Building spirit in individuals and communities through creative art activities

Colne Library Rock School: progression for participants and music leaders

Posted in: Music Inclusion, Young people by Darren Leadsom on 25 October 2016
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This recent project allowed More Music to achieve our 2 key objectives for cold spot projects : Skill development opportunities for new music leaders and progression for participants.  
As part of our Cold Spot programme in partnership with arts organisation In Situ, we ran a week long rock school at Colne Library in East Lancs in August 2016, with rehearsals and masterclasses over five days leading up to a gig in the library. This coincided with the town's famous blues festival, which attracts hundreds of people to Colne over the weekend.

In recent years we have set up projects in Skelmersdale, Preston, Brierfield, Fleetwood and Morecambe, bringing in local musicians to work alongside our music leaders and learn how community music works. This helps us to find musicians in areas with few regular musicmaking opportunities for young people and develop their ability to facilitate music workshops. 

James Rhodes Baxter and Dan Arnold are two musicians we have worked with as trainees over a number of years in the Brierfield/Colne area. For this year's Colne Library rock school, we thought the time was right to give them the opportunity to run the week by themselves and take responsibility for the delivery of the sessions.

Through their earlier experiences working on More Music projects, Dan and James both understood the importance of preparation and planning, evaluation and being adaptable in sessions.  They have developed a good understanding of the culture of community music and that their role is to facilitate, mentor and encourage young people to develop their musical talents in a supportive environment. They also understand the importance of data collection for our Youth Music reporting.

The week proved to be a great success with 7 participants aged between 11 and 18 attending every session,. They all gained Discover Arts Awards, each delivering a short presentation on their arts inspiration during the week. The week coincided with GCSE results.  When one of the participants found out she had not achieved the grades she needed to be accepted into college, James and Dan advised her to go back to the college and tell them that she had been taking part in the rock school and working an Arts Award, hoping that this would work in her favour.  It did the trick as she was accepted onto the course - a great success for the week.

This was the second time we had run a rock school at Colne Library and several of the participants had attended last year.  One of these was Thomas, a young drummer who has autism and a learning disability.  This wasn't the first time that More Music had worked with him.

Tom's mother, Julia, explains: "Thomas first encountered MM during some music sessions at Nelson Library, organised by More Music and funded by Aiming High for Disabled Children. He was about 13; he is now 19. One of the musicians told us that Tom had managed to pick up a complex rhythm and that it may be worth trying him with drumming lessons." From there Tom went on to take drumming lessons and has since played in his school band.

While at the rock school this year, he told us that he was due to start studying on a music practitioner at Blackburn College. Julia said: "Music and drumming mean everything to Tom, he has found something he can do really well. Academic subjects are difficult for him due to his Autism and Learning Disability, but drumming he can do, it has given him confidence and raised his self esteem and helped him to socialise. We hope that he may even earn a living from it if he works hard and is lucky."

"We have a lot to thank More Music for as you have set him on his path to learn the drums, help him realise he has an ability which, if he works at and continues to progress as he is doing, will give him a future to look forward to. We can't thank you enough and would like to thank the musician who recognised his ability during that session and decided to mention it to us. It has changed Tom's world and our own as well. THANK YOU!"

The gig at the end of the week was a great success, all the young people were able to take part, both in small groups and as part of a 'supergroup' with all of them playing together.  The headlining band featured a young band who had first formed at last year’s rock school and who had since gone onto gig regularly, partly as a result of the confidence they had gained at the previous rock school. It was great to see how far they had come and how professional their performance was, a fitting culmination to a great week of music.

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