RICH MIX: Access All Areas - Sound Connections

Sound Connections are a key organisation in music education in London, and are based here at Rich Mix. Initially established in 2002, they are the lead advocates for music education in the capital, and over the last 10 years, have worked, through partnerships, to strengthen the music sector, bridge gaps in provision and deliver landmark music programmes. I met with the Director of the organisation, Philip Flood, to find out more about Sound Connections and discuss the life-enriching work they do…

In your own words…who are Sound Connections, and how would you describe you work?

Sound connections is a music education charity, established in 2002. Our mission is to develop, support and empower young Londoners, from birth right through to 25 years old, through music. We also support the whole infrastructure around music and music education, and work with cultural organisations across London to achieve that. We’ve worked quite closely with Rich Mix in the last few years, firstly through helping them set up their Young Ambassador scheme, so we were there at the beginning steering that project with them, and more recently bringing people in to the building who are interested in music education. We also worked on a joint even that Rich Mix hosted, the Youth Takeover.

 One of our flagship projects is called Wired4music – essentially it’s a network of young Londoners aged 16-25, made up of about 500 young people across London, with a core of group about 50 people. It’s developed and shaped by them, we don’t tell them what to do – they decide what they want. A lot of what they’re benefitting and learning from that is based around leadership skills, and opportunities to develop their own projects, sometimes with a little bit of seed funding from us. It can range from learning how to conduct a choir, to launching a new label, developing an app, or something around managing an event. Journalism and film-making is part of what we do as well. It’s not just being on stage and playing and instrument, it’s all aspects of what we could consider the ‘music industry’. These are a really vital and enthusiastic group of young musicians, they’re the future both in terms of the audience and the people who are going to engage with music in London. So we’ve got a lot of connections and partnerships across London, but obviously our home in Rich Mix, so it is really important to us as well.

What’s your favourite part of working at Rich Mix?

It’s just a really stimulating, creative building to work in. We’ve had partnerships with other organisations in the building, and twice a year we run an introduction to music education, which we have in the Main Space. Anybody who comes in the building really feels welcomed, and if they haven’t been here before they often come back. What I like at the end of the day is walking out as I go home and listening to who’s playing, or wandering around the building during the day and hearing rehearsals. Music really is a big part of what the building is about.

What was your favourite song of 2016 and why?

The other night at our office party we all brought in our instruments and played carols, and we have a video of Sound Connections staff singing ‘White Christmas’, which I think was a triumph! I’m sure we can provide a link to that…

What was your favourite film of 2016?

I’ll have to say the new Star Wars which has just come out!

What was your highlight of 2016?

Gosh, it’s very difficult to pick one. We had two really successful conferences for the music education sector, bringing together a range of different partners, teachers, musicians and people who are involved in funding and policy. The first one was in the early part of the year, bringing together the early year’s music sector. We developed a network of early year’s practitioners and bring them together once a year to share best practise and to reflect on what’s going well. Then more recently, bringing together individuals and organisations who work with young people in challenging circumstances - so those young people really face barriers to accessing musical provision. We brought together a host of organisations to look at how we could better improve on our approach to inclusion, making sure that every young Londoner has access to high quality music making opportunities. Those have been the highlights, I’d say.

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

One of the things that we’re in the final phases of is working with the London Borough of Islington, helping them launch their music education strategy for the borough. We’ve just been asked by Essex music education hub to do an in-depth youth consultation on what young people in Essex think about music education. And then we’re going to be continuing to support teachers in schools, especially those in secondary school music. Because things are tough there, we’ve brought together a pan-London network of teachers in secondary school music, who we’ll be working with until July, and that’s a really exciting opportunity. So our plans are to continue focusing on those most in need in London, and to expand our work across England over the next 1-3 years. We really want to grow our work and engage with more partners outside of London.

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