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"I have only known a few outstanding teachers in my time and Ben is one." Dale Brown-Headteacher, Lioncare Education

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Latest...Barnaby Beck's music video Crying Shame selected for international film festival Oska Bright!
See below for the latest video releases from Mango Mammals Records, our disability-led record label.

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​Bespoke and therapeutic music programmes catering for a wide range of needs and abilities

A record label showcasing the incredible music of disabled artists. Created by the artists themselves and facilitated by SMS.

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Ben Eakins
Director/Senior Producer
Specialist Music Service

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Specialist Music Service offers an alternative to mainstream education. We work with students with a wide range of varied and complex needs. Through tailored courses and a unique environment our learners are supported to access community, opportunities and creativity in order to re-connect with their educational journey.

Our staff team of Specialist Teachers and Education Mentors are highly skilled in both the areas of SEND/MH and the creative industries. We specialise in engaging children and young people who are hard to reach with bespoke programmes. These programmes enable our learners to grow in confidence, gain academic achievements and creative abilities while developing social and emotion skills and well being.  



In 2016 Ben Eakins founded the Specialist Music Service Brighton, a multi-disciplinary music service offering bespoke and therapeutic music sessions, professional musical tuition and music industry opportunities. This service caters to a wide range of need and ability, providing meaningful experiences and opportunities


Ben is a singer songwriter, producer and qualified teacher. He is passionate about the therapeutic value of music, particularly its unique ability to engage, enable and empower people with physical and learning disabilities.  

Prior to SMS, Ben was Head of Music at St John's College, Brighton (A Non Maintained Specialist College for students with varied and complex needs).   


SMS is well connected to Brighton's thriving musical scene, both in the mainstream and the disabled communities, with the aim to remove barriers between the two. The service provides disabled musicians mainstream opportunities and links mainstream musicians and audiences to disability led music.

Industry innovation: Facilitated by SMS service users created Mango Mammals, an exciting new record label created by disabled artists for disabled artists. Click the record label tab to learn more...


The SMS approach:

We provide bespoke therapeutic alternative educational provision, therapeutic input around experience , communication and social and emotional development,  and work experience.    

In a therapeutic context, our approach incorporates intensive Interaction, Son-Rise and Speech and Language methods. Sensory musical interaction, improvisational and songwriting methods are also key when working with students more profoundly affected by their disablities.

Artist Development and Music Industry Experience

Whether or not service users have additional needs there is always the opportunity to develop as an artist or creator with SMS. This is may be through one or all of the following: the development of musical proficiency, songwriting, gig and recording opportunities and promotion/ distribution through the record label. Many students are now regularly writing, recording and gigging. A student recently attained the DRAKE music Emergent Artist Commission. The wonderful thing about the creation of an in house record label is that artists support other artists in their releases, while learning valuable industry skills such as creating professional recordings, software and videography skills and online PR. As a result embedded learning includes: literacy, language, IT and maths. 

Work experience

SMS is continually working to grow its links with the wider community to allow service users access to meaningful work experience opportunities when needed. Current opportunities include: music teaching assistant, record label directors, communications officer, multimedia editor, gig promoter, recording engineer and rehearsal studio assistant.

Service partners and Stakeholders:

Small Pond Records: A recording studio and record label who have been invaluable in providing a professional environment and music industry experience for service users 

East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and Hounslow Local Authorities.  Most learners are funded through their local authority particularly to address EHCP needs.

We work closely with residents of residential settings Outlook House, Glenholme and Gracev Eyre residential as well as school and college settings such as Lioncare School, St John's College. 



"Ben has worked with my son for over five years, on a one to one basis and also facilitating his participation in small groups. Through his encouragement and professional support my son has developed his creative skills as well as his confidence in performing.  Together they have worked on original songs, launched an EP, formed a band, attended summer schools, performed at gigs and festivals, developed DJ skills, performed acoustically on radio shows, created an online presence and completed a portfolio of work for Silver and Gold Arts Awards.  Ben’s approach is genuinely inclusive - gently challenging barriers that might otherwise prevent disabled artists from showcasing their musical talents.  Always positive, always drawing out innate creativity, always ambitious for those he works with - my son has found his voice and will be heard." Karen Walkden  (Parent)​

"Whilst taking part in a creative process is of itself very valuable and enjoyable, the sessions with Ben have given my son so much more than that.They have taught him how to work collaboratively and reliably with others, to respect and celebrate not only his own work but the work of others. To find self worth and confidence in his abilities and pride in working on and completing something and then having the option of performing it. Most importantly music and songwriting have given him the means and fluency to express his thoughts and feelings. It has literally given him a voice." Lesley Beck (Parent).

