Programme Facilitator Intern George recently came to the end of his six month internship with soundLINCS as part of the Creative Employment Programme. Here he shares his journey of combining facilitation and office life.
I’ve now come to the end of my 6-month internship with soundLINCS and it’s been a fantastic experience to say the least. I graduated from the University of Southampton in August 2015 and, after several months of job-hunting to no avail, managed to find a position relevant to my Music degree.
My first thought after getting the job was something along the lines of “How will a music graduate get on in an office environment?” Up to that point, I’d spent a lot of my time performing and travelling on tours but I had almost no experience in an admin-type role. It’s safe to say that the first challenge was honing my ‘office skills’ – the organisation, the meetings, keeping on top of emails. It wasn’t easy, but I feel like I’ve got the hang of it now after 6 months and they’re the kind of skills I can use anywhere so it’s a great feeling.
The main and ongoing task I’ve been given during my time here at soundLINCS is to organise and audit the impressive amount of musical instruments and equipment we use for workshops. There’s a lot of stuff to get through but being put in a room full of instruments and equipment (many of which I’ve never played) and being told to check they all work must be up there as one of the dream Music graduate jobs. A big part of this task is updating the database that records where everything is and what condition it’s in. Having not seen a database since GCSE IT all those years ago, I had a lot of questions but they were all answered and I feel like I’ve gained another really valuable skill that I can use in so many situations. I had the opportunity to work alongside Sam, our Media and Communications Officer, to produce an online Instrument Catalogue of all the equipment soundLINCS currently has. The plan is to have everything listed on our website so that staff members can easily request equipment for their workshops and see everything that we have available. Knowing that this will make the ‘booking out’ process smoother and help facilitate even better workshops is a great feeling.
Thankfully, this internship isn’t all office-based work – as interesting and dynamic as that can be working for a music development charity like soundLINCS. As a Programme Facilitator Intern I got to go out, experience the work we do first-hand and even help to run some workshops of my own. There are regular fortnightly training sessions in the office based around workshop techniques and practices and these have really helped me to develop in my role. Music has never been an issue for me, but trying to get somebody else to play a song at the end of a 1-hour session when they’ve never picked up an instrument before seemed impossible in my head. These workshop training sessions gave me the tools to achieve that goal and I’ve really been able to adapt as a musician along the way.
I’ve been given the opportunity to shadow two experienced Music Facilitators (MFs), the freelance musicians that deliver workshops on behalf of soundLINCS, in an ongoing project at a weekly group set up for young people at risk of offending. Being part of the work that MFs do has enabled me to see an entirely new side to music that I’d never considered. Performing to an audience is one thing, but helping other people to make their own music with almost no tuition or experience is a brilliant feeling. The planning and evaluation side of these workshops is so important, and a lot of professions have this approach to all of their programmes so the ability to do that well is really useful.
The highlight of my time here so far has definitely been the annual FAB! Award Ceremony for Looked-After Children and their foster carers. I was given the job of running the Unplugged Stage – a small acoustic stage for anyone to perform anything whether it’s music, comedy or poetry. Setting the stage up was easy, but nothing prepared me for the number of people that wanted to get up and perform, often more than once! It was fantastic to see so many young people, of all ages and abilities, getting up on stage to sing their favourite songs to a sizeable audience of supportive people. soundLINCS even let me keep the stage running through lunch to get as many performances as possible in before the ceremony started. It was wonderful seeing the awards given out in the afternoon, the celebration of talent and dedication that my colleagues had organised and were helping to run. There was a huge amount of teamwork happening throughout the whole day and the success of it all left me with a big sense of achievement.
One of the most important things throughout my internship with soundLINCS is that I haven’t felt like an intern at all. From day one I’ve been treated as a Core Team member, just like my colleagues. So many of the tasks I have been asked to do were important – there have been people relying on me to get the work done and some of them have been a challenge that I really enjoyed rising to. Being given this level of responsibility as an intern has given me valuable experience, knowing how to prioritise when colleagues are relying on me to meet certain deadlines and produce work to a very high standard.
Another task I really enjoyed during my internship, aside from the musical instruments and equipment, has been working on our First Notes App. Testing the App had proven to be rather time-consuming so it was taking longer to develop than soundLINCS first hoped. I was more than happy to take on the challenge of testing, working alongside the App developer, to get the best possible results. First Notes launched on the App Store one week before the end of my internship and I felt proud that I’d helped to make it happen. It looks incredibly professional and I hope parents, carers and Early Years practitioners will find it really useful when making music with babies and young children.
Alongside my work on the First Notes App, I was also given the opportunity to test other, similar music Apps that can be used with children, including those with Special Needs. I was asked to write a short review of 3 Apps each month that were then included in soundLINCS’ monthly E-bulletin, soundEMission. Working on a piece of writing that goes out to 1,600+ people each month was a frightening prospect at first, but I thoroughly enjoyed it knowing that I’d be helping people to discover new and exciting music Apps that they can use for fun or professionally.
There has been so much training and development available throughout my internship. As well as the fortnightly training sessions for Music Facilitators that have helped me to develop as a musician, I’ve been trained as an Arts Award Adviser, I can now PAT Test electrical equipment safely and more recently I attended sessions on neuroscience that show how the brain develops through music. The opportunities to go to the Music Education Expo 2016, the Cultural Education Partnership Summit and Sound of Intent Regional Launch have opened my eyes to a vast network of creative people and organisations that do some really outstanding work in the cultural sector.
It’s strange to think that my time here is over – for now – but it’s been an amazing experience all round and I feel really privileged to have been a part of soundLINCS for the last 6 months.