March 23, 2018
This week we talked with David, founder of The Music Man Project, to find out why music is so important to him and his charity.
David: I am the founder and director of The Music Man Project UK. I am a musician, teacher and composer who has achieved everything in my life because of music – from every job I’ve ever had to finding a wife! It’s all been down to music.
The Music Man Project UK is a full-time music education service for people with a learning disability. We teach our students to sing and play instruments in a fun and accessible way and prepare them to become musicians capable of entertaining, educating and inspiring large audience at concerts. Our recent performance at the London Palladium was sold out and played to a member of the Royal Family! It also featured a successful Guinness World Record attempt for the largest ever triangle ensemble!
David: Musicality and expression is fundamental to every aspect of our work. Through hard-work, patience and understanding, we teach our students to become confident musicians. This is life-changing for them and gives them a status and sense of identity within the wider society.
David: The Music Man Project composes original music specifically for our students to learn and perform. Our charity single ‘Music is Magic’ topped the Amazon Broadway chart for a day and we recently released our own album which featured our students alongside professional musicians. We try to access their innate and instinctive musicality, by writing music which is expressive and fun.
David: Music helps people with learning disabilities in the same way it helps us all. It is a vehicle for expression, a moment to lose yourself and forget all your worries. It unlocks inhibitions and, as a universal language, brings people together. It provides discipline, builds confidence and gives us something to be proud of. This is extremely powerful for people with a learning disability, who can often be at an increased risk of metal health problems and dementia in later life.
David: Following our acclaimed performances at the London Palladium, we are delighted to be making our debut at the iconic Royal Albert in April 2019. The performance will feature over 200 of our Music Man Project students from our teaching centres across the UK. They will be supported by an orchestra and massed choirs. The performance will also witness the premiere of our new musical “Music is Magic in Space”, marking the 50th Anniversary of man landing on the moon! Tickets are already on sale here.
I do although since my entire life is about writing, teaching and performing music even I need a break sometimes!
I create my own playlists.
David: Music is Magic. We wrote the song following the death of an 11-year old pupil at one of our client Special Schools. The words say it all: ‘Music is Magic, it opens up your heart. Feel it and use it, it touches every part. Of the world we hold dear, bringing loved ones ever near. ‘Coz music is magic to me’.
It is vital! Without the human element we might as well all be computers!
People can get involved by visiting our website and by following us on social media. They can volunteer and our teaching centres, perform to our students, raise money for our charity, sponsor our performance at the Royal Albert Hall or donate to maintain and expand our services across the UK and beyond.
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March 22, 2018
We can’t quite contain our excitement, NOUR Luxury are going to host a BlueJay Session!
Passionate about making sure people have the best night’s sleep possible, NOUR have put together the ultimate sleeping playlist.
Whether you struggle to get to sleep, need some time to unwind or simply like to relax, you’re sure to find a soothing symphony for you.
Read on to find out a bit more about NOUR and why they’ve decided to curate music.
We’re passionate about sleep, and want to do everything we can to ensure people drift off as easily as possible.
For those struggling with sleep disorders, it’s easy to reach for sleeping pills. But, we prefer less invasive methods, and music is the perfect solution!
The right songs help you sleep! Music lowers your heart rate and slows down your breathing, helping you relax.
So, we felt streaming a bedtime playlist was the perfect way to help others get to sleep.
We feel everyone could benefit from listen to our night-time playlist, as most people need help unwinding after a long day!
A lot of symphonies, plenty of classical, with a heavy focus on the piano.
We have a mixture of famous classics and modern compositions.
You won’t find any vocals on these songs, as music without voices helps you sleep better.
Anyone who would like a more soothing night’s sleep! Whether you have a sleep disorder or simply find it hard to relax, we have something for you.
Listening to our playlist is bound to make you feel sleepy!
Everyone needs sleep, and everyone likes to relax at the end of the day. So, we’ve got a lot of people we can appeal to!
We’ve done our research, and put the playlist to the test, in our efforts to get people to sleep easier. We believe we’ve come up with the perfect sleeping medicine!
Whatever helps you relax! If you’re not a fan of classical, listen to some smooth jazz or ambient music.
Slow music allowed only! Fast-paced or loud songs will definitely not help you sleep.
Remember, you’re trying to sleep not getting ready for a night out!
