Among the plethora of academic, social and personal benefits that music education can offer children and young people, Lewisham Music believes that its impact on mental health and wellbeing is one of the most important.
The disruption of the pandemic has put huge strain on many young people, particularly on those already struggling with their mental health. Through social isolation, disrupted routines, breakdown in support and in some cases traumatic experiences, the lasting effects of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of young people is deeply concerning.
“All young people strive for outlets. Regardless of background or identity, by offering self-expression through music we help to build the foundations of a happy, healthy and resilient individual.”
Keith Sykes, Lewisham Music’s Community Music Manager
In response to this, Lewisham Music is delighted to announce our new Youth Music funded programme, Sonic Minds. This two-year programme will support hundreds of young people across Bromley, Bexley and Lewisham. Through collaborative songwriting and music production, our team of Music Leaders will work with children to help them share their stories, celebrate their identity and express themselves through music.
Our ongoing #MusicMadeMe campaign has demonstrated the strong correlation between music and emotional wellbeing with a range of young people we work with:
“Music is how I express myself and how I express my emotions.”
Tyrique, age 13
“Music means relaxation and getting rid of any stress. It helps me refocus my mind.”
Rendys, age 12
“Music has made me very happy, especially when I was going through a hard time in my life.”
Jedida, age 13
During our Rap and Lyricism and Fellowship Music Collective programmes, over 94% of young people felt better able to express their own ideas through music. One child’s parent wrote:
“These opportunities are so very important for children, but for my child individually, he has spent his life so far quite alone…everything you are now offering as an addition helps strengthen his skills as well as his confidence.”
In May 2020, our Vocal Leader Clare Caddick launched ‘Zoooom Choir’. Over 300 children engaged with these sessions during the height of the pandemic and a series of weekly ‘in person’ rehearsals have taken place since. Reflecting on the process, Clare said:
“We have had much feedback telling us how great it’s been for all involved, particularly mentioning an improvement in general happiness and wellbeing. The young people who joined the Zoooom Choirs are now starting to come to choir in person and we see a confidence which is extraordinary.”
This evidence has demonstrated the need for Sonic Minds, and shaped the design of the programme which will we work with children and young people who are at elevated risk of poor mental health. Keith Sykes, Community Music Manager at Lewisham Music and of the brains behind Sonic Minds said:
“We know from our research with partner organisations that looked after children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children are particularly vulnerable to social isolation and are affected badly by being withdrawn from education. It is vital therefore that we provide access to creative outlets for these young people. Programmes such as Sonic Minds will give young people a safe space to meet other young people, share their stories, explore their identity, have a sense of independence and develop a sense of purpose.”
As well as facilitating music creation, Sonic Minds aims to feed in to the ever-growing research around the impact of music on the mental wellbeing of young people. The programme will be consistently documented and evaluated through participant surveys and project reviews – the framework of which has been agreed in partnership with Sound Connections. We hope that this research will eventually lead to the development of a Best Practice Toolkit which can be implemented within support systems for children experiencing poor mental health.
We also recognise the importance of getting this research out to the general public. As part of the programme, sound designer and installation artist, Gawain Hewitt, will be creating a physical sound installation, co-designed with the young participants. Gawain’s installation will incorporate their musical creations and audio recordings of their experiences. This piece will then be toured around local venues to showcase the programme and inform audiences of the benefits of music on children’s mental wellbeing.
Ultimately, Sonic Minds will build on our unique child-centred and youth-led practice to provide a safe space for these young people to explore difficult feelings. In a year that has seen young people face isolation, uncertainty, anxiety and trauma, we believe this work is needed now more than ever.
Developments so far…
We are delighted to announce that music activity is underway, workshops across the three boroughs have started and already the creative potential of young people is being unlocked. We have appointed Gawain Hewitt as our sound artist, in the New Year Gawain will begin the creation of our sonified brain – an interactive installation that will house young people’s new music and be showcased across community venues.
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Sonic Minds is backed by Youth Music.
Youth Music's website