Soulful Summer

Just completed a week of workshops for THSH and UFA, project was called Soulful summer.
I helped facilitate sessions based mainly on developing young people’s composition skills. I was blown away by the young people’s ideas and good vibes. Some of the feedback I got was great, and was nice to see some of the younger participants’ confidence really grow!

Here’s some audio:

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Safari Life: written in a day, based on a drum ostinato played in an improvised ostinato exercise I always use.

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Our version of Summer Time, I led the rhythm section, or they led me lol! Huw lead horns, Shereece led the singers.

Thanks to Katy G and Jan P for their assistance and support!

………….Only a few more days to go before I get some time off to develop my own creativity, yay!

100 Hour challenge: Third week


Day 1: Practiced for two hours
Day 2: Practiced for an hour
Day 3: Back in Birmingham, no practice
Day 4: Nada
Day 5: Nada
Day 6: Nada
Day 7: Nada

Hmmm think I failed there. I did read up on stuff but… few ebonies and ivories were tinkled last week! On the plus side, whenever I am home I practice. I asked a local Birmingham church whether I could practice there, thanks to Clare Edwards, but the times available clashed. Gonna do more Brum based piano hunting.

New Year: Brand New Second Hand Moi & The Arty Jaunt

Picture by Emot
(Pic by Emot)

Happy New Year!

How are you dear Bobablog readers? No really, how are you? Nice Christmas? Nice juicy turkey, nut roast? I managed to only annoy half my family – which was a record!

Well, life is going great! I am adjusting to my to-ing and fro-ing from Birmingham and London. I used to always snooze on train journeys, until I realised that doing something simple like taking off your coat and scarf makes you less warm and sleepy. So my commuting time is being used more efficiently. Well I was able to get lots of reading in…

Also, congratulations to Chris Unitt and Created in Birmingham for winning Best UK Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards! Nice one to the online Brum community that helped accumulate loads of votes! Whoop!

At present I am going through a manual for creatives called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I was recommended a read by Bev Lee-Harling from the Medieval Babes and another musician friend – (forgotten who – d’oh!). So, I thought I’d give it a shot and am really enjoying the process. Has anyone read it and gone through the steps? How was it for you? How far did you get and did it change your life?

I really enjoy the morning pages, but not the waking up 30 mins earlier to do it.
I was warned before cracking open my copy, to not be put off by the reference to the ‘Creator’ and American English, positivity language that can sometimes leave me cold, but I am very much open to it. I have reached week 4, and it is proving to be the most difficult, I am only 12 hrs in… See I don’t own a telly; haven’t since 2003 and so books have replaced ‘TV time chilax’.

Well, one of the tasks for week 4 is no reading for 7 days!! Yup, I am not allowed to read books because it prevents me from navel gazing; or, rather listening to my inner voice, digesting my own thoughts and opinions for a change. It will be hard, but I shall stay busy! I definitely recommend the book to creatives, because it can be soooo difficult when you have people around you that don’t understand what you are doing, or have little respect for it because you aren’t granted PAYE status.

I have been thinking of some aims for 2009 and they are to;
• make the most out of my time in London – theatres, gigs, restaurants, it’s all about the experience
• get involved in lots of music making, so if there are any bands out there that need a keys player get in touch! LOL!
• be the best at whatever work I do – community musician wise and social media training
• to compose regularly and have what I write performed (not shelved) – gulp, first sketch gets airplay on Friday
• to become more confident in my own personal music making
• to setup some sort of community music project here in London – hmmm, why not fuse some social media with it?
• to be on the Internet less… gulp
• to compose for an orchestra!
• stand up for myself a bit more – especially to rude people I don’t care about
• focus on family and seeing my best friends more regularly before kids, and life make it more difficult

What are yours? x

Down Your Way – Castle Vale High

I had a wonderful session working with year seven students from Castle Vale High School last Friday, it was a chance for us all the bond, learn about the project aims and do some rhythm/pulse exercises. I was really impressed with how quickly the students were able to recognise and play different patterns from our sound bank.

