SoCo Music Project funded by Hammerson grant.

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Last modified on 15/08/2018

SoCo Music Project works closely with youth organisations, adult agencies, local authorities, schools and arts partners to provide positive opportunities in music and the creative arts, providing a safe and inspirational space for people of all ages to get involved.

SoCo has a particularly strong background in providing music workshops for individuals who are facing challenges with their mental health or experiencing or recovering from substance and alcohol misuse.

The grant of £4,960 from Hammerson is funding a musical programme to support these vulnerable people; aiming to improve their well-being through engaging in learning the art of song writing and recording.


Case Studies 

Participants on the course have reported first-hand how music has helped them in key areas including building confidence and self-esteem, expressing emotions, improving general wellbeing, facilitating peer support, improving skills and in establishing a point of focus for their day to day lives. This has in some case had a life changing impact. One participant reported “Not only did I get to make music with good artists but for me it’s become my mid-week haven from the pressures of life and I have learnt a lot of priceless music skills and met good friends”.

For many of the participants, the main benefit has been an increase in self-esteem. In some cases, addiction and poor mental health has meant that confidence levels upon starting the course were extremely low, as one participant explains “It’s been incredibly moving. I just didn’t think I could do it. Coming here and seeing that I can it’s just like an eye opener for me. Because I’ve got this thing where I think I’m rubbish, because of my mental health…and it turns out that I’m not! All the things that I do and it turns out that I’m not (rubbish). I’m starting to realise that I can do stuff”.

Participants are also found to be more highly motivated as they identify a new way to focus their time and efforts, resulting in almost every participant confirming that they wish to continue with music following the end of their course.  The motivation that comes from acquiring a new skill holds particular importance for individuals recovering from addiction, with participants identifying how essential it is to have a positive focal point in their lives. One individual reported “Keeping busy is important for me. Any hours in the day spent not knowing what to do are dangerous hours. It’s just a really good way of using my time.”  Another participant observed “Life was dull taking my pills every day staring into what was left of a bottle of cider. Music has helped me so much; my drinking is at a healthier level. I can exist in the community now and I can enjoy music and now play a little bit.”

Music helps people to connect with their emotions in a powerful and positive way. Research has found that listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical, which it has been argued can be particularly important for individuals overcoming addiction to other substances. Colin Owens, support worker for Society of St James said “The guys in our group have all had very difficult times in their lives and getting involved with music, learning how to play, expressing themselves, singing and shouting or reconnecting with an instrument they used to play has been a big part of their recovery. It is a joy to rock out with them and feel their confidence soar a little bit when we manage to get through a whole song and the audience cheer and whoop. It’s a great feeling and feeling great is something some of the guys had perhaps forgotten.”


Song Writing in Action

One participant on the Solent Mind song writing course gave the following feedback on how he got involved with the project and these are his own words:

These sessions were excellent. We were introduced to an industry standard professional singer-songwriter, who led us through the complete process of writing our own song. The course delivered was focused on teaching us about song and lyric structure. 

To start the song-writing process were asked to pick an unknown theme, written on a piece of paper that was randomly out of a pot and to construct lyrics around the presented written title. We were taught about the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique of song lyric writing: an automatic process of getting formative song lyrics onto paper very quickly. I was surprised by this method and how I was able to write in a lyric format and produce a page of usable lyrics in only ten minutes, spontaneously. I didn’t know I had the ability to produce interesting lyrics written on the spot from a non-self-chosen topic, so quickly, let alone something that could be valid enough to be used as song lyrics. I was surprised at how what I thought was normal mediocre writing suddenly took on a strange life its own. The lyric writing process was demystified and I subsequently felt very chuffed in achieving something that I thought was beyond me and/or only happened to other people.

We were then taught how to edit our lyrics by reading them back to ourselves and using a critical analysis of our own work. Noticing that a few of the verse lines I had written were out of context and/or slightly weak, we were taught how to properly ‘edit and arrange’ the song’s lyrics. It was suggested that some of the song lines could be swapped around to improve the overall flow and impact of the songs story subject matter and delivery. Advice was given on how to end verses properly with a strong sentence, thus providing a dramatic full-stop impact that would make each verse stand out as a single ‘event’ that would unfold and progress the listeners interest in creating the theatrical type of visual, spacial and temporal effects that draws a listener in and makes a song infectiously satisfying. I subsequently chopped, edited, added and arranged my original ‘stream of consciousness’ lyrics to produce an even better version of what I had already written. I found this process extremely satisfying and the impact of progression felt was very strong at this point.

After the lyrics had been produced and reworked, the course administrator sat down with me and asked me to start singing the lyrics in a spontaneous format, improvising the melody as I went along, in the same way that I had initially immediately improvised writing the first draft of the lyrics. I was surprised by how quickly I fell into a single pattern just singing the first two verses and this automatically became the melody format of the song. The administrator immediately took what I was singing and improvised chords on the spot on his guitar, to match the singing melody.

The course administer was very friendly, approachable and knowledgeable. The session started with him singing and playing one of his songs. His voice and musicianship was excellent: he knew his trade. The sessions were very well structured to enable the participant to get the maximum out of them. To be able to write a song so quickly was amazing and I felt a great satisfied sense of accomplishment. 

The course was very well structured and delivered and I would not hesitate to recommend the course administrator to anyone. His professionalism within his chosen field is absolute. This was a very enjoyable and rewarding course. The pace of the sessions was very relaxed in contrast to what was achieved so quickly. This was a ‘proper’ music session as they should be taught and delivered, as opposed to the type of cold, formal National Curriculum Music lessons I was exposed to years ago at school. Very satisfying, productive, and personally empowering.


First posted Thursday 12 October 2017

Tags: Sustainability & Community Engagement