Monthly Archives: April 2012

Music Changing Lives I: ‘Inspiring Change’

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the different ways music can be used in the community, and I’ve decided to write a series of posts about a few that have made the news in recent years and their social impact.

I’d like to start with a lesser known but hard hitting project, called ‘Inspiring Change’ which took place in 2010. Its rather bland name gives no hint of what the project was actually about – it was a pioneering collaboration between Motherwell College, a dozen arts organisations and the Scottish Prison Service to provide arts outreach to those inside Her Majesty’s prisons. The arts organisations involved were Scottish Opera, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Scottish Ensemble, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, the Citizens Theatre and the Traverse Theatre, and funding was provided by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Arts Council. The project included rigorous evaluation so that the benefits that it brought could be recognised and applied to future projects of this sort.

Scottish Opera and the SCO collaborated on a project working in HMP Shotts, where the offenders were involved in creating an opera from scratch, including writing the libretto, music, designing costumes and sets, then staging a performance of their work. Reading violinist Rosenna East’s account of the project in the Herald, I’m struck by the enthusiasm and eagerness of the prisoners to participate in the project, especially to sing, when we are constantly told by the media that classical music, and especially opera, is for the elite and is definitely ‘not cool’. Rosenna writes, ‘Only one man says to me that he will get “slagged” if he has anything to do with the project’, and that this man eventually ended up in one of the music writing groups. How many of us would expect this reaction if an orchestra and opera company were to walk into a prison or young offenders institute? I find it surprising and wonderful that the stereotypes don’t fit.

The project at Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute Polmont was divided into three separate projects: the Scottish Ensemble’s Music for Change, which focussed on learning tp play and record music, National Youth Choir of Scotland’s VoiceMale, which was a series of vocal workshops culminating in a performance, and an art project by the National Galleries of Scotland in which individuals constructed life size human figures. A research paper (which can be found here) summarised the outcomes of these projects, and contained the following reactions from some of the young offenders:

‘I’ve never really had a chance to do anything like that. Never really had a chance to put on a show for anybody’

‘At the end of the performance I actually got compliments. They said it was good and I should carry on when I get out. It was surprising and it was good to hear, you know what I mean?’

‘I was just more eager to do it. It was something you wanted to do… Other things you wouldn’t want to put the time and effort into. I actually tried. I tried and made an effort for it.’

‘They [the arts practitioners] told you what to do but they never pushed you or forced you. They helped you. They weren’t too bossy. And the way that they did it, it worked out good, you know what I mean? You learned from them.’

 ‘Music gives you extra skills…it can open your eyes and you say [to yourself] I didn’t know I could do that before I came here and it turns out I can and I’m quite good at it’.

Overall the report emphasises the improved engagement of the young men: the sense of meaning and purpose the projects gave them, and the improvements in confidence and self esteem that being involved with others focussed on a common goal brought about. As the report stated, ‘engagement in the arts projects seemed to challenge the passivity of prison life.’

More information about Inspiring Change can be found on the SCO Connect’s page about the project here

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I haven’t posted about what I’m doing in a while, so here’s a run down of what’s been happening lately.

  • I am continuing to attend and help at St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra (known as ‘StAFCO’) which is run jointly by St Andrews Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Gillian Craig. It is an amazing collaboration, as the sectionals get taken by members of the SCO, and the sub-principal cellist Su-a Lee is performing the Elgar Cello Concerto in the concert on 31st May which should be brilliant. We are rehearsing with her tonight which I’m looking forward to! Next week I will be taking a string sectional rehearsal, which should be good.
  • Excitingly, I now have some violin pupils! It’s great to get stuck in to some teaching, and it’s good for me to play my violin again (even if it feels a bit like a toy it is so small, no offence violinists!) I’m hoping to get some viola pupils too but I’ll have to wait and see what happens…
  • Last weekend I helped out at the SCO Connect’s Scrapers and Tooters project in Galashiels (Scottish Borders). The weekend was a lot of fun and we played Gluck, Beethoven and Dvorak under the watchful eye of Michael Bawtree and with help from members of the SCO who took sectional rehearsals, including Eric de Wit (cello) and Lorna McLaren (1st violin)
  • I am in the process of writing to schools in the Fife and Tayside area to see whether I can do any more teaching within the school environment. Watch this space…
  • The next 2 weeks will be pretty busy with concerts. On Sunday 22nd April I’ll be playing Elijah with the Heisenberg Ensemble and Stirling City Choir in Stirling, and then the following weekend the St Andrews Chorus have their spring concert of Puccini and Verdi on Sat 28th in the Younger Hall, and then on the Sunday it is my Chamber Concert with Tom Duncan and a few others, featuring Bach’s E flat Cello Suite amongst other works.
  • I’m hoping to collaborate with my friend Gillian Gamble on a project for her new social enterprise ‘Just Made’ which focusses on getting young people into the creative arts through education and training. We are still in very early planning stages of this but it’s quite exciting!

Chamber Concert on April 29th, St Andrews

The date for my concert in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews has now been confirmed for 29th April at 8pm. The final programme is still tbc but it will definitely contain the Eb at Cello Suite No 4 by JS Bach (BWV 1010) and hopefully Bach’s Viola da Gamba Sonata No 3 in G minor (BWV 1029). The other items will be organ music played by Tom Duncan (organist and choir master of Holy Trinity) and some choral items (by Schutz and Bach) with Jane Pettegree, Tom and 2 violins.

WordPress is being stupid and won’t let me upload photos at the moment but here’s a pdf of the poster for the event, and a photo will follow soon!

HT concert 29th april

Hope that some of you will be able to make it. Posters and publicity should be appearing soon around town!

Business cards

So I finally took the plunge and ordered business cards. Here they are:

The image is the f hole from my viola, lightened slightly so that the text stands out. I think they look quite good (and so they should, they amount they cost!) I used the website goodprint as they let you upload your own background, after investigating other websites such as moo and vistaprint and finding that I couldn’t do it on those sites (maybe that was just me though…) I feel a bit silly for not putting this blog address on too though, meh. Oh well, now all I’ve got to do is find people to give them to!