Follow NOUR Luxury on Twitter to keep up to date with their latest news, and when they’ll be streaming their playlist.
To tune in to their session, download the BlueJay app here:
March 19, 2018
As part of our series of interviews with Music Charities, we interviewed Oliver Payne, Programme Manager at Musical Keys, to find out more about how music can be used to help people with disabilities to express themselves.
Oliver: Musical Keys are a Norwich based, county-wide charity that provide meaningful music and arts activities for people of all ages with disabilities and/or additional needs.
We believe that self-expression and creativity should be accessible to everyone and that the process of creation can aid personal and social development, improve well-being and be a conduit for significant change, such as improved literacy and numeracy or gaining independence.
In 2017 we worked with over 630 individuals and provided 5556 places on workshops and projects.
Our work is usually bespoke and tailored to the precise needs and abilities of an individual or group, as such this year already we’ve done things like written a prog album with a group of men that face challenges such as homelessness and substance misuse and made a 50s inspired horror movie and soundtrack with a group of young people with learning disabilities.
Oliver: Music is the thread that connects us to our service users, it is how we communicate and continue to change lives. Music is of utmost importance.
In many profound and consistently surprising ways! Every individual on earth has an identity; our identity is made up of the many different things we like, the values we have, the connections we make etc.
If you have a disability, it doesn’t overshadow your identity and so providing opportunities for people with disabilities and additional needs to be creative and to do the things they enjoy doing is massively important; in allowing a person to be themselves and having a sense of personhood. Imagine what life would be like if suddenly you didn’t have access to your guitar, couldn’t cook your favourite food or if you couldn’t go to gigs.
In addition to supporting a person’s identity, music can help people in very specific and very profound ways. An Early Years group may focus on promoting communication and socialisation through musical games and activities, we may also focus on speech and language development – we have experienced a young child saying their first word in one of our sessions which was overwhelmingly powerful. We use music in hospitals and hospices to provide a distraction from traumatic experiences and to provide relief.
We work in several residential settings with people living with dementia and are constantly blown away at the way music can form a corridor to a person’s past; it can help regain memory and instigate a wealth of conversation and reflection. We work with asylum seekers and people whose first language is not English, music for them can create a sense of belonging and help bridge cultural differences.
The therapeutic, social and developmental outcomes associated with creative engagement, particularly through music, are vast.
Oliver: Outside of my role at Musical Keys I am an improviser and field recordist and so if I am listening to something I generally am unable to do anything else, which isn’t that useful when trying to get on with work. Although if sometimes I have a repetitive piece of work I will put on some headphones and listen to some ambient music like Taylor Dupree or Thomas Koner.
Oliver: My go to record is ‘Perpetual’ by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Illuha and Taylor Dupree. It is 50 minutes long and simply sublime.
Oliver: In the art world there is a category of art called ‘Outsider Art’, which is art made by untrained and non-professional artists. I think it should be renamed ‘Insider Art’ as those people making the work are doing so for no other reason than for self-expression and pure creation.
This reflects how I perceive the music made in our groups and projects; often there are no external ‘rules’, no need to be ‘cool’ or to reproduce any current or popular trend, it is being made because this is what a person is feeling at this moment.
We worked with the west Norfolk branch of the National Autistic Society on a long-term music-making project and created an album, which has some amazing pieces of quite experimental music.
Although personally I am a bit of a super fan of a young man that comes to one of our projects who, in my mind, is the recreation of Mark E Smith. He has amazing charisma and an strikingly gravelly voice. I have offered to help him make an album but so far you can only catch his music live!
Oliver: In reflection to what Musical Keys is all about, the playlist would be called ‘It Takes All Sorts’, and is a collection of five very different songs that represent the diversity and unification of music-makers and audiences, by a diverse group of bands and artists.
Robert Wyatt – ‘At Last I Am Free’. Wyatt’s music is so beautiful and fragile, influenced by music from arund the world but retaining a very British quality. Wyatt is a musician whose career continued to blossom despite the accident that left him paraplegic in 1973.
Jana Winderen – ‘The Listener’. To be able to hear the music in the sounds that surround us in everyday life is to hear the beauty in everything. Winderen is a sound recordist who taps in to the world of insects, animals and environment to produce truly otherworldly sounds.
Bjork – ‘All Is Full Of Love’. One of the world’s relentless innovators, who is constantly able to create new and engaging music that challenges and emotes.
