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Lockdown Perspectives – Part Three: Facilitators

Our facilitators are the beating heart to the work we do here at Soundmix. Our Drums and Percussion tutor JT Taylor gives us an insight into facilitating music making over Zoom…

When a national lockdown was imposed a year ago I distinctly remember discussing the implications with a colleague. They mentioned this strange app named ‘Zoom’ as a method for continuing work, and advised me to look into it . I was sceptical about the efficacy of remote music tuition, especially as a drum kit tutor. I also questioned the longevity of this novel ‘lockdown’ situation…

How wrong I was! Now, a year on, I feel like I am pushing remote music tuition to it’s limits, having successfully continued all my previous in person work, plus finding new endeavours thanks to the worldwide connectivity offered by online working. Working in organisations willing and able to rise to the challenge presented by this ‘new normal’ has allowed musicians like me to continue to work throughout the pandemic, to which I will remain indebted.

Soundmix is a great example of this – we have not skipped a beat in keeping free music making available to unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people.  Our flagship Friday sessions with the Refugee Council have continued online. We start off with name games and warm ups, followed by a whole group activity before we break into instrumental groups (now using breakout rooms – something we never actually had in person!). To finish the sessions, we come back together and have a sing along!

But how do we sing along together with the unavoidable internet time lag?

This challenge of synchronicity is the enduring sticking point to making music online.  But for Soundmix it perfectly reflects the endearing bombastic nature of our sessions; we see different young people every week and in-person share space with a youth club complete with pool table! Therefore, we are very used to lively music making! Our vocal piece ‘sustain’ demonstrates this perfectly; for sustain, we ask the young people to take a deep breath in and then exhale whilst singing a note. The time delay on Zoom only enhances the layered vocal textures produced!

One huge difference to in-person sessions is….the mute button! This has served a very useful pedagogical function in ensuring the tutor can be clearly heard. Having all participants muted is great for young people learning their part – hearing it without background distraction and being able to repeat it back with the facilitator. This also means that the more shy participants feel able to have a go without fear of being heard.

Through my work with Soundmix during lockdown we have come such a long way in facilitating music making remotely. And, for sure, all the work everyone has put into transitioning to online will not be going to waste.

JT Leading a Soundmix Zoom session:

 

Lockdown perspectives – Part Two: Volunteers

Soundmix have always welcomed support from volunteers, both on the project management side and in workshop support.

Our current volunteer, Tsai, had come up through the Soundmix project when there was a session running at his college in Croydon. Now, remotely from his halls of residence at University, he continues to engage with the project as a volunteer workshop facilitator. In his own words:

During my volunteering, I have taken the chance to take the lead at different stages. For example, I have led warm up activities, guitar teaching, produced musical stems using computer software and led one of the instrument demonstration activities with the guitar Tutor’s help.  I feel engaged during the sessions, even though everyone on Zoom is far away from each other. The skills and techniques the tutors have shared with me has been helpful.

Although the Zoom Soundmix sessions are different from the face-to-face sessions I had a few years ago, I am always grateful for the opportunity to be able to work with the Soundmix musicians. I enjoy my time with them a lot, and I definitely learn a lot from them, too.   The most valuable benefit I have gained from the experience of volunteering at Soundmix, is being able to create materials and develop connections with the tutors.

 

 

Lockdown Perspectives – Part One: The Refugee Council

Our work here at Soundmix has always been linked closely with our fantastic partners the Refugee Council. Both organisations have undergone changes over the years but our relationship has remained consistent. This has been the case during lockdown, and the resilience shown is a key value that we hope filters down to our students too.

Joe Jakes is the Youth Development Project Coordinator in the Children’s Section of the Refugee Council and shared this message about our work:

‘Soundmix has been wonderful to work with since the lockdown.  Creating an online platform helped young people to adapt to technology, and gave them a sense of belonging and participation;… supported young people to maintain and develop their love for music and creativity;… offered a safe space for young people and helped them fight that growing sense of alienation and isolation during lockdown;… gave them a focus and made them happier by giving them music at their homes, increasing their general wellbeing and morale;…enhanced community connections and engaged kids from across the country.  Staff, volunteers and young people learned that we were all in this together, establishing a community spirit online against a common enemy.’

