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26 August 2020

Music classes and the NDIS: How Tristan discovered a passion for bass.

Tristan Careless has found his passion. When the 21 year old discovered the bass guitar at a local music group, he was immediately hooked.

Every Tuesday and Thursday you’ll find Tristan chilling out, playing his favourite songs and learning new ones with his friends at Studio23 on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Studio23 is a safe space where people of diverse abilities can socialise, work, create and learn. Members enjoy cooking and healthy living sessions, activities and art classes but the music program is by far the most popular.

Tristan has always been interested in music. He played guitar in school and has completed a TAFE music course. But learning the bass at Studio23 changed everything.

Group music classes at Studio23

Build confidence, make friends, learn new skills.

Prior to joining Studio23 Tristan, who has a mild intellectual impairment, had been spending a lot of time alone at home. Professional musician and program facilitator, Craig Cole said that the group has helped Tristan to become more confident, make friends and learn new skills.

“Tristan has quite a good memory and incredible visual recall so we worked with his strengths. At first, we created a colour coded music book with one colour for the verse and another for the chorus to make it easier to play the notes. But he soon memorised the shape of the guitar chords and can now play along by watching what I’m playing on the guitar,” said Craig.

Tristan has now bought his own bass and says playing makes him feel “awesome”.

“I love the sound and learning the shapes and structures of songs. There are some songs I had wanted to know how to play and now I am playing them and adding my own little pieces into them. I am able to watch a video or ask Craig how to play something, then practice on my own,” Tristan said.

Tristan Careless with his bass guitar.

Image: Tristan Careless with his bass guitar.

What is it about music that makes us feel so good?

Craig believes we have a natural affinity with music because it’s the rhythm of the heart and is all around us, such as on the radio, in movies and in ads.

“Music is something that people are very familiar with and comfortable with. It also evokes a lot of emotions and that’s why I think it’s good for our group. Some songs can comfort us, some can help release frustration and anger, it is such a great channel for so many emotions,” Craig said.

“Some of our members are non-verbal. Music is incredibly powerful for them. It gives them a voice and an empowering expression even if it is through dancing or making sounds. It’s an important release.”

There’s also the superstar factor fuelled by the continued popularity of reality talent shows such as The Voice. Visits by popular musicians like Lisa Origliasso from The Veronica’s get Studio23 members pumped to channel their inner rock star and keep learning.

While everyone is encouraged to get involved, Studio23 is all about having fun and going where the mood takes you. That could be playing music, colouring in, dancing, singing or just chilling out.

“There’s often a lot of pressure on people with a disability to conform to what society wants them to be – here there are no expectations and no judgements so everyone feels comfortable to relax and express themselves,” Craig said.

Studio23 program facilitators Craig (playing guitar) and Mitch (playing banjo).

Image: Studio23 program facilitators Craig (playing guitar) and Mitch (playing banjo).

Music classes and the NDIS.

Studio23 is just one of many music programs across Australia that may be funded by an NDIS Plan.

The best way to get a music class or program included in your NDIS Plan is to think of how it will help you fulfill or work towards a goal.

For example, if your goal is to learn an instrument, become a professional performer or even street busker, the NDIS may fund some type of music class, program or therapy. Whatever program you choose, you’ll need to provide information on how it can benefit you and help you to achieve your goal.

There is no such thing as a mistake.

If you’re nervous or unsure where to start, Craig suggests reaching out to a creative person or an organisation like a gallery or music group to see if there are any classes running locally.

“Being part of a creative community is really important,” he says. “Most artists feed off other art and musicians feed off other music. Even introverts need to be inspired. Being surrounded by creative things and creative people will give you permission to express yourself and realise there is no such thing as a mistake, there is only an attempt or an expression.”

You can find Studio23 and hundreds of other providers on the Leap in! Provider Network Directory. There’s also a great new feature that lets you search for a provider near you.


We are here to help.

We understand that you may have a few more questions and that’s where we can really help. Our experienced plan managers can help make your whole NDIS journey easier. Please give us a call on 1300 05 78 78,  contact us via our website (online chat available) or email


Further reading

Music therapy and the NDIS.

Art Therapy and the NDIS.

The benefits of being creative.