Spotlight - Music Broth

Every month, the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) puts the spotlight on an activity or strand of work that is important to them. This month we hear from Music Broth - 1 of 44 new projects recently awarded funding by the Access to Music Making and Strengthening Youth Music strands of YMI.

A group of adults sitting in chairs in a circle, facing each other as they each play a ukulele with smiles on their faces and sheet music on their laps

Music Broth Open day ukulele workshop August 2021. Image: IEM Photography

Music Broth is Scotland’s Musical Instrument and Equipment Library, a social enterprise with charitable status. Our ethos is making music playing, learning and enjoyment accessible to all. We recognise music can be a privilege for some and we want to level that playing field so anyone can take up any instrument their heart desires.

In 2017, we created our sharing library which now numbers over 2,000 musical instruments and related equipment. Much of what we do is through the generosity of people in the wider Scottish community, who donate and volunteer their time.

Environmentally conscious, we restore and repair any damaged items for sharing through our library, saving instruments from landfill, and prolonging their lives.

Creative Scotland’s support of our On the Move project, with funds to support sanitisation materials, PPE, and instrument repair materials, etc., allowed us to continue to support our community, tutors, and volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We created our sanitised Musical Instrument to Your Door delivery service and delivered 535 instruments, fully sanitised, with zero contact from our library - an average of 1.5 per day! We also collected and repaired 665 donated instruments from generous individuals, families, and organisations throughout Scotland.

Young person sits at home wearing headphones with a pink electric guitar on their lap. Their fingers are poised over the strings as they appear to pluck out a tune

Music Broth Instrument delivery - Nfemi from Fiona, courtesy of Music Broth

We were also able to support 10 music tutors and 42 wonderful volunteers with work at a time where they would otherwise have been unemployed and feeling isolated, and 13 new volunteers joined our organisation during this time helping with deliveries and remote working.

During the pandemic, we increased our library membership, reaching wider into Glasgow communities and across Scotland, delivering instruments from Stranraer to Inverness. Many new fully supported members were those suffering economic hardship during the pandemic, and from the refugee and asylum seeking communities. We also provided instruments to NHS workers for mindful focus and respite from their stressful work days.

Through our community connections, translation volunteers helped us create flyers and audio files in 9 community languages (English, Farsi, Italian, Slovak, Romanian, Polish, Spanish, Urdu, Arabic) based on feedback from community members and partner organisations, to increase our accessibility and reach. We supported a diverse range of people, in age, ability, gender, mental health, socioeconomic status with online one to one tuition lessons numbering 351 hours.

We also recognised the need to celebrate and showcase our diverse musical community at a time when performance options were severely limited:

I love you music broth! I’ve been telling everyone I know about you. You’ve helped me learn a skill I never would have otherwise. I’m exploring my creativity and challenging myself in new and exciting ways. You’ve introduced me to a lovely teacher who feels like a real lockdown buddy. I never thought of myself as a musical person, and I never knew that learning an instrument would be so interesting and good for the soul. I realise now how important it is that everyone, regardless of income, has the ability to access music. Thank you!- Jennifer, new learner of the harp

As well as Jennifer's feedback, we received many more positive comments, including from Unyimeobong, a partner organisation, who said: “Thank you immensely for all you've done and in general for your help and support. You're doing a fantastic job in the community. Please know that your act of goodwill is much appreciated."

And Amanda, the mother of a supported instrument recipient, said: “Music Broth really is an amazing thing. Being able to borrow the equipment for my daughter has been amazing as I couldn’t have afforded to buy it. It's also given her something to focus on during lockdown and I have seen a massive improvement in not only her skills but her confidence too. It's a great community to be part of.”

Coming out of lockdown, in response to the needs of our community, we will continue with a hybrid approach of in-person and online workshops.

Some community members are not yet feeling ready to be at in-person events, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and also mental health concerns including social anxiety.

In a room filled with musical instruments hanging on the walls and in stands and racks on the floor, young people are gathered around playing drums and strings as an instructor provides help

Music Broth open day, instrument fun August 2021. Image: IEM Photography

Some have found online more accessible for them to attend than in-person, for example young people without transportation, or those with additional accessibility or health restrictions.

Our online activities have also enabled us to reach participants wider afield, so we are keen to keep providing this non-geographically restricted musical access. We have created an online community forum for music learning and enjoyment that people look forward to each week.

Creative Scotland's support for our Music Broth On the Move project, enabled us to really implement practical means of support of our community’s mental health, wellbeing, creativity, and self-expression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It enabled us to reach new people in our community, breaking down language, accessibility and financial barriers, helped new learners to start their musical journeys, people to feel connected, and part of a lockdown musical community, and tutors with activity and income at a time when they have had sustained musical industry shut down.

Thank you for your support, everyone!

This article was published on 09 Feb 2022