Reflections on 2016: Inspiring change through music

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Director of Brighter Sound Debra King looks back across the year, reflecting on our work and the positive impact that creating and exploring music can have on people’s lives.

Reflections on 2016: Inspiring change through music
7th December 2016

Director of Brighter Sound Debra King looks back across the year, reflecting on our work and the positive impact that creating and exploring music can have on people’s lives.

Looking back across the year and reflecting on our work as a charity the most striking moments for me were when I had the privilege to witness the positive impact that creating and exploring music makes on people’s lives.

These were moments when music becoming a catalyst for change was palpable – when it connects people, values their different life experiences, is future thinking and inspirational.

I know this is why we all work at Brighter Sound. It is the driving force behind our commitment to what we do because we have watched for over 16 years how creating and exploring music enthuses and transforms people.

Ben Riley a musician and practitioner summed it up perfectly in his blog about his work on this year’s Brighter Sound programme for young offenders at Barton Moss Secure Care Centre:

This is the kind of project that enables dramatic change in the wellbeing of young people with some of the greatest challenges in society. It demonstrates each week the impact that can be made using music making to develop personal skills and facilitate mindfulness, even in what many would perceive as an extremely challenging setting.

Our ongoing Exchanging Notes research programme is another example of the agency that music has and how the creative process of making it is a powerful enabler for young people. This four-year programme with 60 children across two schools in Greater Manchester is revealing its positive long term impact on commitment to school attendance, improved academic ability across STEM subjects in the curriculum and a greater sense of wellbeing – improving young people’s sense of certainty about themselves.

Other key moments for me this year included Sing City – a programme at our host venue Band on the Wall where young people from across Greater Manchester come together to write music, learn about the industry and form and influence our thinking on future programmes – and the ‘My Music My Manchester’ residency we produced for MyHub where we worked with 32 young talented, culturally diverse Manchester musicians to develop a performance at the BBC Philharmonic, revealing the voice of Manchester in music film and digital art.  As Sue Harrison the Chair of MyHub said:

My Music, My Manchester is an ambitious and unique project that creates life changing experiences for young people, giving a voice to their city, thus developing a deeper sense of their own cultural and musical identity.

2016 also featured extraordinary and inspirational appearances from Kendrick Lamar and Bugzy Malone during our I Live Hip Hop programme where we worked with young and emerging artists who have a passion for hip hop, grime and urban music. Lead facilitator Danny Fahey from Thirty Pound Gentleman summed it up brilliantly:

Events like this are priceless experiences for the young artists that are involved, being able to share and connect in a way that shows who they truly are. Kendrick Lamar not just observing but taking part, having fun and really listening to their work is the ultimate. Truly a life changing experience for those young people. The atmosphere was so electric – his enthusiasm and support for the young talent in the room was so clear to see.

Future thinking about what a more equal music industry could look like in this digital age and how we can champion artists to innovate ways of doing business within it, was a key strand that ran through our residencies and commissions with young and emerging musicians. This materialised in an inspirational programme with strong and diverse role models from across the music sector with a specific focus on female artists.

Our residencies with Imogen Heap, Anna Meredith, our Robot Orchestra commission of Family Ranks and LayFullStop, our Here Come The Grrrls Serafina Steer commission and our Written in the Margins panel discussing gender, genre and the impact of written media on female representation and stereotyping with celebrated panellists including Stuart Maconie and Laura Snapes, have all provided groundbreaking opportunities for emerging musicians to future think, test ideas, experiment, progress creatively and gain a deeper understanding of their next steps, strategies and point of impact on the industry.

Our young composers commission ‘Change or be Changed’ with its genre-free brief saw Benjamin Finney and Michael-Jon Mizra travel to the MaerzMusik Festival in Berlin, discovering new technologies and contemporary techniques, using their bursaries to invest in new equipment, travel and research and to compose experimental digital work that defied traditional music genres.

As Imogen Heap and CHAINES so comprehensively put it:

The reason why organisations like Brighter Sound are so important to young artists is because the industry is so complicated, so any chance to have a little insight into that world and to have some advice can really go a long way.” (Imogen Heap)

The educational work that Brighter Sound does is really about looking to the future of what we need to be teaching students of music.” (CHAINES)

And we did so much more… we became an early years regional champion, we worked with music education hubs developing opportunities for children and young people in challenging circumstances and we offered traineeships for musicians who want to become those music practitioners who inspire children and young people.

Phill Howley a professional musician and a specialist in music engagement spoke about the Life on Shuffle programme where we worked with young people at risk through their differing life challenges:

And so it is that I’m sat here reflecting on Life on Shuffle with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, for it is really this type of project that keeps me a music leader.

And so it is for me too as the Director of Brighter Sound looking back at the incredible range of programmes and all the amazingly talented children and young people, artists and music practitioners that we worked with over 2016. I know, as do all of us at Brighter Sound that music is made of powerful stuff, and yes, this is really the kind of inspirational work that keeps me here.

Support us to create more of these life-changing opportunities by donating here: to Arts Council England’s Catalyst Evolve programme, we will be able to double any donations we receive.