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Drum for the future - music sessions in Exeter for young people on probation

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Supporting Employability and Personal Effectiveness (SEPE) is a new BTEC qualification being offered by Edexcel and Superact and currently funded by the Tribal Group. The SEPE award is designed to help those who may find accessing traditional routes to employment challenging, to build confidence and gain a meaningful qualification. This qualification designed by Superact is designed to help learners to gain and retain a job, and then to advance in the workplace, through development of the soft skills that employers are looking for: adaptability, a ‘can do’ attitude and objectivity about strengths and weaknesses. With SEPE, Superact focuses on holistic learning through the arts. Evidence has shown that a well-delivered arts project will develop participants’ reflective learning, their overall personal skills, ability to manage relationships, communication skills, concentration on tasks, enthusiasm, motivation and self-esteem.

Mascha Wieland our intern who is with us on the Erasmus Plus scheme visited one of the sessions and reflects on her experience:  

As part of Superact’s SEPE programme, young people on probation have been meeting at St. Sidwells Community Centre in Exeter to join a session of music twice a week from October to November 2014. The artists Allan Kerr and Iwan Kushka engage with them running drum and guitar sessions. The idea of these music sessions is that young people get together, work to a programme, share experiences and create music. Through doing something at the end of the process participants improve their "soft skills" such as being punctual, working together and reflecting on their work.

At the beginning it usually takes a while to start the music session as there is much to talk about and the participants want to share their experience during the week. When the music session eventually starts, they sit in a circle, each with a drum, and together they start playing basic drum patterns. Shortly after, Allan starts varying the rhythm and speed of the drumming and the rest of the drummers join him and adapt their drumming to his pattern. But it is not only about imitating what the professional musicians showed before: there is always enough time, when the young drummers can show off with a solo that is embedded in the background rhythm of the other drums. Playing the drums creates a strong community feeling and it releases a lot of energy in each person. So I could observe that drumming is great fun for all participants!

After a little break with some refreshments – which is very important after an exhausting drum session – it goes on with learning guitar chords. No one has to know how to play the guitar but they learn it together from the very beginning. Starting with three chords – E minor, A minor and C major – they will soon be able to accompany songs on the guitar. Some of them already know how to play the guitar and it is also possible to get some individual support by one of the musicians while the other one works with the rest of the group. One of the young people is already much into music and the rest of the participants were invited to enjoy a performance of some self-written songs!

At the end of the two hour session, they’ve learned a lot in term of music, but also improved their soft skills when playing music as part of a group, respecting each other  and sharing their experiences.