Rachel Maxey reflects on Transform

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by Rachel Maxey, current Trainee Music Leader

Rachel Maxey, current Trainee Music Leader, reflects on her learnings from Transform, our creative music project delivered in partnership with the Chineke! Foundation.

I was involved in Spitalfields Music’s collaborative project with players from Chineke! Orchestra, working with 35 Y7-8 instrumentalists at Swanlea School in Whitechapel. This was a three-day project, of which I unfortunately had to miss the first workshop day. Having three intensive days created a very different atmosphere in the workshop to projects which are more spaced out, and I really liked the kind of ‘band camp’ energy that was there between the music leaders and the participants towards the end of the project.

The project was inspired by the lives and music of four BAME composers, whose stories had in many ways been lost in the history. All four of these composers were completely inspiring to me, and I felt very moved to be able to be part of sharing those stories with the young people. We split into four groups and created compositions inspired by one of the composers. For this I supported music leader Rosie Bergonzi. I really enjoyed exploring ideas of improvisation, structure, and musical character with what was clearly a very creative group.

Coming back together in the afternoon, the whole class worked with music leader Pete Letanka to develop a song that reflected the idea of these stories being so powerful, yet they had been largely forgotten. I really enjoyed how he managed to get the pupils to open up vocally by improvising an ‘opera’. The only rule of the game was that you had to sing all parts of the story, nothing could be said, over a piano accompaniment. I was impressed with how the pupils threw themselves into that activity, especially as they are at an age where they could feel self-conscious in front of their peers. This led on to a great song-writing session, using a similar method of setting down a groove and encouraging lyric writing and singing. It was great to observe and has really got me thinking about how I could run a similar type of song writing session, while not being a confident pianist.

The final day was a chance for us all to showcase an audience of Y7-8 pupils what we had created – a blend of small and large group instrumental and vocal compositions, the group has created and learnt over the three days.