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Spotlight on Nevis Ensemble's Young Carer's project

For this month’s spotlight Nevis Ensemble Chief Executive, Jamie Munn writes about their recent Young Carer’s project which will tie in with Carer’s Week (7-13 June).

A group of young musicians stand holding their instruments in cafe

Pictured: Nevis Ensemble, Harris. Credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Nevis Ensemble has the simple mission to make ‘music for everyone, everywhere’. The last 16 months have brought many challenges in delivering that mission, but also some opportunities, and the way that we work in terms of how we engage with participants – along with many other arts organisations – has changed for the long-term.

This project, supported by the Youth Music Initiative focussed on young carers in Ayrshire, and in particular, to involve them in the creation and performance of new music giving them and their experiences an artistic voice.

Delivering music sessions online has been a steep learning curve for all involved. Aimée Laws, one of the musicians working on the project, says: “Whilst delivering projects online is different and can present some difficulties, in terms of not being present in the same room to visually explain and show things to the participants; online work does present positives in that sessions can feel more interactive, as they can – for instance – annotate their screens, and share ideas in a number of different ways. It also seems that some are more open about their views, and feel able to share their ideas without judgement.

A number of our musicians have been leading the project sessions with participants online over the last few months, and given the relaxing restrictions, we are confident that we can have a small public sharing of the resulting music for friends and family as part of Carer’s Week in June 2021.

Whilst we originally hoped to have the young people perform their new songs alongside the full orchestra, we know that they are still excited to hear their music and perform with smaller ensembles.

A project for young carers in Ayrshire has been in our minds since 2019 when the full orchestra and mezzo soprano Andrea Baker squeezed into East Ayrshire Carers Cottage in Kilmarnock on a very wet December Saturday for a performance that encompassed everything from Wagner to A-Ha and Scottish reels.

Following the positive responses from the young people of having a full orchestra perform in what is essentially their living room, we were keen to work together on a project that would involve the young carers creating new music that tells their own stories and relays their experiences.

The pressures of caring responsibilities and schooling can leave little time or means to participate in creative projects such as this, so from the beginning we made sure to design sessions that would allow the young people to engage, whilst not feeling pressured.

During the sessions our musicians worked with the participants on general musicianship, writing lyrics, creating melodies and performance skills, and they have created some new songs, which have then been arranged for the ensemble.

Alongside this, our musicians have been undertaking a variety of training sessions that will better inform and equip them in delivering projects in the future.

Working online has allowed us to reach a larger number of our musicians who live far from Glasgow (where sessions are usually held in person), and tailor the approach to a greater degree.

Involving organisations such as Live Music Now Scotland and Drake Music Scotland has also exposed our players to some of the other great work being done for young people in Scotland.

Aimée says, “Working on these kinds of projects is fun because you never know what to expect will happen in terms of the interesting music that will come out of it or the young people who will be involved. I think young people get a safe space to express themselves, to try new things out and learn some new skills, and to meet new people when they participate in creative projects such as this, and it has been a really positive experience to work with the young carers. We can’t wait to share their music!”.”

To find out more about the work of Nevis Ensemble, including their upcoming projects and opportunities to get involved, visit their website.

This article was published on 03 Jun 2021