Voice Jams for young people

Over the last few months we’ve been running a hugely successful pilot series of Voice Jams aimed at local young people, giving them a fantastic opportunity to sing and perform in one of London’s most famous music studios, used by stars including Rihanna, The Arctic Monkeys, Lianne La Havas, Katy B and Dizzee Rascal.

The pilot project, which was heavily oversubscribed, gave youngsters the chance to:

  • Join a great new vocal group
  • Work with a top voice trainer
  • Learn to be a better singer
  • Perform on a professional stage

For the Voice Jam pilot we collaborated with the dynamic vocal coach Clive Brown, one of the best voice trainers in the business who was able to transform young people’s voices and confidence.

Culminating in a performance in a showcase studio with A FULL BAND this was the course no young singer wanted to miss!

“It’s absolutely amazing I was able to have such a wonderful opportunity!” Carmen Ngonga 16

“I believe this scheme was so successful because of the staff at The Premises, their professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication shone through”.  – Nicole Harbison – parent

“The teachers were amazing, the best!” – Anthony Di Gaetano 14

Overview

After several months of singing and harmonising, working as a team and a choir, recording and performing, the Saturday Voice Jams have now held their last performance in their current format.  We are delighted with the success of the project and how much the young people learned and grew in confidence during their time with us.  Running from September 2011 the Voice Jams grew in numbers (and volume!) each week and many of the students attended each and every Jam.  Engaging young people in East London during out of school hours can be a difficult exercise but the combination of a good marketing strategy, the location of the workshops, the expertise of the staff and the enthusiasm of all the musicians managed to attract many young people from the usually “hard to engage” target group.  The aims and objectives of the charity and of this particular pilot project have not only been met, but exceeded in many cases.

Beginning as soon as the final part of the funding was received, The Voice Jams launched with a full marketing campaign, consultations with local youth organisations and a series of workshops in schools.   This proved a very successful part of the project with over 150 young people signing up for these after school “taster sessions” and giving the charity the opportunity to take their workshops into new areas and make new contacts within the local community.  These new relationships are continuing now the workshops have completed, and the charity aims to build upon them in the coming years.

The taster workshops were successful in recruiting our first, keen group of Saturday Voice Jam students who started at The Premises Studios on October 1st 2011.  To keep the workshop format simple and to give the greatest learning experience for the young people (and also to allow us to engage with their families) we designed a series of events with training sessions, band workshops, recording sessions and performances.  This format was intensive and gave the young people immediate aims and goals – working as a team and preparing for recordings and performances in The Premises’ top studio A where many of the artists the young people admire also work.  All the students received professionally prepared and mixed and mastered CDs of the recording sessions and these CDs are available on request.  This gives the young people a permanent record of their time on the Voice Jams and a reminder of their musical achievements.

The workshops ran in 4-week blocks on Saturdays, as well as one block in the autumn half term.   Overall the project worked with more than 300 young people, 80% of whom were BME and at least 25 of whom had disabilities.  Several young people signed up for the Arts Awards and we were delighted to receive a 100% pass rate for this.

In between the hard work at the studios, one of the highlights of the Voice Jams was the opportunity to take a group of young people to perform in a gala performance at The Hackney Empire.  This was part of a night organised by Hackney Music Services and 41 young people from the Voice Jams sang “Lean on Me” live on stage in front of an audience of 1300 – the whole of the Empire was sold out!  This will be a performance that the young people will remember for the rest of their lives, with many overcoming initial stage fright to put on one of the best performances of a great night.

During the workshops Clive Brown not only taught the excellent vocal techniques for which he is so well known, but also provided hours of invaluable mentoring, encouragement, structured learning and amazingly high-energy and engaging sessions for all the young people attending.  Feedback on Clive’s teaching gave high praise:

“Clive, the teacher, is excellent.  He is dynamic and inspirational as well as being instructive and supportive”
– Ryan Jago, 15

“ Clive put my son at ease and his tireless encouragement of all the children attending was wonderful to behold”
– Nicole Harbison, parent

“Clive is truly inspirational and has this way of bringing out the best in people around him”
– Hannah Abban, 16

This feedback also mentioned:

“It’s a really amazing opportunity and I’m really glad I came”
– Ifaedi Mundu, 19

“It has been an enormous boost to my confidence”
Indigo White, 14

“I had support and praise”
– Sarah Duyile, 15

“I am very grateful for the experience and loved my time here”
– Lemi Tarkan, 13

“Singing with a group was an amazing experience as was making the recording”
– Donna Duggan-Hill, 12

The best thing was just being able to sing in a group where everyone was putting effort in and really taking everything seriously, while still enjoying themselves”
– Oceanne Umekwe, 13

Statistics

Number of young people engaged with during the course of the Voice Jams:

  • Over 200 in schools
  • Over 150 in studio sessions.
  • Ethnic Breakdown of students:  75% – 80% BME
  • Musicians and Staff Employed:  16 (Musicians 100% BME)
  • Arts Award 100% pass rate

Schools worked with during afterschool hours:  Morpeth School, Petchy Academy, Stoke Newington School, Mossbourne Community Academy, Bridge Academy, Cardinal Pole School.

Finance:  All funding targets were met and the project came in exactly on target for spend.

The future

With all the workshops now finished there is great demand for us to start a fresh series of Voice Jams.  We would like to see these workshops forming a successful pilot for an on-going programme of workshops at The Premises Studios and hope this will be possible.  The numbers of students increased each session and the confidence of the young people grew each time.  We feel that we have really made a concrete difference to so many young people, giving them structured, focused activities at a time when they might have been at a loose end and in some cases, at risk of offending.  We also know we have inspired them and given them all a new confidence.

Not everyone was a great singer of course, but everyone improved, everyone challenged themselves in a new way.  Everyone worked as a team and went away with new skills, new confidence and new ways of working, giving them a professional edge and a more focused commitment to their futures.  We would now like to expand and continue these workshops and will begin a new fundraising drive in order that, as one student put it “We can come back here for ever!” (Eunate Merulo 15)

“More!  More!  More!”  Aziya Aldridge-Moore 13

“Please, please can there be more!”  Carmen Ngonga 16