We even had time to loop three phrases which were framed by their music teacher and artistic director Dave Howard with some groovy guitar riffs. You can listen here:

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Chatted Up in Castle Vale After a Cool ‘Down Your Way’ Session!

I had a wonderful session working with year 5 students and OAPs from Chivenor House. Our sound bites moved from melodic fragments to a chorus. We just need to tweak the lyrics now. The boys were really into singing – apparently they are not meant to be! Dave – Artistic director of the project has blogged about it too! Glad that this community music project followed my blogging advice 🙂

This afternoon I had arranged to have my keyboard repaired by a Mr.Crump and he asked me to meet him at his previous client’s house – round the corner from where I was working, where I got talking to a chap called Wally. He was really warm, welcoming, friendly, and appeared very excited to have a new guest. Wally shared his life story, pictures, a newspaper cutting of how he fell off a truck into the arms of his wife to be – Rose. I like how open Wally is – his honesty about life and growing old. Wally jokingly said he was on the look out for a wife, and that I’d better be careful… Wife number 4 anyone?

Pics from Down Your Way last Saturday

Here are some pics from last Saturday’s session. We had some Global Xchange volunteers from Morocco participate and it was quite contrasting to the smaller numbers we’ve had in the past. Chris led the session, and recorded sound bites about childhood memories – short phrases were the stimuli for music making and composition. We wrote pieces exploring the feeling of completing a long day at school  – joy, excitement, need I say more!?!

There was lots of translating and merriment had!!

What to do in Silly Season?

Summer can be a quiet period for the community musician and I am finding it particularly hard to relax. I know I should spend this time focusing on my artform, enjoying my time off, but, it just doesn’t work like that for me- guilt being the operative word I suppose.

I was counseled only slightly when I found some training notes from the Sound Sense Sharpen Up! event I went to some time ago in February- really useful. I might have blogged about them before, but here are some notes that I re-read.

What is the definition of Marketing? It was defined or quoted quite succinctly by Gemma Miller, Marketing Officer of The London Community Gospel Choir.

“Identifying the wants and needs of a target market of customers, and then going about satisfying those customers better than the competitors” .

Some other pearls of wisdom:
1. Expensive adverts do not always translate to increased sales.
2. Target customers need to hear your messages at least 7 times. (I get paranoid after 3 times).
3. The Marketing Mix – 4P’s

Is product meeting customers’ needs?
How does your product look?
How does the competition do it?

Where will your product be distributed?

Premium pricing – promotes uniqueness
Penetration pricing – start the price low to gain interest
Optional Product Pricing – set a basic price then add extras if needed

The way that you communicate your message – marketing
Select what tools to use for your market place
Is your product at the right price?
Compare to competition

I think my main problem is actually defining what I do and specialising. It seems loads easier if I can say I am a music producer and I offer music tech workshops, but I don’t just do that. Sometimes by being able to offer quite a varied set of skills, it confuses potential clients, especially when it makes it hard for them to pigeon hole me.
Price –it’s alright. I have spoken to/checked my fees with quite a few community musos and I am not asking for silly money, well you can’t in this sector.
Place – kool.
Promotion- hmmm. I don’t enjoy it. But, as time passes I find it less embarrassing telling potential clients about the sort of work I offer and how it fits in with their organisation/school/vlub etc.

And on a completely different note…

I really enjoyed reading Clare Edwards’ candid post about her blog crisis. It made me rethink my reasons for blogging and the focus of this one. My first blog post said it would document my journey as a newbie freelance community musician. I think I intended on discussing more of the issues, problems, kool findings- I need to focus on that some more methinks.

If this blog is a queasy, self-congratulatory, self-promoting pile of pooh, it wasn’t intended on being so. More like a space where I could document workshops and discuss the sector, as well as documenting random things of interest.

The main thing is to continue having fun blogging I say!

