Nicola Stanton, soundLINCS Programme Development Officer, reflects upon the impact music can have in shaping the aspirations and confidence of Looked After Children.
The first time I met Jess she had bravely taken to the Unplugged Stage at 2017’s annual FAB! Looked After Children’s Awards. Jess began to sing, she wowed the audience with her amazing voice and her style – people stopped everything they were doing in order to listen to her. She had captivated them all.
Fast forward to 2018 and I met Jess again as part of the Voices 4 Choices Big Conversation Executive group. Here Looked After Children and Young People have the opportunity to meet with their peers and discuss the areas that are important to them. The Big Conversation also provides them with a chance to communicate with councillors, social workers and support workers on key issues as well as feedback on processes and ideas that are being put in place. Jess told me she was interested in becoming a social worker.
As part of the Big Conversation, Lincolnshire County Council and the FAB! Steering group asked me to chat to the group about the next FAB! Awards – to make sure that the event was full of the young people’s vibrant ideas and thoughts, making the day meaningful and enjoyable for everyone involved. Over pizza and crisps we gathered together all our ideas to start planning what would be the “best ever!” FAB! We decided on the theme of “The future!”
It would be unthinkable for soundLINCS to plan an event without bringing the joy of music – so we chatted about what kind of music we wanted on the day and who wanted to be involved. Jess was immediately enthused by the challenge and signed up along with James who was keen to be involved with the music production aspect. As the theme of the 2018 FAB! Event was to be ‘The Future’, we decided as a group that the track should be digital, using loops and samples to create an optimistic and unique futuristic sound. We decided to give ourselves plenty of time over two full days to write a piece of original music including lyrics. The piece would then be shown (or sung) during the Awards Ceremony.
soundLINCS Music Facilitator, Eddy Mentzel, and I worked together with Jess and James, over the two days. We started the songwriting process by listening to several of their favourite tracks to give us a flavour of the type of music that they were interested in making. Part of the process involved identifying what aspects of the music appealed to them. Jess performed a couple of her favourite songs so that we could hear the style that she favoured and to give us a better idea of the type of song that would suit her voice. From there we pulled together key ideas within the music such as sounds, rhythms and tone before beginning on the lyrics. Working out the ideal range of notes for the vocals we began to experiment on a keyboard to find a few notes that could act as a starting point. Together we found a beat that we could start writing to and began jotting down key words and phrases that could help us craft a first verse.
Jess and James were excellent at deciding exactly what they wanted to say throughout their song – it was important to them that the song be upbeat, positive and something that the FAB! audience could relate to. They were also keen that it could inspire young people to think about their own future and their own potential. Through the afternoon we continued writing lyrics and developed the melody for the verse, chorus and bridge sections. A further day was spent in production, recording and mastering the track. The group were all very excited and proud of the final version!
It was brilliant to see how both Jess and James grew in confidence throughout the process, and how they felt supported in expressing their ideas, views and creative opinions, by the end of the two days neither of them were shy about how they wanted the song to sound.
The two days enabled us to create a track that could be set to a lyric video and shared on various platforms. The video track was completed prior to the FAB! Awards Ceremony and it was wonderful to see it come to life on three large screens through a fantastic sound system. The audience loved every second and could be heard humming the tune as they left the auditorium.
What has been key for me throughout this process is seeing a young person fully embrace their talent, fully engage in a song writing process and feel value in that process. Since the two day sessions Jess has been in touch to say that she is now fully considering a career in music, she described:
“It was great fun working with the team to make this possible. I’m so happy I had the chance to sing for the FAB! Awards, and after being able to produce something like this, I know now I want to proceed with a music career in the future! Thanks to soundLINCS I got to see what it was like to sing and produce something with a great team around me.”
I caught up with Jess again recently at another Big Conversation, she has been successful in her application to an Access to Music course, she is writing her own songs and looking forward to an audition for Britain’s Got Talent. She is really looking forward to embracing her talents in the future. I, personally, look forward to seeing Jess develop her potential and create more wonderful music through her passion, dedication and talent.
The song created and showcased at the FAB! Awards: