A group of looked after young people from across the Birmingham area showcased their musical talents and enjoyed the rare opportunity to perform with professional musicians in a special one-off event on Saturday 18 July 2009.
The performance at Firs Brook Centre in Quinton was the culmination of a three-month long project organised by Live Music Now in association with LACES (Looked After Children Education Service).
It is the Midlands branch of Live Music Now that teamed up with LACES to host a series of workshops for 11-17 year olds under Local Authority care. The participants were from various settings – for example, foster homes, residential schools and children's homes – but all shared an interest in music and relished the opportunity to learn from professionals. As a result of the workshops, many of them wish to pursue a musical career.
"They have all got so much out of this. We have one participant who is now intent on being a music producer, one who wants to be a rapper and another has ambitions to join Birmingham's Symphony Orchestra," says Louise Clarke, LACES project manager.
The young people were able to influence the direction of the project from the outset, even choosing which musicians they wanted to work with. After a taster session of live music ranging from African percussion to jazz, the young people opted to work with Moyma & Madflow, a DJ and MC/Beat boxer who are both well-known professional musicians based in the area.
One hundred looked after young people from across the City were given the opportunity to experience the diverse range of live music at the initial taster session. For the next three months, a smaller group of 10 young people enjoyed the unique opportunity to work alongside Moyma & Madflow in full-day workshops once a fortnight. This engaged them in making, listening and performing live music as well as learning new skills such as team-working, song writing and composing lyrics.
These newly acquired skills were showcased to an audience of family and friends at the final performance. The performance was a key element of the project as the participants were proud of what they achieved and were keen to demonstrate their new skills.
"The project was very much led by the participants, which enabled them to develop confidence, musical ability and has led to increased self-esteem. These are important attributes for every young person, but even more so for looked after young people who may face barriers as a result of their circumstances. There is a real mix of skill and ability within the group, but they have all exceeded their own expectations in terms of what they have achieved," says Louise Clarke, LACES project manager.
The project was not just about exposing the young people to the joys of live music as the group are also expected to gain an Arts Award qualification through participation in the project.
This nationally accredited scheme is designed to support young people to develop as artists and has three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold. Some of the participants have already achieved a Bronze Arts Award and this project was geared towards them achieving the Silver. Each participant was encouraged to offer feedback on the fortnightly music workshops and put together a written portfolio about what they had learnt and achieved. This documentation will be submitted for Arts Award moderation.
This is the first time that Live Music Now, Midlands has worked with looked after young people and it is delighted with the outcome:
"We believe passionately in the positive impact live music can have on individuals, which is why we were so keen to work with LACES to provide this opportunity to young people who may face obstacles in their young lives due to their background and personal circumstances. It was great for such a large group of local young people to see and hear professional musicians from such diverse musical backgrounds. The project has been such a positive experience for everyone involved and is definitely something we want to repeat in the future," says Jayne Rollason, Director of Live Music Now Midlands.