I’d never really heard of Community Music until 2005, when I was passed on some information about a training course in Essex. Even the leaflet I was given didn’t really explain much- Just that it was run by Youth Music and they were looking for musicians to take part. As it was a free/subsidised course, I decided to give it a whirl, auditioned and got a space. Luckily for me, the tutor for the programme was Phil Mullen- an amazing and inspirational guy at the leading edge of music in the community, Goldsmith Lecturer and Chair of International Community Music. Probably one of the best people you want teaching you about this field as his knowledge and experience was so incredibly vast. One thing that will always stick in my mind though, is how inspirational he was to me and my fellow trainees, hence, here I am almost 7 years later, more involved with this sector than ever before.
So…what is Community Music? First of all, this isn’t going to be an epic-long blog, just an intro if you like. There are many different areas to this sector but I am going to point out some different areas worth looking into, for anyone who’s interested. There is a lot of evidence and research out there that show the importance of creative arts and the impact it has on different communities as well as individuals. Participation, Engagement, Inclusion and Increased Wellbeing are some of the first words you may come across, in a variety of settings. An example of the kind of groups you could work with could be:
-Baby/Toddler (ages 0-5)
-Children (ages 5-12)
-Young People (ages 13-19)
-SEN/D (Special Educational Needs/Disabilities )
-Offenders and Prisoners
Although 1 to 1 based work is highly successful, there are many arguments that working as a Group, as part of a team or community increases productivity, self esteem, moral, enjoyment, fun, social inclusion and sense of belonging. It is also clear, that peer learning is invaluable in this setting as well as participants feeling like they have ownership of the group and they are not just caught up in a school outside of school! In my music sessions, I allow the group to determine what direction our musical journey takes us on and what genres we will look at. I have session plans, which are a priority when delivering this type of work, but would rather encourage the group to think creatively, set goals and achieve them with my assistance, rather than pushing them in a direction I have pre-determined. This is catering for the clients needs and not my own, which I come across a lot in this sector.
I have experienced most of the above groups, in many different settings, but my main focus in the recent years has been working with Young Offenders and Young People who are ‘hard to engage’ in and out of mainstream education. I have had some great success, using music as a ‘tool for engagement,’ whether it be through live performances, music production or song writing. In a recent Case Study I wrote for Essex Youth Offending Service, we managed to evidence Hard and Soft outcomes (the changes we see in behaviour and thinking deficits) of Young Offenders after they had taken part in a creative programme. Some of these Young People are marginalised, from troubled backgrounds, in care, dealing with bereavement , NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) and have sometimes fallen off the radar of social care completely. Quite frankly, a lot of Young People out there have to deal with things that you and I couldn’t possibly imagine having to go through as well as trying to grow into an adult. By no means an excuse for offending, just factors that need to be recognised by people who don’t understand the relevance to what I do. I am NOT a teacher, I facilitate and mentor, using my experience of music as a writer, performer, musician and so on.
Computer Music is ‘in.’ It has been for quite some time now. Computers are accessible by most and Young People can operate them at vast speeds now days, even in comparison to me and I’m ONLY 30- not that old! Add the fact that you can download Music Software and Samples for free, legally (mentioned in my previous blogs), all a client needs is someone patient to show them how to access what they need and how to use it. Any music makers out there know how it feels to make your first tune or mix-tape… the satisfaction, the buzz, enjoyment and feeling of achieving something- well, think about passing that knowledge on to somebody. Click on the links below for a wealth of information.