My Experience with The Songwriting Charity

Thank you Jacqueline Kench for contributing this month’s guest blog about her experience with the Songwriting Charity.

“I’m a Primary School Music Teacher. There aren’t many of us around. I teach only music, in a large Primary School in Bracknell, Berkshire.

In recent months at school, children had been coming to me at lunchtimes having written their own songs. I am fortunate enough to have time each week with a small group of Gifted and Talented children, and had given them enough knowledge about chords for them to write their own songs. One song in particular stood out, and I met with the 9 year old girl who had composed it in a recording studio over the summer to get the track down. You can listen to it at https://soundcloud.com/jacqui-kench/summer-song . It was a fantastic experience for the girl, and gave me a real glimpse into how much children can achieve.

I’ve recently discovered the delights of Twitter. I say recently, actually this was my fifth attempt at ‘getting Twitter’. Anyhow I got Twitter, and found The Songwriting Charity. I was immediately interested, as I am a songwriter myself, and got in touch.

So it was through Tweets and phone calls that I managed to get The Songwriting Charity into my school. They managed to secure some funding (from a company sponsor called Itper), which meant there was no cost to us as a school.

I decided to use the group of Gifted and Talented children, as it is a 2-form entry school it wouldn’t have worked to just choose one class. This way, some children from Years 4-6 all got to participate. And they were rather excited about the prospect of missing normal lessons for the day!

So one Friday in September, Ben O’Sullivan and Kat Marsh came to Wooden Hill Primary. The theme of the songwriting workshop was bullying. The children worked in groups to brainstorm ideas and thoughts about bullying. Kat showed the children how to turn their ideas into lyrics and melodies. The main chorus was ‘Run away, from the violence, run away to get some silence’.

The groups practiced their part until it was time for Ben to record it. One boy can play the djembe (African drum) really well, and his beat was used as the main rhythm of the song. Ben added more drums and keyboard. I have an excellent beat boxer in Year 6, and we made sure his talents were able to shine in the song. Another child loves to rap, and had written a rap section in a matter of minutes! One child was reluctant to work in a group, so we worked with her at lunchtime to record her section, ensuring everyone took part. Ben said he got goosebumps when recording her part, and that is what it’s all about.

Once all the parts of the song had been recorded, Ben started to mix them together to create the perfect song. While he was doing this, Kat and I took the children outside to film some scenes for the music video. The children of course loved this bit!

We only had to wait a matter of hours for the song to be finished and put online onto Soundcloud. Within a few hours the number of people who had listened to it was reaching a hundred. I emailed all the staff and made sure they listened to it too! You can listen to it at https://soundcloud.com/the-songwriting-charity/wooden-hill-primary-runaway

Monday morning it was played in assembly to the whole school, and the children involved stood at the front and were awarded certificates. Only a few days later, the music video was uploaded to YouTube, and it was amazing to watch. I cried!

The video was shown in assembly, by which time most of the children had listened to it so often they sang along to most of it. It is very catchy, and the children as so proud of what they have achieved. It has raised the whole morale of the school.

Since that day, the YouTube video view count is well over a thousand. The children appeared in the local paper, and spoke on BBC Radio Berkshire. I have plans for the song to reach far and wide, as at the end of the day, its message is what’s important.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the Songwriting Charity, especially Ben and Kat. I know I will keep in touch with the charity and would love to help where I can. They do an amazing job and change children’s lives through music.”

Follow Jacqueline Kench on Twitter: @inspectorMuso

Follow us: @SWCharity

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Coming with the Light of Kindness

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What is Something Kind?

Something Kind is our newest programme and has been designed in partnership with Gloucestershire Healthy Living & Learning and is generously match funded by The Summerfield Charitable Trust.