Paramusical Ensemble – ‘Activating Memory’. A truly inspiring project of technologists and a group of paraplegic musicians. ECG signals are taken from the musicians in real-time and translated into live music. Inspiring and beautiful.
Toumani Diabete – ‘Cantelowes’. Diabete is a Malian kora player who has been involved in numerous cross-cultural and international collaborations. His music is soulful and bursting with love, as is he.
Records OR CDs? CDs (more data, more portable, more reliable… although both in an ideal word)
Downloads OR streaming? Downloads
Albums OR singles? Albums
Human curation OR algorithmic curation? Human
Host OR listener? Listener
Popular playlist OR your own playlist? Own playlist
Play in order OR shuffle? Completely dependent on the playlist!
Headphones OR speakers? Both
Beatles OR Rolling Stones? Neither
Lead singer, guitarist, OR drummer? Have a go at each?
If you’d like to come to one of our groups or sessions, or volunteer with us the first port of call is our website.
We are a small charity with big ambitions so rely on donations and personal support as well as grants. The best way to support our work would be to donate via Total Giving here.
Fancy hosting your own radio show from your phone and interacting with your audience in real time? Download BlueJay and join our community of music curators!
March 16, 2018
Next up from our series of interviews with music charities is Peter, CEO of Key Changes. We interviewed Peter to find out more about how music can be used to help people with mental health problems, and how Peter likes to listen to music in his own time.
Peter: We provide music services in hospitals and in the community to people with problems and there are several different aspects to this. But firstly, is there a need? – most definitely, a growing need – mental health conditions are on the increase, particularly amongst young people.
There’s a greater need to provide treatments that are relevant to this day and age, treatments to that talk to people and don’t involve medication, and that let people get back into daily life – culturally relevant treatments – we work on hospital wards – child and adolescent units, adult wards, intensive care, psychiatric units, secure units. We work in London and around the UK, trying to open a pathway from the hospitals, back into mainstream life.
The people we work with get supported all the way from the ward to our studios, working with a music industry mentor, so that in the end they aim to produce a professional quality music recording.
There’s a feelgood factor boost to mental health that can be more powerful than medication.
Peter: I don’t think we’re ignoring it – I think there’s more awareness about mental health than there was before, so that’s a good thing.
It’s a complex subject and the causes are myriad.
Some basics are proven to be causes: trauma, abuse, lifestyle factors, substance abuse, diet, lack of exercise. These can all happen alongside potential genetic causes like a predisposition to mental health issues. Often there’s a number of different reasons in one person.
The world is a more stressful and challenging environment and the people at the forefront of that are the younger generation, and we’re seeing large numbers of people with anxiety and depression, and a degree of self-harm among young people.
Peter: We often get asked what does recovery look like? – a lot of people we deal with have lost pretty much everything and are effectively locked in – that’s a terrible place for people to find themselves in. Something that talks to them – and makes sense – in our case, music – is welcome.
So, we go onto the wards, DJ’ing on iPads, etc, encouraging people to come up and sing, or start writing songs, or coming up and sharing poetry they’ve written, and that can move quite quickly to using various music apps to produce tracks. This builds confidence amongst patients. We then work with the clinical team in the hospital to provide time for the person to get off the ward and come to the studio
It may be restricted to begin with – but people are getting back on their feet, coming across London to the studio – spending an hour, one on one, with a trained producer whose goal is to facilitate that person to express how they’re feeling.
The goal is to get a recording and get it performed, say at festivals, etc, and that’s the biggest boost of all. So, what does recovery look like – someone who’s lost everything, locked up, six months later standing on a stage in a park in London, performing to a few thousand people a track that they’ve recorded in our studio. That’s what recovery looks like.
Peter: Yes all of our mentors are professional musicians and producers in their own right – they have special training – they are not volunteers, they are paid, and they are well trained specialists and work in very challenging environments
Peter: Yeah, definitely, and we allow not only the people we mentor, but others to come down from the audience and perform in front of an industry panel – and get acclaim from the audience – it will be around World Mental Health day in October.
Peter: Yes, we rely on donations and support – the goodwill of people – we get support from the music industry, in particular, people like the ‘Last Night a DJ Saved My Life Foundation’ in Ibiza and The Heels and Souls crew who are supporting all our parties this year, the Amy Winehouse Foundation who supported the fitout of the studio, and other industry people who support us, and we get small grants from trusts and foundations who believe in us.
