Young people often believe their voices aren’t heard; they experience adults making decisions for them on a daily basis, and may feel that they have no control over their own lives.

So how can we help young people to find their voice? Making your own music is one of the ways that it can happen.

“The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing” – Labi Siffre

At YY&M, when we talk about Young People’s Voice, we mean the importance of being heard and listened to, which is more than the right to speak. It means choosing the kind of music you want to make, the instruments or tech you want to use, and the people you want to work with.

When we work with young people we talk about being heard and listened to, alongside understanding the responsibility of accepting that other people have equal rights. The right to disagree, the right to be treated respectfully, the right to be protected from harm. You may not like other people’s musical preferences, but the right to have preferences is the same for everyone. You have the right to tell your story, or express your feelings, in a way that doesn’t put yourself or others at risk of harm. Regulated and controlled self-expression – expressing yourself in a way that means others can listen and understand, is an essential part of being an artist. 

Music and making your voice heard (often through demonstration and activism) have been intertwined for decades, and often messages can be much more powerful when expressed through the language of music.

Music can draw attention to issues as wide ranging as societies themselves – there are so many examples of activism in song writing and composition, a few of which you’ll find in our playlist on protest. If you’ve got something to say, it’s often more likely to be heard through music.

Some further reading:

NPR documented a timeline of protest music in 2020

The British Library’s Music and Protest resource

Music can amplify young voices too. At Yorkshire Youth and Music, we always advocate for child led musical projects, where children and young people have a say in what music they want to listen to, what kinds of activity they want to participate in and what music they want to make. Our job is to broaden their horizons, as well as meeting them where they are, offering them more choices by introducing them to a wider range of musical genres or trying out different instruments or exploring other (related) artforms, such as music technology, video production, animation and more.

Some more links for music and young voices:

The National Justice Museum recently curated an exhibition on young people and protest

Amplify is a project to record how young people are changing the face of culture here in the UK

Barnardo’s has written this article on the voice and influence of young people

A little closer to home… Leeds City Council gives us a one minute guide on young people having a say