Superheroes by the Cumberland Crew

Today on the blog we have a post from one of our Associate Musicians, Dav, about his work with the Jam! ensemble in Newham accompanied by a great new song they’ve recorded.

We’re happy to announce the first song written and recorded with some of the young musicians from Jam! – an inclusive music project with young autistic musicians in the London borough of Newham.

Jam! is a partnership project between Drake Music, Newham Music, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout this academic year at Cumberland School, myself and Anna (a violin tutor from Newham Music Service) have been facilitating music workshops with a focus on, musicianship, songwriting, and recording, using a combination of acoustic and digital instruments.

We have been working with the same group of young musicians during this time and recently they came up with the theme of superheroes, and it didn’t take long for some of the young people create their own amazing superhero personas!

Drawing of superheroes

Laserman, Pasta Boy, and Bacon Beats were soon writing their own verses and a song started to emerge organically.

We began recording and gradually built up the track, using a Roland Kaossilator to create a looped beat, with djembe rhythms added on top that we’d been developing throughout the project.

As the school had it’s own iPads, we ran some training sessions for the school staff on how to turn their iPads into musical instruments, using apps such as Thumbjam and Garageband.

This meant that the staff and young people could make music together, and come up with new ideas while we weren’t there. Once we had layered up violin parts using Thumbjam, the young people added some guitar, ukulele, and keyboard, with the Kaossilator enabling us to experiment and quickly re-record parts that we weren’t happy with.

All the young people were really chatty, so we were never short of ideas for lyrics.

We worked on the chorus together, and then each of the young people developed their own verses. They not only wrote with us in sessions, but also throughout the week with the guidance of the teaching assistants.

This was a really positive element of the project, as it meant that music became part of their everyday school lives, not just something they did once a week when we were there.

It was great to watch the songwriting relationship grow and develop between the young people, with minor lyrical ‘beefs’ arising every now and then between Pasta Boy and Laser Man! They never lasted long, thankfully!

Once we were all happy with the final version and structure of the song, we recorded it and uploaded it to Youtube. One of the young musicians also designed the incredible artwork you can see on the YouTube video and above.

We tried to ensure that the young musicians steered the songwriting process from start to finish.

This involved asking lots of open questions, offering choices when the young people were in need of some guidance, and importantly, allowing the young people the time and space to come up with their own ideas.

The next step for us is to create opportunities for the group to work and perform with non-disabled peers from across their school, as well as writing and recording more great songs together!