The Heart of the Matter: Music in Youth Justice Settings

Posted on April 25th, by Rebeka in Heart of the Matter, Youth Justice. No Comments

Our Music in Youth Justice Settings project is an established programme of work that brings music- and music tech-based education to young people in two high security centres for young people under 18 in Yorkshire. The project started as a 1.5 day per week intervention across the two centres, encouraging the young people there to explore and learn through making and performing their own music.

Music is intrinsically linked to our identities as humans, and this is particularly true for younger people. Not only do these young people learn and adopt a series of musical skills, there is clear evidence that our project has unlocked doors for them into healthier forms of communication, rehabilitation and re-integration into the outside world. All through a medium that has captured their imaginations (where other subjects have not).

So what is the heart of the matter this month?

It is the overwhelming success of a project that is primarily led by the young people themselves, within a genre that they all intrinsically understand as human beings.

Giving ownership of the creation of new music to these young people (with the establishment of clear no-go areas and boundaries) has given the young people involved a reason to engage with the activity, as well as encouraging them to make significant contributions, both musically and in other areas of their lives. They open up through their music in ways they wouldn’t otherwise and their social skills improve dramatically.

We are all aware, of course, that some types of music (popular to younger generations) are not particularly ‘healthy’ or ‘acceptable’, to put it mildly. Types of music that incite hatred and / or violence are out-of-bounds in our sessions, and this is made clear by our facilitators from the get-go. For the most part though, the young people have responded well to these parameters and have been incredibly creative within them. You can listen to a track that one of our students has made on our Music with Young People in Youth Justice Settings page.

As of 2019, we now work 4 days per week across both settings. One setting even wants to increase from two days to three after Easter this year, for at least the summer term, which means that the project will be running for a full 5 days per week in the coming months. This, alongside a significant investment in music software, hardware and a recording studio in one of the centres (as a direct result of this project), shows that both venues see huge benefits in the commitment to music as an important tool in the development of these young people. It also shows just how successful music can be in engaging with young people in high security settings, on their turf and on their terms.

YY&M creates music education projects for children and young people in a range of severely challenging circumstances. In order to provide meaningful musical experiences for these young people, we make decisions that get to the heart of both their needs and what makes a good musical project. We want to share the hows and whys with YOU, our readers, in a feature on our website (and our bulletin) called ‘Heart of the Matter‘. Each month over the course of 2019, we will reveal how our work gets to the real heart of what music education means to us.

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