Over the past year we've been working with 15 Young Grime Musicians in Lewisham. Whilst we have been developing Grime musicians for a number of year this was the first time we had under taken a project of this nature. Although 15 young adults doesn't sound like a large group, when you have a diverse range of needs and musical talents it can feel huge.
From our experience the real key isn't the musical skills but getting participants to see their potential, the opportunities available to them and to have the right mindset. Social media creates a very distorted/false impression of who is successful and having a longterm career. In particular, social media creates a filter bubble where many young people aren't exposed to what is going on in the wider music industry and other music styles. This can lead to them having an unrealistic expectations and impressions of what is required to be successful.
Once a young person understands the musical landscape the next step is for them to find their musical identity. For many young people teenage years are a process of discovering and becoming comfortable with who they are and their identity. Knowing who you are as a person and as a musician gives you tremendous purpose and clarity which translates into good music. For some they arrived with this fully formed for others it was something that was slowly shaped over the course of the project by being exposed to different styles of music and conversations enabling the person to explore new ideas.
These conversations were equally as important as the technical parts of the programme. We soon realised that smaller groups were essential to keep focus and engagement. Having multiple rooms and home studios to work in enabled this to work well. What surprised us most was how within these smaller groups the young people taught each other at times rather
Its is scary the improvement that can be made in a year with the right application. What was most interesting was although everyone improved the ones that really achieved success were in the bottom half of our assessment at the beginning but had the right attitude. Going forward we want to improve this initial assessment (in terms of music, mental health, and support network) process as we think it can save so much time understanding a young person and how they can improve.
There were lots of things we learned and can improve on including:
Partnerships with organisations that have non music skills and knowledge such as mental health, and homeless are essential to effectively support vulnerable young people. There were a very diverse range of needs within our group was
Success of an individual within a group can be the best way of demonstrating pathways, progression routes and creating extra opportunities without any extra cost.
Working with young musicians can be incredibly rewarding but can also be very difficult for staff when things don't go to plan. Its important to ensure staff have support and encouragement during these times.
It doesn’t matter who the messenger for the skills you are trying to teach sometimes it can be more effective from someone outside your organisation or even just demonstrated eg for producers trying to make club music to learn first hand from being in club.
The right people and ideas is more important than equipment