Peter: No, I have worked in the music industry, but in marketing.
Peter: I choose my own playlist – every time.
Peter: I personally tend to listen to music in my library, which I’ve downloaded, but we often share tracks on Soundcloud that one of the people we have helped has performed.
Host or listener? Listener
Play in order or shuffle? Play in order
Headphones or speakers? Both
Tupac or Biggie? Tupac
Lead singer, guitarist, or drummer? Singer.
If you’d like to get involved with Key Changes, go to their website here.
Download our social radio app and get curating your own playlists!
March 13, 2018
As part of our Music Charity Interview series, we caught up with Paul from Music for All to find out more about the charity and their up-coming ‘Learn to Play Day’.
Paul: Music for All was created in 1996 and we’re a UK wide charity – we are musicians, we all work in the music industry during the day and we all work for the charity on a voluntary basis. We wanted to put something back into the community. We know there are more people who want to make music than do – for a variety of reasons – they are too busy, or think they’re too old, or not musical, or can’t afford it. So, it was basically set up to help people who couldn’t afford to buy an instrument or take lessons. Any money we raise goes straight back to music in the community
Paul: All around the world, there is research on the effect that music has on society. Children who take music tend to do better at school. Music socialises people, it brings them together, it is one of the ultimate relaxants, it gets the brain operating on all sorts of levels that other activities don’t. There’s a lot of research from all around the world on the power of music.
It helps people become better human beings in our view.
Paul: This is its eighth year – it started as a way to address the situation that people want to play but can’t.
We started at one shop in Market Harborough – then went to a theatre nearby – we filled it full of teachers and invited people to come and play an instrument. We were staggered by the diversity of people who came to try – by age, race, religion. People were loving trying, because they’d never had the chance before.
It just worked, and it grew into this national Learn to Play event – we got a lot of music shops involved – community music projects, schools, and recording studios. It’s become a weekend where we say just come and try an instrument.
Paul: There’s just about 100 and they cover most of the UK. We will give 10000 free music lessons over the weekend. It’s just a great day. Lots of people end up taking up music after as well, which is good.
Paul: The general public are extraordinarily generous – and they make donations to our Charity, Music for All. Often, they are people with an interest in music, the music industry is generous, as is the public lending instruments and our US equivalent the NAMM Foundation has given us a donation for the last seven years. There is no Government money.
Paul: Some events become flagship events and in Cambridge, Millers Music have an event with over 300 people signed up to attend a harmonica event. Yamaha in Soho have a big event, Absolute Music in Poole have a big event – they had 2500 people turn up one year, PMT have 15 shops involved. So, there’s lots of activity around the country.
Paul: I have an eclectic taste in music, so I listen to a breadth of genres. What tops my list totally depends on the mood I’m in. It could be anything. Progressive rock, perfect pop, indie, celtic, orchestral, opera. So, it’s more likely I’m making my own playlist.
Paul: I’m not the words biggest grime / hip-hop fan but … I like just about everything!
Records or CDs? MP3s
Downloads or Streaming? I Buy CDs from charity shops, put the music on my computer and give them back to the charity shops.
Albums or Singles? I was a 70’s teenager and it was a thrill to get the latest gatefold album, so I’ll always listen to an album in its entirety.
Host or Listener? Host
Headphones or Speakers? Headphones for my lunchtime walk, docking station at home, CD on loud in the car.
Singer, Guitarist, or Drummer? I’m a bass guitarist and backing vocalist.
To participate in the Learn to Play day, find more information here.
If you’d like to get involved with supporting the charity, go to Music for all here.
Are you a music lover who loves curating your own playlists? Share them with friends and followers on BlueJay and listen together! Download the app and join our community of music lovers:
March 12, 2018
As part of our Music Charities Interview series, we spoke with Robin Harris, Co-Founder and Creative Director, to find out more about the Finding Rhythms Charity and Robin’s own personal music tastes!
Finding Rhythms uses music to give prisoners valuable skills that will make them more employable on release and better able to make progress in society. Our first project was at HMP Wormwood Scrubs in 2012, and we’re now running our 31st project, at Bronzefield women’s prison. In each prison we challenge a group of learners to write, compose and record their own album of music….in just 36 hours.
