As part of his internship, soundLINCS’ Programme Facilitator Intern George is making in his first steps into delivering music workshops and developing his wide-scoping instrumental knowledge. Here he talks through his experiences with training and his first experiences as a Music Facilitator!
Following the induction of the new Music Facilitator (MF) cohort in January, soundLINCS began hosting a series of fortnightly training and sharing sessions on workshopping – Wednesday Workshop Wonders – for all MFs to attend. The programme has been designed to allow MFs, both experienced and new, to share their experiences, ideas and workshop techniques with each other while improving their own skills through interactive sessions.
Nikki-Kate, soundLINCS’ CEO, began the introductory session by asking the simple question “Why are you here?” This gave everybody in the group the opportunity to say what they were hoping to achieve and the knowledge that they were hoping to gain by attending the sessions. With many of the MFs coming from a classroom or 1-2-1 teaching background, a popular answer was the ability to transfer their skills into a workshop environment where there’s no set curriculum and you find yourself having to adapt as you go along. Improving the lives of people in challenging circumstances through access to music was another recurring answer, as well as learning about community music and the impact it can have on society.
For me personally, I was hoping to use the skills I’ve gained as a musician for something other than music performance. Having performed to audiences for more than 10 years before starting my role at soundLINCS, I felt the next step and the next challenge would be making music interactively, rather than just playing it ‘at’ people. From what I understood about community music at that point, I hoped that facilitating workshops for soundLINCS would allow me to achieve that goal.
I think the thing that struck me most to begin with was the wealth and experience to be gained from the soundLINCS core team in these continuing sessions. The brief history of the company and the idea of community music that Nikki-Kate gave us really helped me to understand the goals and ideals that each of the MFs around the table were about to undertake. It is often said that community music can’t be ‘taught’ – that it needs to be ‘shown’ and the best way to develop your skills is by getting involved – but having this background information helped me to shape my workshop practice from the very beginning.
The theory of and discussions about workshops and community music are important in these sessions, but practical activities play an equal and key role. To begin with, we were shown a series of ‘Warm-Ups’ that enabled us to engage with groups of different sizes, ages and abilities. The number of activities that don’t require any musical instruments was really extensive. Getting a group to clap each time they count to 16 but doing it with their eyes closed is one of the most simple and effective ways I’ve seen to get people listening to each other in the same way that musicians do! Passing dowel sticks around a circle to a steady count of “1, 2, 3” is another activity we took part in and it’s great for introducing elements like pulse and tempo to those with little or no musical experience.
I was able to use these new-found skills in the first workshop I facilitated for soundLINCS after just one Wednesday Workshop Wonders session. I had the opportunity work with two other MFs to run a ‘taster session’ on different musical genres for Looked After Children using rock & pop musical instruments including drums, guitars and keyboards. Rather than asking the group to clap after every 16 counts, I asked them to make a noise on their instrument. Straight away I could see a sense of rhythm developing in a number of participants as they tried keeping time with each other.
In a later training and sharing session, we were introduced to the soundLINCS PRESENT Framework for MFs. PRESENT, meaning the opposite of absent, is a model of Youth Music’s ‘Plan, Do, Review and Improve’ that soundLINCS have adapted to be specific to their work. It is an acronym of the following points: Prepared & professional, Responsible & safe, Engaged & enabling, Skillful & creative, Evaulate & reflect, Needs & next steps and Training & CPD. Each of the four stages are accompanied by description of what is expected of MFs and how to go about following the Framework. I found it a really useful tool to have when planning and carrying out workshops because it acts almost like a ‘checklist’ of things that MFs should be considering in their work. Inclusivity is a huge part of the Framework and all the work that soundLINCS does and I found that adapting my workshops to fit in with this was challenging at first. Working with professional musicians for so long led me to believe that the expectations and outcomes were much higher, but in reality it’s summed up nicely within the Framework as ‘I aim to enable all participants to achieve their best on their own terms…’ It made me realise that workshops shouldn’t be based around my experiences but the experiences of the people involved. As long as the participants achieve something, engage in some way or feel better at the end than they did at the start then the workshop has been largely successful.
As a Programme Facilitator Intern with soundLINCS, rather than a freelance Music Facilitator, I have been given a number of opportunities to shadow experienced MFs and assist them in their workshops. This has proven to me the value of sharing techniques and knowledge that the Wednesday Workshop Wonders sessions have been set up to enable. I found that being given the tools and knowledge in the training sessions before having to apply them in a real workshop setting was essential, but I still had to make all the elements of my workshops flexible to suit the abilities and circumstances of the participants I engaged with. That’s where the sharing was so important. There is always support available, either from other MFs or from the soundLINCS core team, to discuss ideas and change approaches to suit every situation, setting and group.
Going forward, I am really looking forward to the challenge of new settings and groups of people that I haven’t yet had the chance to work with. There are some fantastic Wednesday Workshop Wonders sessions timetabled for later in the year which will involve talks and workshops by professionals from a range of fields. With topics like ‘The Teenage Brain’, ‘Pedagogical Approaches’ and ‘Workshopping with SEND Participants’ I am convinced that my skills, techniques and experience will continue to be developed throughout my time at soundLINCS.