Young participant Ellie practicing with her cardboard cajon as part of Musinc at Home sessions.

When lockdown was announced for the first time last year, like many arts and culture organisations, Tees Valley Youth Music initiative Musinc did not know what the future would bring. After seeing many of the region’s youth clubs close and a lack of musical provision, it was determined to deliver this much needed support.

Musinc is the Teesside Musical Inclusion Partnership which provides access to high quality music making for young people. Funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music and operating in the Tees Valley authorities of Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland, Musinc works with a team of music leaders to help put music at the forefront of young people’s lives. It supports young people and focus on those facing barriers, between the ages of 8 to 18, or under 25 if they have a SEN support plan or identify as disabled.

In response to the announcement of a third lockdown at the start of the year and the numerous setbacks to face-to-face delivery for young people in the region, in February, Musinc launched an online programme of free activities that could be accessed from home. The ongoing programme, ‘Musinc at Home’, offers home-schooling lessons, instrumental, vocal and song writing sessions, as well as learning packs with free instruments, which were either collected or posted out to young people’s homes.

‘Musinc at Home’ drew on the initiative’s belief that music can bring about positive change in young people’s lives, such as their mental health and wellbeing. Sessions range from learning how to play the ukulele or cajon to producing music using online software.

Rebecca Cleasby, whose daughter Ellie participates in the cajon drumming sessions speaks about her experience:

“Ellie has really enjoyed the cajon drumming lessons through Musinc, she has had a focus during lockdown, learned new skills and been committed to regular practice. The tutor has been amazing and has taken it at a speed that Ellie could manage and has been extremely receptive when I’ve explained if it was too hard or fast or to the use of alternative language needed for her learning ability. What an amazing experience it has been for her, she will definitely be wanting to keep this up!”

One of the music leaders is Middlesbrough-based rapper Shakk, who runs a Rap and MC session which introduces young people to writing their own lyrics and performing. “As someone that has such a strong connection to music and especially song writing, I understand how life-changing it can be to be able to create your own lyrics” says Shakk, who has been supporting young students for several years.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is intrinsic to the all-encompassing approach that Musinc strive for and want to ensure people of all ages, diversities and abilities can take part in music making. Musical Inclusion Manager Rebecca Johnson, says “it’s not right that people with disabilities should have to miss out because society does not accommodate for them”.

Commenting on the positives of working online, she adds:

“Some younger people who didn’t have the confidence to turn up in person have found themselves more comfortable working over the internet and so, for some living out in rural areas, online tuition has provided them with a better opportunity to make consistent progress”.

Young performers are also invited to take part in Open Mic Nights which take place fortnightly. Run in partnership with Tees Valley Music Service, these sessions create a supportive network with feedback from professional musicians.

As lockdown restrictions start to ease, Musinc is adopting a hybrid model whereby simultaneous ‘in person’ and ‘online’ activity will run alongside each other, so that young people can take part in whichever way suits them best. Within their base at the historic yet contemporary setting of Middlesbrough Town Hall, Musinc will be running open music activities across Monday and Tuesday evenings, mirroring the current online programme including singing, rap, song writing, cajon, ukulele, and music production/technology, as well as a new group for anyone aged 16-25 who identifies as having a neurological diversity.

To find out more about Musinc and activities for young people and how to get involved, visit https://musinc.org.uk or email musinc@middlesbrough.gov.uk.