2021 Soundmix Sessions Continue…

The new year has not bought a change for the better with the pandemic. So it’s more important than ever that Soundmix are continuing to deliver weekly music workshops for young people who would otherwise struggle to find accessible, free music education.

This term’s cover song of choice is the Beatles’ iconic ‘All You Need is Love’. Our vocal tutor Angela Luzi will be in charge of crafting our young chorus into harmony over zoom in the coming weeks! Angie has lots of experience of working with the UASC community, including recent workshops with a girls group from Young Roots. Here is what Angie had to say about it:

The girls at young Roots have been a joy to work with. They have been very involved and open to learn new material in different languages. Always welcoming and joyous they have gained more confidence singing and enjoyed the time together exploring their voice.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Soundmix

From the project manager, tutors, trustees and volunteers at Soundmix; we wish you very happy holidays!

And best wishes no none more than the young people who attend our sessions. Throughout the year we have been offering out our musical instruments on loan to young people in London. This will allow them to continue accessing music making from home, and to develop their musical skills through attending Soundmix Zoom Sessions.

Just in time for the holiday season, we have delivered a full electronic drum kit to a young man in Croydon – he had already been learning drums for eight years in his home country, and now in his first winter in England he can continue to connect with and develop his passion!

Keeping in-touch, in-person!

Whilst London’s easing of restrictions was brief this year, Soundmix took full advantage of the window of opportunity by accepting invitations to run in-person sessions by two organisations.

Firstly, the amazing charity Young Roots invited tutors JT and Robbie to run music sessions at their youth club in Croydon. Rhythm games, drumming and group beat creation took place across three sessions, safely socially distanced using inside and outside spaces at St Mary Magdalene with St Martin’s Church in Croydon.

Staff, tutors and participants all were learning to adapt to new ways of working – bigger spaces between chairs, breaks for wiping down instruments, use of face masks… Yet the enthusiasm of everyone to be learning and making music together again meant that even covid adaptations were met with joy and enthusiasm.

A great time was had by all. Thank you very much to Young Roots for making this happen. You can find out more about their dynamic youth work with refugees and asylum seekers here  – www.youngroots.org.uk

Soundmix Zoom’s On…!

Soundmix sessions have been continuing on zoom through the second lockdown and beyond. We are managing to reach music students from further afield this way, with recent workshops including young people from the North and South East Coast of England, as well as our base in Croydon.

We miss in-person sessions and getting stuck in creatively with our hands. We look forward to the day when we can write songs together in person again.

More Arts Award Success!

The pandemic has not stopped Soundmix engaging in music making with our young people, nor has it prevented them from attaining Arts Award Qualifications following our summer workshops!

We are very proud to announce that four Soundmix students have been awarded the Arts Award Bronze Certificate. This is a huge achievement for our young people, made even bigger by the additional challenges posed by remote attendance.

Congratulations to them all!

As part of their Arts Award project the students participated in musical learning, researched their music heroes, reviewed performances from other artists and even shared their own musical skills with one another!

Here is what the Arts Award Moderators has to say

The Young people had engaged in a good range of appropriate arts activities. The portfolios were easy to navigate and covered all aspects of the Bronze Award. Good use was made of photographs to enliven the portfolios.

Black lives matter

The Trustees and staff of Soundmix want to send out a message of support to the Black community. We stand proudly in solidarity with all those who face racial discrimination and are in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Although we are a small charity our commitment to equality is at the heart of our work and we will continue to make sure that all ethnically diverse voices are heard. We are actively discussing how we address anti-racism in our work and are committed to ensuring this conversation and positive action remains a priority until social injustice of this and all kind are no longer an issue within society.