[CASE STUDY] – Johnny’s musical Journey through Song-writing and Rap

Case Study – Johnny’s musical Journey through Song-writing and Rap by Music Mentor, Talena Cuthbert

At the beginning of the academic year, I performed for the students at an Education Support Centre (ESC / Pupil Referral Unit, PRU) that I do a lot of my work at. This was to make the students and the staff aware of the work that I do and invite students to work with me on the projects of their choosing.

At the end of my presentation/performance, Johnny, a KS3 student, came to speak with me about making music and getting involved. The staff at the ESC said that Johnny was very shy and that for him to come forwards was a big step – so I knew straight away that he had a passion for music.

In October I began my sessions with Johnny. Johnny was a quiet person with mannerisms depicting low self-esteem (keeping his head low, shoulders hunched etc). I was informed that Johnny has ADHD & ASD as well as behaviour problems as a result of frustration and anger.

Johnny told me about his passion for Rap Music and about a rapper, Dan Bull, that was an inspiration to him. We decided to begin work towards a Bronze Arts Award – something that after explaining what it was, Johnny was very keen to do. We began with work on his rapping ability by learning a track called ‘Mad Dogs’.

By January 2019, Johnny had mastered the very fast rap and became very happy by this. When asked if he would like to do a performance of this, he shied away so we started on a new path…

One of the parts of the arts award is to research an artist that inspires you, so Johnny Chose Dan Bull. Johnny thought it would be good to present his findings in the style of a Dan Bull rap, so our Song-Writing journey began.

We spent a few weeks putting together a track on GarageBand and giving the track a structure. Once finished, Johnny asked if he could show his work to his teachers!! Well, what a turn around. Johnny was so happy, big smiles, standing up tall and just excited to show something he was proud of. We then played the track to his teachers. They were very impressed with his work.

After the praise he had received, Johnny then asked to show his peers – this really does show how proud he was of his work and the young people at the ESC can be very critical of each other. We played the track during the lunch break and everyone loved it.

Johnny is now working towards finishing his lyrics and rap for the track. He is always so talkative on the way to his music making sessions and excited to get working. I am hoping that in the near future his confidence will grow to the point of being able to do performance.

His passion has already helped improved his self-confidence which is encouraging some other students to join the music making process. Music making, Song-writing in particular, is a great way for Johnny to release his anger and frustration in a positive way and even if he never does a performance, he now knows he can always write music to feel good!

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