Wales’ leading music charity, Community Music Wales, has recently completed an eight-week project empowering young people with learning disabilities who live in Blaenau Gwent.
Working in partnership with Barnardo’s Community Connections Project which is funded by Big Lottery, Community Music Wales implemented their Soundworks project, a scheme designed to help young people with difficulties become more engaged, funded by the BBC Children in Need charity.
Beginning on 27th January, the project worked with seven young people who learned skills such as African Drumming and Animation under the guidance of three Community Music Wales tutors. Despite contact time being limited to just two hours per week, the participants were able to write and perform their own song “No Matter What” and generate an accompanying animated video. The song was performed in front of an audience of over fifty parents and invited guests in the Ebbw Vale Institute at the end of March.
The 14-21 year olds did not know each other prior to the workshops, and all had difficulties with social situations due to their learning disabilities. However by the end of the project all were socialising with each other and collaborating on the final piece of work, with the final performance lauded by parents and tutors alike.
Chris Dawson, Project Office at Community Music Wales, who was responsible for overseeing the programme in Blaenau Gwent said, “This has been one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on. We achieved all of the goals set at the beginning and the reactions of the young people involved were most inspiring. Indeed, the only downside to the whole scheme was that it had to come to an end!”
Joanne Harper, Team Manager at Barnardo’s Blaenau Gwent said ‘’It’s fantastic to witness young people grow in confidence and develop new skills. The young people are really proud of their achievements and so are we. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Community Music Wales.’’
Community Music Wales works across the country with a wide range of charitable organisations. It has been bringing communities together and inspiring people of all ages through music workshops since its inception twenty two years ago and also offers team building days to private sector clients to promote creativity and collaboration.
Wales’ leading music charity Community Music Wales (CMW) is expanding its Cardiff team with the appointment of a Business Development Manager.
Joining the team is Gareth Spencer, who graduated from Cardiff University and has spent 10 years running Dischromatics, in Abercarn, before setting up his own consultancy business in 2014.
The changing funding environment in Wales means organisations such as Community Music Wales are increasingly required to generate additional income from commercial activities to allow them to continue their benevolent work empowering disadvantaged groups.
Mr Spencer will be responsible for developing products and services specifically for the corporate sector and for raising the profile of the organisation in Wales. He said: “I am extremely passionate about the arts in Wales and look forward to working with Community Music Wales to ensure the long term success of the organisation”.
Lisa Davies, Acting Director of CMW, said: “I am delighted to welcome Gareth to our team. We are focused on developing as a forward-thinking and creative organisation and this appointment is integral to our vision”.
Community Music Wales has over 22 years experience in delivering high quality arts activities to more than 50,000 people across Wales. CMW provides accredited music training and professional development, and also works internationally, advocating community music and sharing best practice.
Since 1992 Community Music Wales have been running a variety of tutor training courses and throughout this time have striven to ensure a high standard of delivery and of sharing best practice. With the help of Arts Council of Wales funding and accreditation through Agored Cymru the success rate of the courses has been exceptional, with over 500 people going through the training process and this year has been no different. With a plethora of courses under the belt CMW have been hard at work training future tutors and expanding the skills of our current tutors.
The main course run by CMW is ‘Community Music Tutor Training’ which aims to give an insight into community music and consolidate any existing skills that participants have to enable them to run their own music workshops; whether they wish to become a Community Music Wales tutor or introduce a music scheme into an existing community group or organisation. Throughout the Summer CMW have run three of these courses; one in Wrexham and two in Cardiff – all of which were a resounding success enjoyed by both participants and tutors, who found it to be a refreshing return to the ideals of community music. We asked the participants what they thought of the course, and the response we got was fantastic:
‘The course has inspired me to go out and go for it, and has grown my confidence to set up a workshop.’
‘Very engaging and the sessions were specific, manageable and enjoyable. EXTREMELY useful and fun!’
‘It was great to be encouraged by enthusiastic tutors to realistically think of a career in community music as well as surrounded by a wealth of knowledge, from both tutor and peers, and being allowed to delve into this knowledge and mould it to our own goals. I gained a lot of confidence and motivation to really consider job prospects in community music.’
