Creating new musical opportunities through lockdown

At ABRSM, we believe that working together with others brings the best results for everyone involved in teaching and learning. We’re lucky to have great partners collaborating with us on everything from developing musical leadership and promoting accessibility to sharing resources and expertise. In this article, Jed Milroy, Assistant Director at Edinburgh’s Tinderbox collective, shares his thoughts on supporting music through lockdown.

Jed Milroy, Assistant Director at Edinburgh’s Tinderbox collective, shares his thoughts.

Tinderbox is a diverse collective of young people, musicians, artists, youth workers and volunteers. From grass-roots youth work to award-winning music productions, we aim to ignite a spark and help people achieve things they may never have thought possible.

We’ve been offering small group music lessons, open mic sessions, play along performances, orchestral experimentation workshops, music video projects, skills sharing sessions, dance hangouts, drawing hangouts, a creative response group and quiz nights. You can see our full online programme here Almost all of this has been on the video conferencing platform Zoom.

Our orchestra rehearsals are focusing on experimenting with the time delay on zoom to develop new methods of improvisation, making mosaic videos of ourselves playing some of our back catalogue and using video conferencing tools to develop new collaborative compositions. We’re also sharing solo performances and hanging out together.

The initial challenge at the beginning of lockdown was to move as quickly as possible to find out what we could do online and how it could be made safe. We wanted to be able to help support our community of musicians as much as we possibly could at this incredibly difficult time.

We have learned that there can be huge advantages to online delivery and have realised that online delivery needs to be included as a core part of our programme from now on, even when social distancing measures are lifted. Partly because some things have worked so well and partly because we anticipate that there will be a demand for this from participants who don’t feel comfortable or able to engage face–to-face for the longer term.

We were surprised to find that some participants who have moved to other countries or areas have re-joined our groups. Also, some participants who are usually very quiet and reserved are showing much more confidence in the online format. Some creative activities such as song writing are working better in this format and young people’s concentration and willingness to participate is much higher than expected.

Here are my top five tips for online delivery of musical activities:

  • Keep an open mind and possibly include other artforms such as dance, drawing or videography).
  • Be led by participants as much as possible.
  • Explore all the features of the platform you are using (breakout rooms, annotation, screen sharing).
  • Keep it light and fun where possible.

And here’s some feedback from some of the young people who have taken part in our online activities.

“I still can't comprehend that as a community even in such tough times were able to get together and play music. All thanks to you and the whole Tinderbox team.” Andrew, aged 13

“This is the only thing he will engage with. Everything else has stopped, including his respite services. This is the only break I get” Parent of Noel, aged 18

“It means everything to him. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made to us.” Parent of Peter, aged 10

“It’s just great to be able to see everyone and keep playing!” Luci, aged 15

Find out more about Tinderbox.

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