Growing hand in hand alongside and intertwined within my development as a musician, performer and songwriter has been my involvement with youth work and education in the widest possible sense. As well as working in schools with young people of all ages I have ran music sessions in youth clubs, community centres and other informal detached settings. I learnt the importance of the youth voice and that real engagement comes from a sense of ownership, working alongside young people where learning is both shared and reciprocal. Academically I suppose the model is one of social pedagogy where music is the common third. The journey and the wider transferrable skills are just as important, if not more important than the outcome.
More widely I have also worked with people of all ages and backgrounds underpinned by a desire to see music opportunities available to all regardless of their life circumstances or financial means. When putting this little piece together I realised that here we have another endless list that includes areas such as Special Educational Needs, Dementia, substance abuse and alcohol related issues. As a result I have worked in hospitals, care homes, schools, and prisons.
From there and without any financially driven career path I started doing music sessions in communities across the northeast for Sage Gateshead whilst taking on more and more managerial and strategic responsibilities. This involved working on a local, regional, and national level with community organisations, Music Education Hubs, and charities such as Youth Music and Barnardos. My leadership style and approach has always been the same, not leading from the front but walking alongside, being open, consultative, and inclusive. This inclusive agenda and practises are at the heart of all my educational work … musical dictators make poor music educators.
I should add that I believe the privilege of working so closely with young people also comes with a great deal of social responsibility. Part of my role at Sage Gateshead was as Designated Child Protection Officer, delivering training to Music Leaders and staff who worked directly or indirectly with young people. Whilst music making can be such a rewarding experience it can also be very emotional and so it is not surprising that sometimes it is through music that other wider issues can come to the fore and disclosures are made. These concerns are probably more poignant than ever considering the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to online music sessions
'Good in The World' was a song commissioned by Dry Water Arts as part of their Arts Council funded KIN project. They are based in the small town of Amble on the north east coast in Northumberland. The piece took lyrical inspiration from participants in Dry Water Arts Dementia Positive programmes and vocal assistance from The Amble Harbour Lights Choir. Read this blog to find out a little more about how the song came about and those who contributed to it.
Sunderland Music Hub works with schools and partner organisations to deliver, support and champion music-making activity across the city. I am very proud to be Chair of the Sunderland Music Hub Board and take my responsibilities very seriously...