Jessie Grimes is one of our most lively and experienced musicians. She joined LMN in 2011 as part of the Jacquin Trio, and has delivered projects and performances in a wide range of venues across the South East. She spoke with Karen Irwin (LMN’s SEN Director) about her work in special schools, and the new opportunities this opened up for her.
KI: How did you first hear about LMN, and what made you want to work with us?
JG: We started the Jacquin Trio in 2009 when the three of us were doing our Masters at the Royal College of Music. We had entered the Overseas League Competition and I saw that one of the other finalists, Pure Brass were part of LMN so we looked in to it. Also, I have a background in music education through my degree at Trinity College Dublin and it was an area I was interested in. So we just went for it!
KI: What were the Trio’s first experiences with LMN?
JG: Even the audition was a really good experience! We started like most groups doing care home concerts. But we were very interested in the training on offer. We had differing levels of experience within the Trio, so the training helped to create a level playing field and gave us confidence to do work that we hadn’t done before. It became clear that we really liked the special schools work and we ended up going in that direction… which then led to me doing more solo work in special schools.
KI: Had you worked with children with special educational needs before?
JG: Never. And now it is such an important part of my life and gives me massive joy!
KI: In 2013 we ran our first major “Musicians in Residence” programme with 12 special schools. You were resident for a year in a Lewisham special school. What was it like going into the school initially?
JG: I was really terrified and daunted, as I had never done anything like it before. However the school were so welcoming, and individual staff reassuring as I figured out my way of doing things. Initially, it was hard to get past the classical music training of “not making a mistake”, but I got to explore things like improvisation and creative music-making with the children which was really fun.
KI: How do you think the children benefitted from your visits?
JG: Different ways. There were children with very differing needs including autism, hearing impairment and learning disabilities. Many of the children benefitted from the 1:1 contact and the building of a personal relationship and trust during the activities. They also gained an overall sense of achievement – for example, we learnt a song, recorded it and performed it, and it sounded really good.
KI: What response did you get from the staff?
JG: The staff were amazing – totally on board and they had a lot of fun. One of the teachers was going to South Africa to do a project and took one of the songs we’d learnt with her.
KI: And last year you led a large-scale LMN project with special schools in Brent. What was your role?
JG: My role was Artistic Director, which sounds very fancy! I’ve never had a title like that before! My job was to bring together LMN musicians and pupils from 3 different special schools to perform a piece in Wembley Arena. We ended up using a funky Walter Murphy track “A fifth of Beethoven” – a bit of a challenge but it worked really well.
KI: Why is it important for professional musicians to visit special schools?
JG: We can bring an element of excitement into school and present music at a higher level than the children would normally experience. Many of the students will never get to go to a concert or meet a professional musician. So bringing music into a space where children would not otherwise experience live music is important.
KI: And finally …. what would you tell a musician thinking of auditioning for LMN about your experiences and opportunities as an LMN artist?
JG: I’ve developed my ability to communicate and interact with audiences, and I’ve become bullet-proof to distractions! You’ll get great concert experience devising programmes for different audiences; and an income! LMN has a really good name so it’s great to have it on your CV. It’s opened up new opportunities for me such as workshop leading and animateur work too, which is useful for working with orchestras. All of the skills I’m using in this part of my career are things I’ve practised and used within my LMN work. Soon I’m going to be co-presenting a children’s TV music programme for BBC Northern Ireland. I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to do it without LMN.
Photo: LMN musician Jessie Grimes with Temi, a student from Lewisham, London and his teacher. Read the full case study here. (Photo Credit – Simon Jay Price)
Watch Jessie and Jacquin Trio in action in a film about our work made by The Media Trust in 2013: