As a musician, community work might be an extension of your artistic output, or a core part of your career. Britten Pears Young Artists take part in a Community Course as part of their programme, which includes conversation of what community music making can look like and teaches skills to lead workshops and performances outside the concert hall. Here, Britten Pears Young Artist Holly Isherwood, recounts her experience over the three days.

Having witnessed and been involved heavily with the community music department during my university education, I was thrilled to hear about the option to join a course run by the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme focussed solely on this area of music making. I have felt it a great pity that community music is an area so often overlooked or side-lined in our training, treated as an option rather than a necessary part of our education – yet on this course it was to be at the centre. We would learn and develop skills both with and without our instruments to allow us to use music as a force for good – to improve and enrich the lives of others, and to deliver direct and positive impact within our communities.

Little had been revealed about the course content prior to our arrival, and it was soon clear that this was somewhat the intention! Sessions moved spontaneously from singing to movement, improvisation, discussion, sharing and evaluation, with a fluidity that can only happen when everyone in the room is open to trying something new and perhaps somewhat out of their comfort zone. Alongside musical techniques we explored some of the practicalities of community workshop leading: techniques to “hold a room” authentically and sensitively, creation and curation of space (room layout and levels), participant led co-creation, leadership styles, and the importance of flexibility when planning.

A totally uplifting time of music, laughter and conversations.

Course participant

Even as trained musicians, being given the opportunity to openly create together was daunting at first (as it may be for real project participants), but thanks to the openness within the group and our excellent leaders Sigrun, Rob and Yvette – we very quickly bonded as both a friendship group and ensemble. It was proof that with the right leadership and a space where all people are welcome without judgement – music can indeed build bridges, connect communities, and improve lives.

Our three days together culminated in the planning and delivery of a Participate workshop for adults in the community around Snape, and those with long-term health conditions. As a group, we devised a session which took participants through a musical visit to Snape Maltings. Together, we created music and words about the beauty of the landscape, making new friends at Participate sessions, favourite foods, and the joy of eating lunch together. It was both quality music making, and marvellous fun. You would not need to spend long with the Participate project to realise the impact it has on participants. Many have formed friendships through the group, and it has become a highlight of their week where they meet to share memories, stories, and to laugh together, all with music at the centre.

On my arrival in Aldeburgh, I was excited to meet others curious and interested in developing this side of their careers, but I think I speak for us all when I say we had no idea of the extent to which three days of creativity, connection, stories, fun, freedom, and fresh Suffolk air would leave us feeling so inspired and connected to the true power of music.