During the three years of the Wavelength project, we have frequently had parents attend group music sessions with their sons or daughters and, sometimes, in the long term. Initially this was when the young person felt more comfortable if they were accompanied by someone they knew well. We encourage this to improve attendance as well as help with the development in confidence of the young person and, as a rule, during a session we encourage participation by everyone in the room so inevitably parents get involved in musical activities and contribute to new material that we write in preparation for the annual CD and performance, and themselves develop as musicians.
Sometimes, after a while, the young person becomes confident enough to attend on their own and the parent stops attending so regularly. Just as often, however, we have found that some parents are needed to support for a longer period of time or enjoy the activity so much that they attend on an ongoing basis. One family are so enthusiastic about what we do at Wavelength that I would say that they have only missed four group sessions in three years!
In this case, and other cases, the inclusion of parents has provided a positive activity for the family to take part in together. Some of the benefits to the young people, such as distraction from the challenges, boredom and relentless routines of life, are further extended to the wider family and we hope that at the same time, the positive activities bring closer connection within the family. In addition, by trying to develop parents as musicians, we give them an insight into the creative processes which the young people are experiencing. Therefore, a mutual respect can develop and an opportunity to see one another in a different light. Or perhaps it just gives the family something to talk about at home!
Overall, I would say that the presence of parents throughout the writing, recording and performing process has given the project an accessible family feel with a lighter mood. It’s not for everyone, though. I should emphasise that the involvement of parents is entirely optional and we are always as responsive as we can be to the young people first and foremost.
Back in September, after some anonymous feedback from a young person, we tried something new. We were asked to “get the parents out of the room!” This was a great turning point for the project. It would have been sad to make the parents, some of whom had been attending for two years, just go and sit in the kitchen and wait. So, at the same time as responding to the request to have the young people’s own space, we gave the longer-term parents the support and space to create their own song. It struck us that if they hadn’t been involved musically from the start, this may have not been possible, but in the first year or two of the project they had developed the skills to work effectively without their young person there. And so, this year not only do we have several great pieces of music created by the young project participants, we also have a parents’ song!