The beginnings of the story
Music Junction is the project at the heart of the London Chamber Orchestra’s outreach work, creating an ever-growing community of people from all walks of life involved in music-making through the catalyst of this ground-breaking work. The beginnings of the Music Junction story are to be found in the work undertaken by Yehudi Menuhin and the LCO’s Education and Outreach Artistic Director Rosemary Warren-Green, documented in the film, Menuhin’s Children (Colin Bell, 2000). The ongoing development of the project has been driven by the conviction, shared by all involved, that music has the power to transform the people and communities that it touches.
Soon, Music Junction formed a ground-breaking collaboration with children’s charity Barnardo’s, who continue to be involved in the project in this its seventh year of development. The Music Junction community is now thriving in four regional centres, involving 12 schools and organisations (one independent school, three special schools, four modern academies, two specialist music centres and two young carer projects).
Our fundamental aspiration is to nurture greater empathy and connection between young people from different backgrounds. By bringing together children and young people who would not usually meet, and giving them shared opportunities to make music as a group, we aim to promote confidence, nurture self-esteem and encourage participants to develop respect for themselves and each other within their wider communities. Through an ongoing process of investment, development, reflection and transparent reporting Music Junction aims to change lives over the longer-term, offering to all participants a vision enabling them to develop lasting self-worth and aspirations, and sharing the lessons of what we have learned.
“I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of this work. I have worked here for 24 years and can truly say that my participation in Music Junction has given me more pleasure than anything else I have done with our young people, because of how much I can see it doing for the young people involved. None of us will ever forget days like yesterday, and I tell everyone prepared to listen that these children will now be able to approach future challenges; that they accomplished so much during this project and if they could do that, they can do ANYTHING!”
Sam Nosal, Senior Teacher at High Close Barnardo’s School, Wokingham, Berkshire
How Does Music Junction Work?
This year’s Music Junction started with an LCO visit to each regional hub to perform a Flashmob style concert, which was a surprise to as many of the staff as it was to the students! We surprised thousands of school children by interrupting their assemblies and break times to play an arrangement of Simple Gifts, and followed this by offering students (and staff!) the opportunity to try out orchestral instruments, often for the first time. Existing Music Junction participants were invited to participate in a variety of different ways – the more advanced mentors played alongside LCO musicians, choirs from each school learnt a simple vocal part before the visit and joined in the performances, and some children even tried their hand at conducting LCO. For those who have never encountered an orchestra before, these initial Flashmob / tryout sessions offer a chance for children to experience live orchestral music-making at very close quarters – a chance to look around, meet the musicians, think about getting involved in Music Junction and, crucially, to try some orchestral instruments under the guidance of the LCO musicians with help from student mentors.
As Music Junction progresses each season, creative activity takes place in a series of workshops and instrumental sessions hosted by partner organisations / schools in each Music Junction hub; these are led by the Music Junction workshop leader and the LCO musician team. The sessions include a variety of activities, such as physical and musical warm-up exercises, improvisation, the production of original material and informal ensemble performances. The instrumental sessions focus on helping the young musicians/participants to get better acquainted with their instruments. More accomplished students mentor beginners as well as less experienced instrumentalists and singers. At the heart of the workshops there is also the opportunity to work alongside a composer on a new commission, which is inspired by a different artistic theme each year . The theme for the 2016/17 season was ‘Simple Gifts’. All four Hubs joined forces with LCO and Principal Conductor Christopher Warren-Green for a final rehearsal day in May followed by a showcase concert. (5th May 2017, Cadogan Hall)
Each year the Music Junction participants work with the artist-in-residence for the season, exploring ideas within the workshops, and in this way contributing to the process of making the new work. The new piece, commissioned by the LCO, is premiered in a showcase performance as part of its concert season. The groups from each region come together as an ensemble of 150 participants to rehearse before performing the new work with the LCO, and their Music Director and Principal Conductor Christopher Warren-Green, in an internationally renowned London concert hall. This extraordinary and exciting performance is shared with an audience of friends, family and supporters, many of who are completely new to the concert-going experience.
Instrumental sessions are interspersed with the creative workshops, and these provide an opportunity for Music Junction’s ‘fledgling’ instrumentalists, whether they are young people, staff or teachers who are learning an instrument as part of the project, to seek encouragement and practical tips to take their instrumental skills forward. The structure of these sessions is informal, and the young people work together to mentor, encourage and inspire each other on their musical journeys supported by the LCO musician team. Side by side sessions, for those whose existing musical skills are more developed, focus on taking further skills in coaching and group leading. Everyone involved in the project is encouraged to share their existing skills and learn new things in a way that strengthens the connections between individuals and empowers them to engage further in their learning.
Legacy In Action
Our Music Junction community is growing! Each season nearly 150 participants find themselves inspired, moved and fully engaged in music-making that they want to continue, and quite a number take part over successive years. Many of those who have been involved in the project become passionate and enthusiastic ambassadors for what can be achieved by Music Junction’s sensitive and long-term approach. Consistent with the values at the heart of Music Junction, individuals, schools and groups take their journey forward in many different ways but the effects of Music Junction can be seen as the seeds sown at the start of the growing process for everyone who takes part.
Looking at the wider impact for participants, their comments and feedback show how much all value the opportunity to put their skills and talents not only into perspective, but also into use in unexpected ways. The project has encouraged not only a greater involvement in and love for music, as expected, but also an enthusiasm for wanting to change things for others. Some of MJ’s early participants, now at university, still write to the orchestra and attend events in support of the project; in their own words, they take their experience with them. The benefits of this socially diverse and inclusive project will go on for many years.
In Music Junction’s four regions, feedback shows that the project achieves positive outcomes not only for the participants, but within their wider communities, whether these are schools, social groups or families. It has been shown through the monitoring of mentoring activity, and the evaluation of behaviour and comments of children, parents, musicians and staff, that there is a real benefit not just in taking part in communal creative activity but in doing so in a wide social context, which broadens everyone’s understanding of one another and fosters greater aspiration and enthusiasm.
Good relationships between all partners and organisations ensure that evaluation of the project is ongoing throughout the project. Feedback is actively sought from all those taking part, through questionnaires, recorded interviews with participants, staff and musicians and thoughtful observation. Following the showcase performance, each year concludes with an opportunity for all groups involved to reflect and work that season. Good practice is shared and lessons to be learned openly acknowledged in the spirit of enabling the project to grow. Discussion includes a general review of the season, allowing partners to give feedback on artistic and logistic aspects, to evaluate development, and to decide collectively on the direction for the next season’s work.