We describe it as a Producer – Artist relationship, where the learners are the artists and we are the producers, helping them to translate their ideas into music. All learners have a go at writing lyrics and contribute to recordings either vocally, instrumentally or with simple sound-making. We don’t measure success by technical skill, but by the way that learners contribute to the process, challenge themselves and open up creatively.
Of course, recording an album is an ambitious project which requires a team effort and many of the soft skills that employers look for. Learners have the chance to earn a BTEC in employability skills, if they demonstrate good communication, collaboration, commitment, resilience, lateral thinking and creativity.
It’s enormously important. Of all art forms, music is the most ethereal and non-tangible, yet it has an astonishing power to transform people out of a particular mental state. I’ve lost count of the number of people on our courses who have said that making music takes them back to a happier place or makes them feel like a better person.
We had a learner at Swinfen Hall Young Offenders’ Institution who put it very well: “There’s a stereotype in prison, I don’t know, maybe you’ve got to be hard and not let anyone view you a different way. But in this room I don’t feel like that. I feel like when I come here and I make music that maybe it’s a place to escape.”
It goes without saying that crime has many root causes, but there are factors which are known to help people avoid reoffending. These include strong relationships, employment and self-belief. Music-making can help with all of these. Participants learn to work with each other and respect each other’s contribution, but many of them also use the opportunity to send a message to their loved ones on the outside .They learn to work in a professional environment, and earn a BTEC as evidence of achievement.
Finally, many prisoners feel defined by their imprisonment and have very few positive achievements to their name. Music and songwriting give participants the chance to express themselves creatively and shine at something, whether that’s percussion, singing, being a facilitator or writing lyrics.
Well, my working life is all about making and playing music, so to that extent you could say that I’m always listening to music. But no, I don’t play music when I’m writing, doing paperwork or whatever, because I have to be able to concentrate on music and actively listen.
At the moment I’m really enjoying a song called Doin Our Ting, which was written and recorded on our recent project at HMP Cardiff.
There are so many to choose from, and so many different reasons for choosing them. Some songs tell a powerful story about the journey to incarceration, some are really beautiful tributes to family, some are brilliant because they are full of wit and show a great zest for life despite imprisonment. But I guess I’d choose Life Is, a song written by an 18 year old prisoner at Swinfen Hall in 2016. This young man was severely withdrawn and found it almost impossible to engage in group activity in any positive way.
A week before the end of the course we asked if he’d like to write his own lyrics for the group to set to music, and the following week we were quite astonished when he arrived with a fully written song of four verses and a chorus, entitled ‘Life Is What You Make It’. He had laid such strong foundations with his writing that we were able to involve all the other learners, and he was very keen to have the strongest musicians in the group sing, rap and set his words to music. It’s a cracking song, but it was also a very special moment for Finding Rhythms to help this young man make a positive connection with his peers.
I’d call this the Real Session, because all the songs are chosen for being heartfelt, political and really authentic expressions of lived experience.
Any one of the tracks recorded by Alan Lomax in Southern American prisons in the middle of the last century – authentic, traditional blues music, full of heartfelt, vocalised opinions about the singer’s state of existence.
Blinded by your Grace, Stormzy
Picture a Vacuum – Kate Tempest
The North Will Rise Again – The Fall
Grandad’s Gold Chain – participant on Finding Rhythms’ course at HMYOI Swinfen Hall
Records OR CDs? – Records
Downloads OR streaming? – Streaming
Albums OR singles? – Albums
Human curation OR algorithmic curation? – Human
Host OR listener? – Listener
Popular playlist OR your own playlist? – Own
Play in order OR shuffle? – Order
Headphones OR speakers? – Speakers
Tupac or Biggie? – Tupac
Lead singer, guitarist, OR drummer? – Drummer
The best thing anyone can do to support Finding Rhythms is listen to the music we make in prisons. We’ve now made 28 albums which include every musical genre and cover a huge range of topics. Some are deeply personal, others very quirky and witty, but they all deserve a wide audience.
The second best thing anyone can do to support us is make a donation! We’re a small charity and we’re dependent on voluntary funding, so whether you buy an album or just make a small donation, it all allows us to support more prisoners and help them towards a better future.
BlueJay let’s music lovers to host their own radio show from their phone to their audience in real time. Download the app and join our community of music curators!