The idea behind this programme is to consider anti-bullying from a different angle. Children often tell us that bullying means people are saying unkind things or aren’t nice to one another. Through positive reinforcement and considering the impact that kindness and acts of kindness can have, we’re helping children (and schools) to look at addressing bullying behaviour in a different way. Our key aim is to highlight the mutual benefits of kindness, looking at and measuring how this consideration can boost a child’s confidence and self-esteem, while also facilitating a more caring and supportive environment.

Already 85% of participants think that they will do ‘kind things more often’ With a further 74% saying they think their workshop experience will make children in their class feel more confident about being kind to each other. A further 65% feel proud of their achievements during their workshop, in particular the words they had written that day. The important thing is for children to recognise the power and impact an act of kindness can have on their peers, school community and on them as initiators and receivers of acts of kindness.

Something Kind is the flip side of our Bully Beat coin. Once awareness is established through school based bullying prevention/anti-bullying work, it’s important to help children explore other creative measures to establish and maintain a happy and enriching learning environment. Something Kind workshops provide unique opportunities to experience and offer kindness through songwriting and self-expression.

We’re adding new videos to the Something Kind playlist on YouTube. Have a look at what we’ve done so far right here.

This is what people are saying about Something Kind

“We were having slight problems with a group of Y5 girls asserting their authority somewhat with other girls both in Y5 and Y4. These girls gained a lot form the workshop and it has made them think: the problems have not recurred this term. During and after the day, the pupils were full of the experience. Afterwards, some of the Y5 girls came and asked when it would be used and what for. They were proud that it would form the basis of this term’s assemblies and follow up focus. One of the other girls came quietly and told me that she had really enjoyed the whole experience and felt that she was more ‘in’ with some of the other girls as a result of it.” Jane Attwood, HEAD, Leighterton Primary School

“The box of kindness is made and up and running and looks great! In the end, we got the children to all do a small drawing or write a message and stuck them all over the box so that they had all contributed to it.  They started telling me about acts of kindness they’d witnessed straight away, so that’s great! What’s also been useful is that when we’ve had any minor friendship issues come up, we’re able to reflect back on the workshop and what was discussed and think about if the individuals involved have shown kindness and then use this to resolve problems.” Gemma Rouse, Class Teacher, Gotherington Primary

“Thank you so much for a super day on Friday.  The Year 5 pupils had a wonderful time.  It was a great experience for them and the song sounds great! Thank you also for your assembly which you led at the end of the day – the children loved it and learnt a lot at the same time.” Sally Green, Head, The John Moore Primary School, Tewkesbury

“The team were extremely professional and importantly able to impart knowledge to every child. The end result was one which was completely owned by the children. There are many hidden elements contained within the workshop which can be used as supporting evidence. I feel that this one project would support an Outstanding Ofsted judgement as it covers many of the aspects contained within the SMSC criteria and the criteria for Outstanding.” Ben Jordan, Head, Gotherington Primary

‘Let The Sun Shine’ during Anti-Bullying Week

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Get up on your feet

Yeah

And dance to the beat

Listen to our voices

Make the right choices!

‘Let The Sun Shine’ is an anti-bullying pop song written by children at Edward Francis Primary School, Essex. We’d like to thank Headteacher Mr. Gary Soars for having us in the school and Mrs. Amy Vinnicombe for her ongoing support and encouragement. Finally, well done to all the children who took part in the workshops. The contributions were, to coin a phrase, ‘epic’! And we look forward to working at EFPS again in the New Year.

About Bully Beat in Essex
Our second Bully Beat project in Essex primary schools is supported by the Essex Music Education Hub, with generous music technology support granted by Korg Education.

Andy Hill, Head of Essex Music Education Hub said, “that the Hub is delighted to be able to support a project that raises awareness of Anti-bullying and gives young people an opportunity to perform and compose music too!”

Bully Beat has been designed to enthuse primary aged children about the process of lyric writing, singing, music arranging and contemporary production whilst promoting a serious anti-bullying message. We’re using informal music education and literacy working to communicate a range of key messages. Every song is written by the children. We record, produce and publish the songs at the end of the process.