"I have only known a few outstanding teachers in my time and Ben is one. He has made such a big impact in such a short time." Dale Brown: Headteacher, Lioncare Education

Meet the team

Dan Beldom
Session Leader/Head of Visual Arts
Specialist Music Service


“I have over 12 years experience in combining therapeutic teaching and creative subjects. I am passionate about providing exciting creative and talking/ listening spaces for young people, to support their mental health. 


While working in secondary schools and colleges, I have worked with a wide range of students with varied and complex needs. I specialise in enabling students with SEND and mental health diagnosis to develop socially and emotionally, academically and creatively. 

I believe each young person should have a voice and somewhere to be heard. With the right holistic support and environment I feel that all young people can flourish and should have the opportunity to do so .

I am a photographer and visual artist which aids my work and means of connection with students and their creative courses. I am personally passionate about the education, support, and empowerment of young people. I am committed to supporting the journeys and goals of all our learners.”

Chris Hallen
Session Leader/Music Tutor
Specialist Music Service

“I have over 9 years of teaching experience working in various schools and colleges - working with a wide range of young people with varied and complex needs. I am currently working as a Session Leader/Music Tutor at Specialist Music Service – running music, song-writing and performance development workshops for young people and adults in a therapeutic approach. I am very passionate about the development and wellbeing of the young people I work with and teaching music helps continue to inspire me. I feel very lucky to have met and taught so many talented people over the years.


Music has been a huge part of my life since I was very young. My family were always playing various types of music and introducing me to all sorts of genres whilst I was growing up. I learnt to play the drums at age 11 and then went on to learn the guitar not long after. I’ve been enjoying writing, creating, and playing music ever since.


I’ve been fortunate enough to have played live shows in multiple bands, toured the UK and Europe several times, and also recorded at various studios over the years - learning different processes with different producers/engineers. These days I continue to write my own music at my home studio and continue to teach and work with as many people as possible.”

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Fred Hills
Session Leader
Specialist Music Service

“I am a professional independent musician from Brighton. After graduating from Sussex University with a music degree in 2008, I have predominantly been working as a session drummer & guitarist since then.


I have been playing drums for over 20 years and guitar for around 15 years. My style of drumming is an ‘open-handed’ drummer, which lends itself well to bringing creativity and musicality to the drums. In terms of influences, I grew up listening to The Beatles, Elvis, Motown, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers & Foo Fighters. Later in life, I became more inspired by jazz, electronica, progressive & folk music through groups such as The Cinematic Orchestra, Bonobo, Jose Gonzales & White Denim.


I gained an NCFE certificate in understanding autism and began working as a SEN music teacher in September 2021 at St John’s School in Seaford. Alongside this, I began leading music sessions with Specialist Music Services at Small Pond Studios. I aim to bring a therapeutic, inclusive approach to my teaching and I hope to inspire and educate students through creative development, technical development, styles & genres and live performance mentoring.”

Tom Anderson
Session Leader
Specialist Music Service

“I have been working within music the industry over the past decade. Writing, touring and performing original projects (Common tongues, Michael Baker, The Big Drink, K.A.T.E ) throughout the uk and across many parts of Europe. I have also qualified with a BA Honors in Professional musicianship and Songwriting.

Currently I split my time between writing for advert sync/music library as well as helping to deliver and support creative projects for people with learning disabilities for both SMS and the charity Superstar Arts based in West Sussex. Here projects consist of music and songwriting workshops, choirs formed of participants (which I have recorded) as well as a range of other arts and crafts.

I have a passion for songwriting and a real love for helping others delve into songwriting as a tool to be creative.”

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Lorna MacDonald-Grant
Trainee Session Leader 
Specialist Music Service


I am a Singer/Songwriter, Learning Support Assistant and Artist Liaison Officer.

Having achieved a BA Hons in Songwriting with Sussex University, I have been working to progress from assisting to leading music and arts sessions with SMS, specialising in songwriting and performance development.


I have been writing and recording my own songs for over 10 years and I believe, wholeheartedly, in the therapeutic benefit that songwriting can bring. Alongside songwriting, I have worked as Main Stage Artist Liaison at festivals such as Love Supreme and Houghton Festival, as well as a UK arena tour with Young Voices working directly alongside Artists such as Grace Jones, Gregory Porter, Erykah Badu, Heather Small and much more !


Providing personal and real world experience with music, I work to impart knowledge of all aspects of the Music Industry within sessions.


In terms of SEN experience, I have worked in a Learning Support role at a specialist school, as well working supporting Young People and Adults with Special Educational needs for over a year within the work at SMS.”

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The Studio


Most sessions are held at Small Pond Rehearsal and Recording studios in central Brighton. The environment is relaxed and professional offering access to state of the art equipment


Small Pond Studios

27 Castle Street






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