Using the gamelan to develop skills in young music leaders

During the Gamajam programme we ran one week that was, in the main, focusing on developing the leadership skills of a young musician on work experience with BlueJam Arts. BlueJam Arts is unique as an organization that not only offers young musicians opportunities for playing and improvising but also a path for them to become young music leaders.

Jilly Jarman, Director of BlueJam Arts, and Matt, ran a week long programme at The Heathlands Centre, a day care centre for adults with learning differences.  Using the gamelan instruments, they created pieces based on improvisation.

‘The week held all my favourite ingredients: the gamelan which is really lovely to use within an improvisation and devising context. It’s easy to play and very generous in the sense that it allows you to go wrong and still sound right’.

‘There was a lot of learning, sharing, passing on and also noticing how things moved from an initial very simple idea (which could be four notes in a row) to a whole conceptual piece expressing mood, temperament or whatever which acted as a narrative within its own storyline’.

The method and techniques used by the BlueJam team inspired the participants.  ‘ A lot of our users are wary of trying new things because they're afraid of getting it wrong.  But this week, because it's improvisation, there is no wrong; rather you may have done it differently. So it's gives people a sense of control and ownership about what they are doing. It's very organic’.

Matt gained good experience of leading the sessions.  The Heathlands staff gave him some well deserved feedback: ‘Matt is a young BlueJammer and it's very daunting to get up in front of a group of strangers and lead a session. He did it with a great deal of confidence and maturity’.

… and from his mentor, Jilly: ‘You've had the right proportion of showing interest in the people and coming up with jokes and noticing things, which is a really difficult thing to do at any age … how to be present and affirming but not take too much focus or attention yourself’.

A number of past BlueJam young music leaders have progressed to become professional musicians as they got older. Some of them return to work with BlueJam and, in turn, mentor the younger musicians.

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