Richard Hearn, NYMAZ Project Officer, reflects on the ‘One Step Beyond’ Musical Inclusion Residential.
On 27 – 29 January musinc & NYMAZ hosted ‘One Step Beyond’ a Musical Inclusion Residential Weekend, held at Scarborough’s Cober Hill Hotel. Founded by the Rowntree family (York’s great chocolate family), Cober Hill was developed as a centre where people working in education, social service, and other voluntary and charitable activity could gather for residential courses and conferences.
The weekend was facilitated by Phil Mullen, a highly-regarded community musician, trainer and music education consultant, working across the globe to further the idea that participating in music is something everyone can do regardless of age, ability or background. The weekend welcomed 25 music leaders who had come to further their skills and gain confidence in delivering inclusive workshops and performances (and have a jam of course!). They included practitioners from across Teesside and North Yorkshire who varied in experience and expertise as well as project management staff.
The theme ‘One Step Beyond’ examined how practitioners could be the best in all aspects of their work and what this would look like in different contexts and the different groups of young people they engage with. The theme also considered what it looked like to go ‘One Step Beyond’ in their professional development and their relationships with other agencies. Another part of the weekend was about giving musicians time and space to create together and network and there were plenty of opportunities to make informal music together. The group were taken through a history of Community Music, which set the tone as to how much had been achieved and what might (need) to follow. The session got people thinking about definitions of ‘Community Music’ and the types of delivery styles/methodologies that could be adopted, whilst examining how inclusive they were. It also introduced the concepts of reflective and reflexive working.
Some of the questions asked:
• What is the impact you want to have?
• What are the means you’ll use to achieve it and how will you direct these practices?
‘Putting theory in to practice’ (differentiation, engagement, progression) was a practice sharing activity. It allowed practitioners to self-reflect on what their perceived strengths and weaknesses were, around these themes, and what they could do differently through learning from each other.
The session also covered theories of psychological wellbeing and looked at concepts such as Meta learning, also introducing frameworks and strategies right through from identifying needs, to practice sharing and improving.
Following this were some practical workshops, which covered themes of:
• Vocal warm ups and technique development
• Working with groups, practical activities, what to use and when
These sessions were well received and helped the practitioners add to their repertoires. They modeled inclusive practice, delivered to be age/need appropriate. The vocal workshop was delivered by Emily Smith, from Streetwise Opera, an award-winning charity that uses music to help people make positive changes in their lives, working with people who have experienced homelessness.
Prior to the event, several practitioners expressed a desire to become more informed and confident around safeguarding responsibilities. In response to this the residential included a session on ‘Safeguarding in Community Music Settings’, led by Beth Major of Hartlepool Borough Council Youth Services. As a result of the session, the group were able to better understand their responsibilities when it came to following through on a concern (as well as how to identify types of abuse and respond to a disclosure). Also included were some scenarios, allowing practitioners to consider how they respond given what they had just learnt.
The first day was closed by a group discussion around the use of reflective practice to develop your professional approach, always bearing in mind how you could go ‘one step beyond’.
The evening provided a time for everyone to relax, create music together or just chat. It was informal and allowed new relationships to be formed as local musicians were able to share experience with like-minded people.
Day two opened with a practice-sharing opportunity for practitioners to raise thoughts, questions and solutions based on three main themes, hosted by the music leaders themselves:
1. Young People’s Voice – how to genuinely include young people in planning and evaluation, especially those with communication difficulties?
2. Differentiation – how to cater for different interests and abilities within one group
3. Session and programme planning – how to plan for the informal context? How to reconcile a need for long term planning with a desire to be young person led?
The themed discussions were then summarized, to allow ideas to be put forward by the whole group and the exercise seemed to be successful in giving practitioners new ideas that they could incorporate in to their practice.
Later, groups discussed and feedback issues around:
• Confidence and fear
• Knowing and doing
• Transformation and pathways
• Delivery (- now and what next?)
During the feedback, practitioners appeared to feel more assured as to what they could do to be more inclusive, despite some of their perceived barriers.
The final learning activity of the weekend saw the group (divided in to four) creating a performing a musically inclusive song or activity in response to a brief:
‘What does one step beyond look like in the context of…………’
The context was left open to interpretation, but it was suggested that it should draw on the group members experience; bear in mind the attributes of the young people, the barriers and the outcome you were striving for.
Each performance was delivered very differently, as groups had unique takes on the brief, and each was well thought out and delivered with great enthusiasm and a sense of fun.
The residential closed with a group discussion: “What will ‘One Step Beyond’ mean for you in your work, what is your next step and what does ‘One Step Beyond’ mean for us collectively?” This allowed each practitioner to consider their personal practice in their personal setting/s as well as how the concept could create a ‘Movement’, whereby inclusive music aspired to effect change on a greater scale - one that went beyond the individual setting.
What the music leaders said:
• Forged links, established relationships and shared experiences, knowledge and ideas with community musicians from a neighbouring region.
• This weekend was part of the ongoing process of CPD and training; for me it was about consolidating all of the different approaches and ideas I have, recognising my own skills rather than focusing on my limitations and building resilience to continue working in this challenging field
• I (took away that I) need to be a lot better at networking; I isolate myself by not finding time to share with my fellow workers. I have put plans in place to meet up with other community musicians from Teesside and North Yorkshire with a view to developing projects.
• Overall, finding out that we are all full of self-doubt and fear generally is just below the surface no matter what stage you’re at. This was particularly helpful to me, as I’m at a very early stage in EY delivery.
• Learnt that fear is an integral and natural part of what we do and not to be feared. It demonstrates that we care that the service we provide to people who benefit from it is of the best standard we are capable of at any time. One comment by one of the participants, that that we have to act the part and the self-confidence follows I found really useful.
• Learnt to own what I do. That events that don’t go to plan (and they are many) are just events that go in a different direction to what might have been envisaged. That we go together with the people we work with. It’s just something to do differently another time and see where it goes. I will subsequently have more experience to draw from and use another time.
• Genuinely found every work shop and lecture helpful. Can’t think of any weak spots in the whole weekend.
• I’m definitely going to introduce the warm up techniques immediately. I’m really looking forward to getting the kids song writing the whole weekend has completely inspired me.
Being present as a non-musician and being quite new to the community music sector, I gained a lot from the weekend personally and got involved as much as possible. I started with a slight sense of insecurity upon seeing everyone with their instruments, but found everyone to be very helpful and patient – probably a reflection to their teaching experience. I could relate to many of the challenges that were discussed, coming from a youth development background myself and I felt able to empathize with the musicians and relate their experiences to my practice, either current or historic. The atmosphere remained very positive throughout the weekend and despite the long days nobody seemed to waver or lose enthusiasm. I learnt new skills around project planning, a little about rhythm and got to leave my comfort zone by being involved in performances.