by Author nicbriggs

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My Interface Journey by Liz Birch (Young Music Leader on Quench Arts' Interface project)

Music technology: a term that is probably overused in this article. If you’re sick of reading it, I am sick of typing it. Yet whether you love or loathe the concept of the digital age infecting our music creation, I believe it is an imperative step of the future.

My name is Liz. I am a vocalist, producer, composer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist with a particular interest in electronic music. I have always been passionate about music technology and the unlimited potential it offers; The fact you can compose and produce a track all by yourself with only a computer to hand in the comfort of your own home is fascinating. Last year, I was desperate to get more hands on with the multitude of tech available in this generation for both composition and performance.

The Interface project run by Quench Arts was the perfect opportunity. Interface is a music tech project, which not only utilises my love of music technology and performance but offers the opportunity to mentor and become a music leader. This is another passion of mine that would be harnessed in this venture. It gave me the determination to continue to pursue this love I had and learn more about music technology, particularly Ableton Live and the Ableton Push. While I had an understanding about both and I could use them in a basic sense, it gave me the kick I needed to take it to the next level. My fellow music leaders performing with me was like a breath of fresh air as I got to see other amazing musicians in their element and utilising tech, like an electronic drum kit, sample pad and a synthesiser (which I still am jealous that I never got a chance to fully experiment with myself!).

When I signed up to be an emerging music leader, I was ready to learn and grow in facilitation and my artistry. While I am currently a music leader and work in community music, at the time I didn’t have much experience in teaching specifically electronic music and the tech that accompanies it. During the project, I tried teaching what felt right at the time. When I started, what did I need to know first and foremost? Whether I achieved this or not, it has given me undeniable experience in what fundamentals and potential progression routes I could deliver to others. While the approach I took worked, it could’ve been better. Perhaps this is a lesson for the entire process; we can always do better, and hindsight and reflection were my best friends week to week.

While being a part of Interface I have also been attending Quench Arts' New Horizons (Certificate of Music Education) training programme for music educators. The knowledge and experience I have received from this programme are invaluable to me; I never would’ve been able to understand the impact of teaching as deeply if I hadn’t been given this opportunity. I feel that many people take teaching for granted with a casual comment such as, ‘well even I could do that’, some even assuming power comes with the job. Teaching and facilitating are so much more than the superficial label some pin on them. Calling myself a ‘teacher’ used to be strange, uncomfortable; it felt like I was heightening my sense of importance above the students which I didn’t want! Yet from the moment I entered this training, it clicked; it doesn’t have to be that way. New Horizons broke that stigma of ‘teacher’ for me. I would argue that during my time leading (which I must admit is limited to a couple years), I have learnt just as much, if not more from the participants and students. That is true teaching.

Despite all this, if I was to pin everything down to the biggest lesson, over the course of the project I have developed the understanding of what music is truly about: connection. Being in a band environment was not something I was used to or entirely interested in to start with. However, the connections I made with the other music leaders and the participants meant I could see the value and the excitement of that band dynamic more than ever. It was thrilling to not only make music we all were passionate about, but it was an opportunity to speak to and get to know everyone and watch everyone grow as musicians. Whether we were just starting our journey or well into it, it provided a non-hieratical approach where we all were in the same position.

Music technology isn’t going anywhere, whether you are prepared for that or not. All we can do is grow with it. Learning is our biggest tool in the human mind and being able to assist other’s learning is honestly a gift that I am grateful I can continue to do. I hope to continue my journey in music technology, gaining wisdom in more technology that I have yet to experiment with, and facilitating more community music projects where I can share my passion and, hopefully, ignite theirs.