CBSO Planets Creative Project

I have been working with students from Holyhead School over the last 2 weeks to compose songs inspired by Holst’s The Planets. All students went to a CBSO performance of it a few weeks ago, this was our composition stimuli. At the start of the workshops I gave participants the option to compose about planets in our solar system or make up a completely fictional one.

All opted for the later but two groups kept the astronomical names. We had some truly imaginative creations. The most popular planet was Venus- turned into a romantic, mystical place, other creations were Blue -Ray, Stardust and Stardonia. I shall upload music next week.

It was truly an educational experience, I have always wanted to work with the CBSO, I joined the CBSO Youth Chorus when it first formed and was always blown away when taking part in colossal works by great classical composers such as Mahler, Britten and Orff . Being a part of such a prestigious and virtuous music group inspired me to practice several hours a day; I wanted to be a classical musician during most of my teenage-hood.

It has been great working with an orchestral member and having the guidance and support from someone who performs on a regular basis. Mark Goodchild helped guide the young people through performance skills and tricks of the professional trade.

We were also given the task of mentoring local primary school students; we had an intense 6 hr day to bond, pass on skills and get everyone’s performances ready for the big day at Town Hall. We are going to showcase our work this Wednesday 18th June- 6:30pm- how exciting!!

I have to give a big mention to Ms.Georgiou who was instrumental in the coordination of the project and dived straight in! She helped the students with their pieces as best she could and was a really positive force. I have delivered a fair amount of workshops- (well I think), and teacher’s attitude towards them differs quite a lot!! Sometimes gentle coercion of support staff sees them getting stuck in and having a laugh, yet unfortunately it can result in some busy bees lurking further at the back of the room/catching up with work; which is a real shame.

It’s always good for students to see their teachers getting involved and having fun. It inspires confidence and motivates. Some students may even think to themselves: “Well, if my teacher is prepared to look a tool, well maybe I might then….”

Have your say! The Music Igniter Final Round-up session

Today was the final Music Igniter session. It was a chance for everyone to share the projects they had delivered, discuss the processes and whether the guinea-pig test worked; if you put 10 teachers and 10 community musicians together and ask them to work towards creating innovative, fun, successful fun projects- does it work?

The answer was yes- and even more so if there is proper support from the school.

Nearly all the projects had a few issues, be them organisational ones, staffing or equipment related, but regardless of any problems faced, each group was able to get good results and had young people making music and having fun.

It was interesting to observe that after a lot of work had gone into breaking down tribes- after months apart, (most, not all) teachers instinctively sat together and likewise with the music practitioners. I found myself very guilty here! When we first started the course, Phil Mullen (lead trainer) went to great measures to break down these barriers and there were changes for the first couple of months thanks to music making, bonding etc. Old habits die hard.

I love meeting up with musicians working in the education field- there is always so much to learn and share, and it makes me sad that these things don’t happen enough. I wish there were more opportunities…

I really enjoyed seeing the documentation of a special needs project that happened in Stoke- Steve had brilliantly used wii remotes and wired them to Ableton live so that young people with even the most limited of movement could be musical! Impressive!

I learn’t about the future of Creative Partnerships– that the Change School Programme has been launched and will focus on smaller scale projects focuses on creativity:

“The Change Schools programme is one of three new Creative Partnerships School Programmes, which will be launched in 2008. It will enable schools to enter into a 3-year partnership arrangement (1-3 years for schools already involved with Creative Partnerships) that can radically transform the ways in which the school operates, placing creativity at the heart of its ethos and operation”.

I wish all Music Ignitees well with their futures! Best of luck!

Birmingham Jazz Youth Sessions

This weekend I have been working with lovely students from Hamstead Hall School to compose, arrange and perform an original piece of music. It had a fusion of reggae, bashment and jazz.

Most students had never played in a band before so were pretty nervous- but everyone did a great job- although I fluffed some of my directing cues- whops!!

Many thanks to Head of music Mr. Rogers for all his support!

I really enjoyed the big band sessions at the end- effortlessly directed and shaped by composer Sid Peacock! There were some really amazing, big sounds!!