Musicians who work with young people outside formal education are in a peculiar position, observes Martin Milner. Call them community musicians, music leaders or youth mentors, they have responsibilities that often go beyond their experience and training as musicians. However, with workshops at convenient times and decent pay among the rewards, many musicians are interested in this sort of work. They may find themselves in far-flung youth clubs with unsupportive support staff and challenging teenagers, expected to bring creative excitement as well as musical equipment, and asked to produce finished songs and music in a relatively short time. Oh, and with a brief to try to stop participants fighting/snogging/vandalising or expressing racial or sexual prejudice whilst you?re at it, please.
The work involves elements of teaching, youth work, mentoring and instrumental tuition, and if you have ended up as a musician without gaining all this experience (as most people have), then how do you know if you are any good at leading workshops? How do you amplify your skills? And how can you convince potential employers that you are up to the job? There are (a few) formal courses specifically addressing this area, but most of these include music as one of the community arts rather than a case alone. Despite a proliferation of short courses and continuing professional development, we musicians seem to be resisting institutionalisation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but with increasing numbers of musicians from all corners getting involved, opportunities to acquire and develop skills and competencies are useful. They not only help musicians ? who might otherwise feel out of their depth in some situations ? they also indicate to employers and project managers which musicians are really committed to this kind of work, i.e. the ones who actively seek self-development.
As Programme Manager for Amplifier, I need to be able to recommend musicians who have acquired the core skills for working with young people. These must include an understanding of child-protection procedures ? extended by awareness of child concern, such as knowing what indicators of neglect and abuse to look out for as well as knowing what to do if it happens. Then there are health and safety procedures ? for example, the ability to carry out a risk assessment. Behaviour management and conflict resolution ? now requirements for teachers, police and hospital staff ? are powerful tools for working with diverse groups of young people. Wrap all this up with a positive attitude to equal opportunities in every situation, and we?re off to a good start.
Next we can address the project planning skills! We aim to help generate more and better-trained musicians who are able to lead music workshops with young people effectively. We aren?t looking to formalise or standardise ?community music? ? far from it, we want to encourage individual approaches. We are appealing to musicians to get Amplified!