Our Development Worker, Clare McBrien, reflects on The Ctrl Alt Delete Recording Sessions at YCSA
When I started working at YCSA, the Chief Executive Umar Ansari asked me, ‘What do you care about?’ I told him, ‘Music.’ When he asked why, I stammered while trying to condense my complex relationship with it into one pithy sentence. Eventually I said, ‘Because I want everyone to experience what playing music with other people is like.’ Not particularly pithy…
I often lament the fact that there isn’t a combination of words intricate enough to express what music means to me. Despite taking lessons and playing in school bands, I spent most of my life convinced that I wasn’t ‘creative’, believing I wasn’t part of the select few who had permission to paint, sing, build and perform. So I didn’t. However, when my early 20s brought with it mental ill health, new friendships, and a sense of now-or-never, I mustered just enough self belief to pick up my clarinet again.
Fast forward a couple of years and I need to be ‘creative’. Because when I am involved in the process of creating a combination of noises, movements or words, my mind is still. I go back to the beginning and renegotiate my place. I give shape and form to emotions I don’t know how to express any other way. I have fun with my friends.
That’s why I care about music. That’s what I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience. Luckily, my inability to express this didn’t deter Umar from trusting me to design and run the YCSA 2016 Summer Music Programme. It was my hope that young BME people in need of support would have the opportunity to understand themselves better, to see how they connect with others and to tell their story.
For three weeks YCSA staff, volunteers and ten young people from diverse cultural backgrounds learned vocal techniques, experimented with different instruments, and wrote songs that discussed issues of identity, conflict and resilience. All of this led up to the Ctrl Alt Del Recording Sessions, where they co-wrote lyrics with professional artists via a twitter lyric swap. They then took these lyrics and wrote and recorded a track.
The tangible result of this was several songs recorded by the young people and the artists they worked with, the most substantial of which, in my opinion, is the latest song called ‘New Home’.
However, it’s the quiet changes in understanding, knowledge or behaviour that reconfirmed my belief in how music empowers. When I listen to ‘New Home’, I see the young man who struggled to control his anxiety find stillness when playing, or another participant step up to the mic who didn’t have the confidence to do so before. I watch a young person’s frustration melt when communicating through music rather than stilted English and young women’s eyes light up when saying ‘I feel like Beyoncé.’ I can hear the honest conversations, the shared pain, the challenges met, the growth in self-belief, the laughter, the trust, the hope, the fun.
That’s why I care about music, and I’m so grateful to have been trusted to share that passion with young people at YCSA.