SoundBox – an inclusive music ensemble


For the past 3 years Drake Music, in partnership with Spitalfields Music, has been running an inclusive three day music project in Tower Hamlets for young people aged 13-18 years.
Last April 19 disabled and non-disabled young people worked together at Brady Arts Centre on our third project SoundBox, creating original music using Assistive Music Technology (AMT) and traditional instruments. The group were supported and led by a team of talented professional musicians – Jack Ross and Sam Vicary (Spitalfields Music Leaders), Anneke Kampman (Drake Music Associate Musician), further assisted by Tim Cape and Ayumi Konno (Spitalfields Music Trainee Music Leaders), and Tom Newnham (Drake Music Trainee Associate Musician).

Sound Box - by Sarah Ainslie (6)
DM Associate Musician Anneke Kampman and trainee Associate Musician Tom Newnham. Photograph by Sarah Ainslie.

Before the project started we had asked everyone to bring a short film clip to the first session; something that either reflected them as a person, maybe an interest or a hobby, or something that they simply enjoy watching.  Consequently we watched everything from The Grinch, Everybody Loves Raymond and Jojo Mayer drum solo to Magnificent Riflebird, Ferrari LaFerrari vs Porsche 918 and The One Ronnie all with the sound turned off, so we we’re just focusing on the visuals. After watching these clips, young people selected the ones they liked best and spent the remainder of three days creating their new soundtracks for their favourite clips.

Here is one such clip with the original soundtrack…

… and the new soundtrack.

The project culminated in a performance – an informal sharing event attended by friends and family members, which turned out to be an overwhelmingly positive experience for everyone present, as one parent concluded:

‘It’s the only project that actively welcomes and caters for young people with ASD. I know my daughter has felt enabled rather than marginalised at Soundbox and this has been a novel experience for her in many ways. It is also the only place where we have gotten to see her take a leading role in a public performance – we were so proud of her! This is always a very rare thing for parents of young people with her level of need as our children are often side-lined in favour of verbal/more able young people’.

Another parent added: ‘I do believe if, as a young person, you can be brought up in inclusive environments then they will drive how you create as an adult so the more of this the better’.

Sound Box - by Sarah Ainslie (8)
Assistive music technology. Photograph by Sarah Ainslie.

Quite a few of the young people agreed that the thing they had enjoyed most about Soundbox was the opportunity to ‘meet people from diverse cultures with different talents and abilities’.

There was such a mix and range of skills with people who were at grade 5 in music in their instruments and people who, like the girl on the first day, who didn’t stop talking and came up with the beat we used for the first piece‘.

Using AMT alongside traditional instruments roused a lot of interest and creative excitement in confident young musicians as well as their peers who are just starting out on their musical journey, contributing towards post-session reflections:

I would like to make sounds with non-traditional instruments and experiment more’; ‘The best thing was the Soundbeam’; ‘I enjoyed making music with things I wouldn’t usually use’.

Soundbox by Inga Tillere (5)
Young musicians using Soundbeam as part of their performance.

Parents and carers had also noticed increased confidence: ‘She came back absolutely buzzing (though tired!), and determined to try to attend the ‘A team arts’ course she found out about that’s being run at the Brady Centre’.

‘I was thrilled by the way she grew during the three days, from having been a somewhat diffident player, with enthusiasm but limited concentration span, to confidently leading on the keyboard into the first ensemble piece on Thursday.’

Young people summed up Soundbox as ‘really cool, interesting, fun, challenging, and helpful’.

See for yourself!

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