Recently I was asked to help a group of young people with SEND to write and record music for a book/storyboard they had written.
The story and illustrations were complete so I took the time to look over everything to get a sense of what they wanted to achieve. I was given the brief that there was a core group of young people who were heavily involved and it was my role to try and increase participation in the activity. The activity was to last 10 weeks. The venue was My Place in Middlesbrough which has its own recording studio and performance spaces.
In my first session I took my keyboard (a Roland Fa-06) and an amp and set up where the majority of the young people were based. I quickly found out that the core group who had been involved in the writing of the story had reduced to 1 person. YP quickly introduced himself and told me he was the director and wanted to start writing music straight away. It became apparent that YP did not have a musical vocabulary so he used everyday language to describe the sounds he wanted. He would say things like "I want this to sound like slugs". The approach I adopted was to play something using different instruments and ask open questions to make sure I was achieving what he wanted. Using this approach, within the first session we wrote and made draft recordings of 5 backing tracks. Althought the first session was successful in the respect that we got a lot done there was only 1 YP who was involved. The same situation happened in the second session.
In the third session I changed my approach, I asked the lead youth worker to bring groups of young YP at regular intervals to the studio. Using this approach I was able to engage with around ten YP. In this session I worked on generating interest by allowing the YP to record themselves singing to backing tracks of popular songs.
We wanted to increase participation in the storyboard activity so we decided to bring on board another musician. Together we formulated a plan where we split the activity into two sections. First section would concentrate on the rehearsal and recording of the songs written for the storyboard, and in the second section the YP's would be allowed to sing along to backing tracks or piano/guitar accompaniment.
There have been some challenges most notably the recording equipment not working as expected which has delayed the delivery of the outcomes, but I have learnt a lot about the Youth Work approach from being involved in this project.