So what is Community Music and Community Music Tutor Training?
Well unfortunately you’ll have to attend a course to find out exactly what Community Music and Community Music Tutor Training is about (it’s no big secret, but it’s a lot to take in!) but luckily we can give you a quick overview from our experienced project officers and tutors:
‘It’s easy to pigeonhole community music into a certain type of genre, activity or agenda, but the impact is far wider reaching. Music in itself is a community activity, and that’s how I perceive its role in our culture and society.’ – Adam Williams, Project Officer.
‘Community Music is about anyone having fun and challenging themselves, whilst making music.’ – Martin Hoyland, Project Officer.
‘To me, community music means several things, but there is an underlying ethos: Musical activities which allow individuals to express themselves in a safe and comfortable environment. It is about empowering people and giving them the opportunity to be creative. There is a natural urge as a human being to be creative, and as a community music tutor I hope to enable the student to express themselves musically.’ – Jack Egglestone, CMW Tutor.
As you can see at its basic level community music is really about building confidence and empowering people through music. Not everyone can play an instrument, but through community music it’s possible to have fun and enjoy yourself while learning to do something that you may never have tried.
Community music also benefits the tutors, as evidenced by Jack, who attended the tutor training course and has since become a tutor for Community Music Wales:
Community Music Wales Tutor Training benefitted me in ways I would have never imagined 18 months ago. I have always played music for myself and my enjoyment but I’ve never really used my skills and knowledge to enable others to be creative with music. I never thought it would be so rewarding for me to be able to bring so much joy to people through different musical games, exercises and songs and by empowering them to make a choice about how they would like to be creative within the workshop.
During the course I was working a part time job to help me fund my music career. Since completing the course I have become a full time musician again and the course has helped me find new work and encourage me to use my musical skills in a variety of different ways.
I feel it was a career defining moment making the decision to take part in the CMW TT course, I am so glad I have done it. I have met lots of new and interesting people and felt so welcomed by the CMW staff, l feel I have built good friendships in the process. I have such a great feeling during and at the end of workshops that I have helped make someone’s day and enabled them to have the confidence to express themselves in a musical way.’
The enthusiasm that we get from Jack and many others like him really makes a big difference in our workshops and to the charity as a whole, which is why we like to help our tutors as much as possible and give them all the support that we can. In response to a tutor survey and thanks to Arts Council of Wales funding, Community Music Wales have run a total of 6 CPD courses for tutors this year. These courses included modules on icebreaking techniques, dealing with difficult behaviour and how to be assertive. We also ran drumming workshops for tutors who wanted to start incorporating drums into their own workshops as well as a master class from Ben Lawrence, who is an excellent workshops facilitator and has been a part of Community Music Wales since its inception.
Aside from direct training CMW also held three different tutor development workshops, which gave newer tutors the chance to try out their ideas alongside more experienced tutors. One was a participatory workshop for young people with learning difficulties in Penmaes School – Brecon. It was designed to encourage expression, creativity and confidence as well as give an introduction to different musical styles, instruments and cultures starting with the instruments and rhythms of West Africa. Another similar workshop was run in St. Martin’s school which led up to the Gig in a Day project a week later – in which the tutors, working with a small group of students each, offered help, advice and techniques for writing, rehearsing and performing a new piece of music in a day. The workshops were beneficial to all parties, especially the workshop participants, who had the wisdom and experience of our more seasoned tutors and the energy and fresh ideas of our newer tutors.
Hopefully this push has given our newer tutors more confidence and we will see them facilitating more and more workshops.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was surprised at how much confidence and knowledge I actually have. A lot of this comes from what I’ve learnt from the CMW course, staff and tutors. Thanks!’
We’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in the tutor training over the past year, especially Arts Council of Wales and Agored Cymru as well as the trainers and workshop facilitators. But the biggest thanks goes to all the tutors that took part, because in all likelihood there wouldn’t be a Community Music Wales without our Community Music Tutors.