By Adam Bushell
After a lot of work and preparation, the moment has finally come – the centralised Pier One ensemble has started. Not only started, but completed its first term’s activities and shared the results of our sessions with family & friends. Nine young people attended the first session, and that number grew to 12 by the end. Nobody left the group, and everyone is keen to come back for more next term!
The group is a lovely mixture of ages, interests and abilities with young people coming from all over Sussex. Some knew each other from school, some had never met before, but they all gelled really quickly and the level of focus and commitment has been incredible – even by the end of the first session, it felt like a band.
We only had 4 sessions before the sharing, but by starting off with name games and then grooves and improvisation games, we managed to start building some compositions as a group which we were able to link together later using the theme of ‘Jungle’ (animals, a storm in the rainforest and so on). Although some of the young people were quite quiet to start with, over the sessions everyone opened up and made positive spoken contributions to the composition – including the parents, grandparents & carers. The finished piece had four distinct sections, each one led by a different Pier One tutor, and the whole thing lasted around 9 minutes.
As well as the young people, there has been quite a high proportion of family members taking part in the group - parents, grandparents and siblings. In fact, carers and family members have made up around ¼ of the group. However, none of them have sat out and listened: they have all joined in musically and creatively, suggesting compositional ideas to the group and being part of the discussion. Whilst pushy parents can pose a problem to group dynamic (in any setting), it has been lovely to see how everyone in this group has been sensitive to & supportive of the young people. As a result, the family involvement has helped develop a sense of togetherness and connection.
Being based at the Eastbourne Music Centre at Ratton School has been brilliant for Pier One. On a practical level, the management and staff of the Music Centre could not have been more helpful. They’ve bent over backwards to accommodate us, rearranging their own rehearsals and finding us space to store equipment. But on top of that, many of the Pier One members and parents expressed their excitement about being part of a wider community of musicians – being able to see & hear other groups rehearse and having other people know about ‘their band’ is clearly a big positive point.
The final sharing session was a great success. We had a supportive audience of family and friends who listened to the final epic ‘Jungle Extravaganza’, and the young people rose to the occasion brilliantly. As well as a rousing performance of the complete piece, we played an encore and got the audience adding their own raucous animal noises. It was a fitting party to finish the first term.
There were so many positive comments from the ensemble members & their families afterwards: ‘It’s the only thing that will get her out of bed on a Saturday’ – ‘It’s his favourite thing of the whole week’ – ‘It’s incredible that they wrote all that in just 4 weeks’.
But perhaps my favourite comment was from one young musician, who simply said ‘I love the community and I love the instruments’.
Bring on next term!