Community Music Programmes: Why – and How – to Set One Up
Music and community are two closely interlinked concepts. Music is often attributed to the development of modern storytelling, as epic poems and tales set to song would shift over time to the literature we know today. The other half of this story is the communality of storytelling, and the sharing of song – something we still do today, but in ways perhaps unrecognisable from days past.
Music is so many things, from passion to skill and even vocation. The true community potential of music remains alive in local and grassroots venues across the country, but is otherwise embattled by devastating government cuts and funding shortages.
With programmes to cultivate musical talent and creativity lacking locally, you might see room to build a programme of your own – to bring the community together, to coax out fresh emotional and social skills in younger people, and to raise awareness of just how important community cohesion is. But how would you go about starting such a programme?
The Bones of the Programme
First, you need to carefully consider exactly what your target demographic looks like within your community. A lot of music’s societal good is found in connection and communication, and if the crux of your programme doesn’t speak to the people you want to empower or impact, then yours will be a programme of diminishing returns.
Of course, there is a place for every discipline in practically every community, but effectiveness is just as crucial to setting up a community programme as validity. You might better engage younger members of the community with ‘band lessons’ or curated time in rehearsal spaces with professional DJ equipment; for wider community outreach, guided songwriting or even guided song might be more suited.
More practically speaking, it could be helpful to treat your programme plan as a business plan; to set clear goals and ambitions, and to define exactly what infrastructure you will need to run your programme. This infrastructure is not only physical – i.e.: instruments, equipment, premises and even stationery – but also logistical.
For example, in running sessions you adopt liability for the health and safety of attendees, rendering insurance a key consideration. You also need to think about how many hands you may need on deck, and whether volunteers will plug that need effectively.
The physical location of your programme is also a major aspect of your programme planning. Accessibility is vital to ensuring your programme truly welcomes all of the community. The hub you choose should be close to transport links and boast step-free access, at minimum.
Lastly, the content of your programme is largely up to you as a planner and organiser. However, canvassing for opinion from other music practitioners and experts can be extremely valuable in building out the rubric of your programme to better suit your purpose.