores were also sent by his son to inform research.
  • An analysis of the arts in Barnsley during the mid-90's in relation to socio-political factors and context
  • The individual and group benefits of community music-making and their relation to society
  • Music appreciation in relation to context. Research included the functions and contexts of music appreciation and their links to passive through to active involvement. Music linked to indigenous cultures, music linked to dance and music linked to concerts all formed part of the research. Interviews included the administrator of the Proms during 1996, Stephen Maddock.
  • Current research centres around the outcomes and benefits of music as an intervention with the women's refuge setting
  • International Centre for Community Music (York St John University)

I have composed a number of works for choir, orchestra or small chamber ensemble including:

  • Requiem (1992)
  • Black is the Colour of my True Love's Hair (Fantasy on a Folk Theme) (1992)
  • Swete Jesu (A Song for Christmas) (1992)
  • Symphonia for Musical Ensemble, Voices & Sound Tape (1993)
  • Nativity (Devised with the children of Shafton Youth Club) (1995) 
  • The Celestial Dawning: Worsborough Mystery Plays (1995)
  • Accounts (A Music/Drama Piece for Soundtape and Voices) (1996)
  • The River (1996)
  • Pandora (A Piece using Extended Flute Technique and Electronic Effects) (1996)

Research interests

My current research is exploring the role of music in recovery from domestic abuse in women’s refuges. I have worked at refuges since 2013 and my work there links me to two organisations, The Independent Domestic Abuse Services and Qdos Creates, an arts-based charity providing arts-based intervention within the community.

My research and experience covers the following areas:

  • music and wellbeing
  • music and identity
  • music within therapeutic intervention
  • music and CBT
  • music and mental health
  • psycho/biomedical links
  • community music
  • community music therapeutic intervention
  • community music and social justice
  • democratic research methodology
  • social prescription

I have also delivered a ‘Music on the Wards’ project for the NHS, linked to three acute psychiatric wards.


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • QTLS (The Society of Education & Training)
  • Certificate of Education (Post-16)
  • MA in Contemporary Performing Arts (Music)
  • BA (Hons) Music