The three key messages are: Looking out for your peers, particularly the most vulnerable; how to report worries, and keeping yourself safe. We think that the more we talk about it, the stronger the anti-bullying message becomes. And when you transform those messages into song, they are amplified and all the more impactive. Every workshop produces a song that every child has contributed to.

Songwriting Choir project benefits from Youth Music funding

WINCHCOMBE SECONDARY SCHOOL AWARDED £20,000 GRANT FOR SONGWRITING AND PERFORMANCE PROJECT

 Pupils from Isbourne Valley and Gretton primary schools will benefit in their transition to secondary school

The National Foundation for Youth Music this week awarded a grant of £20,250 for a unique music project at Winchcombe Secondary School in conjunction with The Songwriting Charity. The project will also partner with Isbourne Valley and Gretton primary schools.

The Songwriting Charity is dedicated to the empowerment of young people through the art and craft of songwriting and has worked with over 12,000 children, inspiring them to reach their creative musical potential.

The charity will initiate a Songwriters Choir at Winchcombe, only the second one of its kind in the country.  The project will mentor songwriting by a core of 20 primary school participants who will then introduce their work to their older peers making up the rest of the choir. The choir will get the opportunity to share the stage at high profile venues, such as Cheltenham Town Hall, with professional singers and musicians.  The charity believes that children building songs together, and then hearing them sung en masse by a community choir, provides a huge confidence boost and helps to bridge the gap often associated with the transition from primary to secondary school.

Ben O’Sullivan, Director of Programmes at The Songwriting Charity and the Winchcombe Songwriters Choir leader says: “It’s a huge privilege to be taking the Songwriters Choir idea to Gloucestershire with the generous support of Youth Music, enabling the Songwriting Charity to reach more children with this life-changing approach to music-making. We know how useful choral singing is for shy and withdrawn children when drawing students together to make music and build friendships. In offering the added layer of songwriting and creative music-making with professionals and peers, the children are all the more empowered and their self-esteem elevated through the challenging step up to secondary school.”

Matt Griffiths, Executive Director, Youth Music says: “We are delighted to support this project as it will provide such a valuable experience for the young people taking part.  We know that through music, many young people find a new focus in their lives and in this way, the project at Winchcombe Secondary school will be providing them with a confidence building and ultimately life-changing experience.  We wish the organisers every success in getting this very worthwhile project off the ground.”

The national charity Youth Music supports life-changing music-making opportunities for children and young people with least opportunity.  These include young people at risk of exclusion, children in care, those coping with disability and young people living in urban deprivation or rural isolation.   It announced grants totalling £3,419,000 across England, bringing the number of projects helped over the last year to 418, the highest ever. These projects reach out to over 100,000 children and young people every year.  Grants are made available across all musical genres from opera to hip-hop.

A list of all the organisations awarded funding may be found at:  http://bit.ly/ymgrantsAug13

For further information about the music project being run at Winchcombe Secondary School please contact

Ben O’Sullivan

Director of Programmes

The Songwriting Charity

T: 07803139801

E: ben@songwritingcharity.org

Milestone Case Study

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Big thank you to Val Kennedy, The Milestone School and Gloucestershire Healthy Learning & Living Lead Teacher for providing this wonderful evaluation on camera.

http://www.nathantimothyfoundation.org

https://twitter.com/NTFoundation

http://www.youtube.com/user/SongwritingCharity

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nathan-Timothy-Foundation-The-Songwriting-Charity/

https://ntfoundation.wordpress.com

Songwriting Charity on SoundCloud

Songwriting Charity on SoundCloud

We love social media! We love the speed at which things can happen. It has been a brilliant way to stay in touch with our supporters, build new relationships, seek out  and establish new business development opportunities to support our fundraising and generally make a lot of noise about our work. For all the razzmatazz and jargon surrounding social media and its usage, we really enjoy using it to share the work of thousands of young songwriters, singers, artists, story tellers, budding pop musicians and performers.

