In recent years, music-based interventions have been utilised as a tool for improving public health, reducing inequalities and promoting well-being of young people.
Although some researchers have begun to draw links between music-related inter-
ventions and positive health outcomes, there is little understanding as to how such
effects are produced. Realist evaluations—understanding what works, for whom and
under what circumstances—are a particularly apt means by which we can open this
‘black box’. In this paper, we use a realist evaluation to assess a community-based
music initiative designed and implemented to support the well-being of disadvan-
taged young people in Scotland. In order to gain perspectives on the range of con-
textual characteristics, mechanisms and outcomes, we collected quantitative and
qualitative data in the form of pre- and post-questionnaires, as well as conducting
interviews with beneficiaries and stakeholders. Our findings show that the interven-
tion achieved a positive impact on the self-confidence, well-being and engagement
of disadvantaged young people. This impact was achieved via an approach personally
tailored to the individual needs of the young people; and an organisational environ-
ment characterised by trust, whereby young people felt safe to express themselves.