Giant Puppets and Falling Moons: A Trainee Music Leader’s Notebook

This year we’re celebrating 25 years of our Learning & Participation programme; each year our extensive programme is supported by our Trainee Music Leaders who gain hands-on leadership experience working within education and community settings. To find out what it’s like to be involved we asked Namvula Rennie to share the highlights of her year with Spitalfields Music.

Shine is an out-of-school music project

Shine is an out-of-school music project for young people with and without disabilities in Tower Hamets designed, developed and delivered by Spitalfields Music in partnership with Drake Music and Toynbee Hall.

Giant puppets and falling moons. Protest songs and choirs with match-box shakers. Vocal soundscapes and beat-boxing. Lemons that become beat-making machines…

I had wanted to develop my skills as a workshop leader and facilitator with a long-term view to working more closely with young people and vulnerable or marginalised groups. The Trainee Music Leader scheme has offered me a tonne of great ideas and tools, but also, vitally, inspiration, support, and a much more clearly defined sense of purpose and direction, all within the bedrock of a host of great projects taking place around East London.

Two projects that were particularly inspiring for me were Shine an innovative three-day project for teenagers with disabilities that brought together music technology with live instrumentation and voice, and a two-week project led by beatboxer and vocal sculptor Jason Singh and singer and writer Zoe Palmer in The Cherry Trees School, a school dedicated to supporting children with severe emotional and behavioural problems.

These projects, and their workshop leaders, opened me to new exciting and innovative ways into creative music-making. As a self-proclaimed technophobe, I was struck in Shine by the ways that technology opened new spaces for creative expression and experimentation, and surprised at how much enjoyment I got myself out of working (and playing around) with it! Both projects, but particularly our work with the children at The Cherry Trees, reminded me of how important offering safe spaces to express, create and have fun without judgement can be to vulnerable young people, and how projects such as these can contribute so importantly to the growth of someone’s self-worth and self-esteem.

The opportunity to be involved in a series of creatively diverse Spitalfields Music projects has been invaluable both to the growth of my skill set and the breadth of my horizons. By assisting and observing a range of different workshop leaders, I’ve had the chance to pick up a fantastic set of tools, games and songs for the kit-bag, and been given opportunities to try out things in workshops that I’d picked up over the course of the year. Probably most importantly to me, seeing different ways of working has inspired new ideas about the ways in which I would like to model my own workshops in the future, and has helped to begin to crystallise the type of workshop facilitator that I would ultimately like to be. The strength and beauty of the material that I witnessed being produced in relatively short spaces of time, the pride and ownership that the children and teenagers took in the work they generated, and the workshop leaders’ generosity of energy, creativity and support, are things that I will carry over the many horizons still ahead.

Namvula Rennie
Trainee Music Leader 2013-14

Trainee Music Leaders scheme 2014-15
We’re currently on the look out for Trainee Music Leaders for 2014-15. If you’d like to get involved with our award-winning Learning & Participation programme and apply to be one of our team visit our website for more information.





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