This term has been one of our most challenging terms yet, as we’re sure it has been for many other music organisations too. Lockdown ground our music drop in sessions to a halt at the end of last term due to limitations on group sizes, and we were no longer able to offer face to face 121 tutoring sessions. This meant we had to get creative and we began running online music sessions, both scheduled 121 sessions between tutor and young person and group ‘Online Jam Sessions’ to mimic aspects of the drop in sessions we ran pre-lockdown.
Despite this, there were still many difficulties with this format and the lack of proximity. It's hard to teach lessons when you can't show someone exactly where to place their fingers on a fretboard. It's hard to teach drums when nobody has a kit and banging pots and pans will upset the neighbours. It's hard to deal with the awkward silences and turn-taking necessary in video meetings. It's hard to lose contact with young people because the reason for their involvement in music was the social interaction and welcoming environment of our building. It's hard not to play music with another person at the same time for 3 months because no amount of high-speed internet will allow it. It's hard to organize activities that engage people in the same way and feel as meaningful as getting a disparate group of young people together to do something collective. It’s been a real struggle to keep things going with these restrictions, but we’ve been working hard to do all we can within these limitations.
As well as this, we notice a lot of young people are experiencing what we will call Zoom Fatigue. You have to be a confident and forthright person to be heard in that arena, which of course, not everyone is. It's easy to switch off and focus on something else while your Zoom window is open, to get distracted by all the things around you. There’s occurrences where we’ve had to ask young people to turn off TVs, video games, and YouTube videos whilst they are 'in' sessions. However, despite this, the sessions have been great for keeping in contact with those who really want to keep developing musically. We've had fun putting together music from sounds recorded on young people's phones. The limitations of lockdown have, in some ways, brought about new and innovative ways of making music together whilst apart. We are going to produce 2 original songs from our group song writing sessions, which will be premiered at our online concert we are currently putting together.
Our Summer Youth Music Concert is an annual event here at Cre8 and is something which staff and young people alike look forward to. However, with lockdown regulations, a live performance was not feasible this year. Due to this, we have decided to move this year’s concert online and will be streaming it this coming Friday, the 31st of July at 7pm. The concert preparation has been great fun. Many young people have planned and put together things they want to do, and others have come forward simply wanting to just come to a familiar place and play music after so long. As a team, we are working tirelessly to record, edit, and film everything so it's ready to showcase on the 31st. We hope that the concert will be a reminder to those young people who haven't been involved with the project during lockdown that we are still here and active, and inspire them to take part in sessions in September.
There’s a lot to get used to in lockdown. We’re all adjusting to a ‘new normal’ which sometimes feels alien, and it’s easy to forget things you’ve not had to consider before. We’ve had young people involved in lessons throughout lockdown have been keen as ever to progress, however we sent 4 of our music theorists to an exam and forgot to give them pencils! There are so many things to try and get used to in the new normal, and its taking us all time to adjust but we are pushing forward and doing our best. Although we have not reached as many young people as we would like, it's good to know that a smaller group of young people have had focused, continuous support with their development at such a crucial age and difficult time. To move forward with this, we are looking to do more outreach work with NEET young people in the area, and have already started sessions to teach music tech skills and encourage legitimate entrepreneurial endeavours. Alongside this we have been to networking events where people have shared ideas and fostered connections that may lead to collaboration in the future. It has been nice to share worries and solutions with like-minded people, and we have also taken two of our young people to represent Cre8 at a youth networking event. It was nice to hear young people's views, and hopefully there will be opportunities for our projects to branch out and invite musicians from other areas to broaden our young people's horizons.
As government regulations begin to change, we are looking forward to things we may be able to do in the future whilst still ensuring maximum safety for staff and young people alike. We have already started using our community building again for one to one sessions where we have been recording songs for our online concert. We have also experimented with a session in the woods behind our building to try and carry out our sessions in a safer outdoor environment. As lockdown eases, we will cautiously try to regain some of the spontaneous group music-making activities that make the music project feel so worthwhile. We want people to feel part of our community, able to go to a different place that isn't the screen in their bedroom and be productive, therefore we will remain optimistic and innovative in these strange and forever changing circumstances to try and continue to deliver our music services to the best of our ability, even within the current limitations.
To listen to some of the content produced by our amazing young people and music team during lockdown, head on over to our website: www.cre8macclesfield.org/music-recordings/