Guest blog: Karl Bevis, Head of Creative Learning at Wiltshire Music Centre, looks further to discover opportunities for learning

An observant friend of mine shared a photo recently of some public art he’d spotted. It was at a junction near High Holborn (up in that there London-town) at about first floor level.  Despite walking that way often, he couldn’t work out why he’d not seen it before.  Maybe it was the onset of spring when we all start to un-hunch our shoulders and look up a little more or maybe it had only just appeared.  The art work he saw was less interesting to me than the fact that he’d spotted it and shared it on a social media platform.  I’ve always thought that it is healthy to look up, look further and really take in all that is around me.  When you look up to the first floor of a high street, you suddenly start to discover stories.  Yes, I am a bit nosey, but with the rise of social media, aren’t we all?

Jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock rehearses with the talented musicians of the Wiltshire Youth Jazz Orchestra

Has this got anything to do with Wiltshire Music Centre? Well, sort of. Music projects can reveal all manner of different characters and characteristics in people.  The joy of piecing together any new project is knowing that new energies can be released, new skills realised and new partnerships created.  Next week, for example, we will be live-streaming a concert from the Music Centre to schools across Wiltshire.  There will be over 300 children here being part of the event and many more in school halls and classrooms watching our Animal Magic concert over the internet. We want to look up and look further, and using digital media we can hope to have even greater reach.

We were looking further recently with a schools’ project based around a new commission. Composer Charlotte Bray had written a new piece entitled Zustände, which was performed here as a world-premiere at Wiltshire Music Centre. The piece was based on her visit to Greenland and the beautiful photos of icebergs she’d taken were presented to children at local schools who in turn created their own pieces in response to the ice.  Our audience was not only treated to a world premiere of Bray’s work, but they also heard a clip of the children’s new piece which had been played on BBC Wiltshire earlier in the week. Music teacher Jenny Knight led the project and expertly used the platform of a world-class concert to create a top-quality learning project.   When the young people met composer Charlotte at the concert it was difficult to know who was more excited. This was a great example of using music to look way beyond the bounds of the classroom – to explore different lands, to share creativity with a public audience and even to experiment with ‘what ice might sound like’.

Zone Club in action

One of our flagship projects is the award-winning Zone Club; a monthly music-making project for young adults with learning difficulties. The music leaders for Zone Club are the embodiment of inclusion and they will diligently find space and voice for all the participants, whether through music, song, film or movement.  The group was started 10 years ago, made possible by the creative vision of those who recognised the need for this important project. Today our Music Leaders continue this mission, enabling all of the Clubbers to engage in ways that are meaningful and, for many, life-changing.  As I hinted above, Zone Club has won awards for its work and it was a joy to receive the commendation of the High Sheriff of Wiltshire last week, presented by the Sheriff himself sporting ceremonial sword! Zone Club has had an incredible impact on the confidence and independence of our Clubbers and given them the chance to look ahead with positivity and aspiration.

A steel drum workshop with Samuel Dubois

As Head of Creative Learning here at Wiltshire Music Centre, I have the privilege of designing and delivering a fantastic range of music based projects with a diverse range of partners. Part of my job is studiously checking emails, writing contracts, booking rooms or just going to meetings – what’s that, another meeting? I’ll be there in two minutes – but the joy of a job like this is capturing the balance between looking further and creating opportunities for others to look further.  If we do our job right we will have organised everything so that the participants – young people, older people, school groups, musicians – can be here at the Centre with eyes and ears open.  They can un-hunch their shoulders.  They can take a deep breath. They can relax, create, engage, and, I hope, they can look out a little further than before.

Karl Bevis, Head of Creative Learning, Wiltshire Music Centre


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