Bully Beat Workshop

We love SoundCloud! On The Songwriting Charity’s SoundCloud, the voices of thousands of children can be heard singing solos, duets, rapping, beat boxing, speaking, trying their hardest to overcome fears, a lack of confidence, nervousness, low self-esteem. It’s of paramount importance to us that children feel safe, valued and confident enough through the process to want to sing, to try and sing, to communicate through spoken word and poetry, to collaborate with peers, to write, or just relish in the fact that they have written something that captures the essence of how they or their friend is feeling. If they don’t want to sing or perform, that’s fine. They can get behind the camera, interview their peers, create their online album cover, work out a dance move, create a ‘cheer’ or relish in the fact that no matter what they do on that One Day, they contribute. The whole process is quite magical. It leaves us exhausted at times, but wanting to do more, to delve deeper and work for longer so that we have the chance to document even more.

Remember, many of the children who participate in our workshops have never performed in front of their peers before, some have never been selected for this kind of experience before. Many have disengaged from their learning, lost interest in school and find themselves on the verge of permanent exclusion. A large number will have experienced some form of bullying behaviour and feel unsettled in what might be a new and unfamiliar environment. They may have few or no friends at all and have real trouble settling in. Then there are the shy and quiet children, ones that are ‘off the radar’, in someone’s mind, neither excelling or achieving. Forgotten. Invisible.

People say it’s just One Song in One Day and you can only achieve so much in that period. And to an extent, they’re right. At the beginning of the process, that’s exactly what it is! However, that One Song on that given day is the catalyst for change, the spark, igniting the children’s imagination. They’re already inquisitive learners. But now, it’s all different, it’s in stereo and technicolour! And crucially, they are being given the time to be creative.

No day is ever the same at the Songwriting Charity. Every day we are spoilt.  Every day, children surprise themselves! They pick up the baton and they run! Sometimes the emotions are so intense we have tears, tears of joy not anguish. Once they gather themselves, often with the help of friends or classmates, they come back, ready to take on the next challenge.

As we embark on developing our presence on other social networks such as Pinterest and Google+, many Twitter followers have decided to migrate over to SoundCloud and are now absorbing the rich vein of social commentary being offered up by children and young people we work with. Our social media supporters are discovering how these children see and comprehend the world around them. They cheer us on and show a genuine appreciation for the songs, the voices, the words, the melodies.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Songwriting Charity, please, don’t be a stranger! We are very social. Click the links in this article, watch the videos, listen to the songs, imagine what it must be like to write a song, a complete song, perform it, record it and have it published! Imagine how empowering that must be, how satisfying and exciting it is………

It doesn’t end there! This is just the beginning.

What Makes Me Support The Songwriting Charity?

My childhood wasn’t ideal at all. It was torture. I was a bit of a frustrated/angry child and teenager. We weren’t allowed music in the house because my father wouldn’t allow it as music was seen as corrupting. Hypocritically, he would listen to music from his own background, which I found hard to listen to. I can’t begin to describe it to you. 
When I did get to hear music (i.e classical, pop, rock, easy listening) it was a sanctuary from the hell that was my life. I had to steal private moments with music because it wasn’t allowed in the house. Sometimes my ear was pressed against the wall listening to the music my neighbours were playing or if I was fortunate enough to be at a friends house, I’d listen to their parents collection.

Music lessons at school offered some release, although music was seen as a dumping ground for kids who were troublemakers or whose behaviour was challenging in some way. So, we were ignored a little perhaps. A wasted opportunity for me and others at a time when it could have made an impact.

I believe in the work your charity does with children. The children may not understand it now but maybe one day they will realise the importance of music in their lives. Music inspires, soothes, motivates and I love that your charity will be helping children make their own music.

Thanks to hard work from my former piano teacher I’m able to compose my own tunes, which have been trapped in my mind for decades.
 
Pratab Ali