I first became part of Music Junction in 2011 after replying to an email from my music teacher asking if I would like to attend a workshop with the orchestra. Attending solely for my own purposes of being able to show off to my friends why I was having a day off school, I never imagined what would follow. It transpired incredibly quickly during the workshops that this was not about me, or my friends from Tonbridge Grammar School, but about giving kids who had a very different childhood to us an absolutely incredible experience and opportunity. Without initially realising, this experience would develop my leadership capabilities to a new level, starting with being a role model, and learning new ways to communicate ideas and instructions to kids who for various reasons were not as attentive and patient as those we were surrounded with every day in school. We learnt a new appreciation for people of different backgrounds to ourselves and gained many friends. This was totally unexpected.
As the workshops progressed we started noticing changes both within ourselves, our school and in the students with whom we were working. There was a new energy in the music department that radiated throughout the school. Music had never been a “big deal” outside of the department and when LCO came into the school for a concert, other students and non-musicians finally started becoming interested in music. We all became naturally more positive people, learning from the students we worked with to appreciate all the small things, but also because I think music generally just brings joy to everyone.
The biggest “shock” for me however was seeing the development of a girl who I think was 8 or 9 when we first met. She was initially paired with me as she had silently expressed an interest in playing the trumpet (my instrument). But she didn’t speak. Wouldn’t even make eye contact with me for the whole project. I just about got a smile at the final concert. But, I then saw the same girl the following year when I was volunteering at the Music Junction concert at St Pancras in 2012. She came up to me, spoke boldly about her musical achievements in the previous year, and had a conversation with full eye contact and laughter. I spoke to her teacher afterwards who spoke so highly of how the project had changed the girl’s life. She was more confident in school and her grades had improved. I was so thrilled and this was when I realised just how big an impact Music Junction was having.
Taking part in Music Junction in 2011 made me a more patient human, a better teacher, a better communicator and more confident as a person. I entered the project as a trumpet player but left as a musician, and someone ready to take on more challenges in the world. It enhanced my discipline, respect for others and how to appreciate things. I learnt a huge deal about working with students from a different background to myself. I’m not from a financially privileged family but I am from a privileged background of opportunity, education and a supportive family. We were working with some students who were not, and this was incredibly eye opening. I learnt patience in working with these students, often with learning difficulties, and how to communicate with them. I also learnt that musicians support one another. The project made a close-knit group of friends at school from many different years (something unheard of outside of the music department) and we all still keep in contact day.
It was awesome returning to the project as a volunteer. It is quite different to actually performing with the participants but it’s almost like a natural progression. You learn so much taking part in it that you then want to develop those skills more and help with the projects running, so that other students can benefit and learn etc. Being part of inspiring the “next generation” is incredible. This is something I love generally in life – when I was head student at school the thing I enjoyed most was running events and mentoring the younger students. It’s also quite overwhelming at times, humbling and awe-inspiring. You can see the confidence, self-esteem and happiness in students who know they have been part of something special and have learnt such a lot from it.
A theme of many of the voluntary, extracurricular things I do alongside my degree are inspired by Music Junction. I volunteer at a local Brownie group, which I love for similar reasons to Music Junction. You can see kids develop week on week and be inspired learning new things. In turn, they inspire me to not lose sight of the endless energy they have. More recently I have taken up welfare roles and led welfare teams in my college at Durham University. This goes along the same theme of helping get the best out of people and get them to realise their full potential.
At school I was never in the popular groups, but was just happy to be in the background doing what I loved. One of these was music, which eventually led to Music Junction. Being part of this project was part of the reason I applied to be Head Student at school. It gave me confidence in my ability and to follow my passions. I have since been told that one of the reasons I was awarded the role was due to the passion with which I spoke about Music Junction. This role has since inspired me onto many others and has acted as a springboard for a couple of work experience placements offered to me, as well as giving me confidence to apply for other leadership roles, including the most recent welfare role in college.
Music Junction often refers to the phrase “music changes lives”. I absolutely believe in this. Today there is a huge need for music in schools. In today’s world it is more important than ever – and Music Junction is taking a role in tackling this.