My year as a Young Music Leader on Quench Arts’ Plugin project was completely different to what I originally expected. Before Covid, the year was meant to involve working alongside participants and the project’s lead artists in hospital settings, but it turned into working online through computer screens. Even though this was quite a big change, my experience on the project was a positive one.
At the start of the year, I managed to go into one setting for a couple of sessions to meet the participants and to introduce the project alongside the lead artist. As I had never been in an inpatient hospital before, it was an eye-opening experience to see what it was like. It made me value my role as a Young Music Leader even more than I already had and I was excited and eager to get involved.
When Covid19 started, everything was moved online, including the Plugin project, and it stayed that way for the remainder of my time as a Young Music Leader. This meant that we were making resource videos and worksheets for the participants as well as trying to run the sessions online through the video conferencing software ‘Zoom’. One of my aims for working on the Plugin project was to expand my music technology skills. Working in this way not only helped to improve my music technology knowledge but also my filming and video editing skills too. Before the project, I had a basic knowledge of how to use both Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro but having to use both software packages most weeks allowed me to improve the sound of my recordings and experiment with editing techniques such as split screens and voiceovers.
By working online, I also learnt more about how to create and record music using iPads. I knew a few things about GarageBand but hadn’t used it to its fullest potential. Watching the lead artist run GarageBand tutorials for the participants also taught me new skills in the software that I didn’t have before. By having this knowledge, I feel like I can now show participants how to use the software to record and make music too.
On the weeks where we were leading sessions through Zoom, it was great working with the participants to make music that they were actually interested in. In some cases, each week we’d be working with different young people but in every session, we would end up with lyrics, chords or a melody for their songs. Having the sessions be participant-led helped to build a good relationship between ourselves and the young people as well as making the sessions interactive and fun. The participants often felt comfortable enough to put forward their own ideas and be vulnerable with their emotions and lyrics. This helped me to get a better idea of what was the best approach to take when working with the participants so that each session was enjoyable for them.
Another aim of mine was to become confident enough to lead parts of or the full session. Before Plugin, I’d only ever assisted in sessions because the thought of leading was a bit daunting. During the project, I was given many opportunities to lead different songwriting activities which made me feel more comfortable and confident when taking charge. I learnt the importance of planning sessions in advance and how to think on my feet when things didn’t go exactly to plan. Now that my confidence in this area has improved, I’m leading sessions of my own for other projects and enjoying it thoroughly.
After nearly a full year on the Plugin project, I feel like I’ve come out on the other side as a stronger, more confident and knowledgeable music leader. I plan to take forward the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from Plugin and use them in any other community music work I am part of in the future. The project has grown my passion for helping people to express themselves through music and even though at times it was tricky having to work through a screen, seeing the impact that each session made on the participants was more than worth it.