What is Songwriter?
Songwriter establishes accessible and diverse progression routes so that all music learners can progress and develop as young musicians is an important part of our Songwriter project.
Songwriter is an online community and competition aimed at nurturing and developing talented songwriters aged 8 -18. It offers an opportunity for young people to learn how to write, perform, record and promote their own songs and includes coaching and feedback from professional musicians as well as performance opportunities.
Song are showcased on the Songwriter website which includes songs from young people across Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk.
Below Michael Davidson, head of Rock and Family Music, explains why songwriting has been important to Hertfordshire Music Service and Changing Tracks….
We have an interest in musical inclusion; as a music service we wanted to reach a wider range of young people.
We started running rap, rock and acoustic song-writing workshops in 2003. And found straight away that they engaged young people who wanted learn to make music in different ways. We also got interest from schools who wanted help with the composition element of GCSE music. As well as schools, the workshops also helped us build partnerships with local authority teams working to support vulnerable young people. These saw lyric writing as a way to provide young people with a voice about social issues. So, we had commissions from teams working on social agendas, such as an anti-bullying initiative.
We started the Songwriter project pretty soon after that, as we realised that young people wanted more than one-off workshops. We set up songwriting showcases at local festivals and venues to give something to work towards, and an online chart where the songs move up or down depending on how often they’re listened to. We wanted to build connections with the music industry, so we arranged for professional songwriters run workshops and to give feedback on the young people’s songs. So Songwriter has since run workshops in music centres in school holidays, and we’ve just started running weekly sessions during the last few years.
Songwriting is probably the most accessible part of our offer, you don’t have to be a great performer to write a song, you just need to want to create your own music. Young people can come to songwriting workshops and get involved after just learning a few notes, and leave with a recording of them performing with some new friends at the end of the day. If they don’t want to play, they can get involved by writing lyrics.
Over the last few years we’ve been running songwriting sessions for young people in pupil referral units. We know they often enjoy creative activities, and there have been some amazing reflective lyric writing and performances coming out of this work.
Writing lyrics also gives young people a voice about social issues. One wrote a great song about Grenfell Tower. Writing and performing songs also links really well into producing personal and social outcomes like resilience, wellbeing and agency. Recently we’ve had a number of songs written about young people’s experience of lockdown, and we’ve just started working with Youth Connections team on a project to support young people at risk of getting drawn into County Lines activities.
But songwriting also produces high quality musical outcomes. The workshop leaders often say that people perform at a higher level when playing their own music. We’ve been really lucky that we’ve been able to get stagetime for our songwriters to perform at prestigious events such the BBC introducing stage at local festivals, and at the biennial music service Gala at the London Albert Hall.
We pull out a call for songs, which get auditioned by our songwriting team, which selects a couple to produce to be performed. They always hold their own alongside the massed choirs and orchestras, and it’s great to see how young people grow through the opportunity. Some have gone on to other opportunities such as the School Proms, through the Music for Youth programme.
And we’ve also been very lucky that some of the great songwriters that have gone on to study songwriting at college have come back to work for us as tutors, to help us develop songwriting more widely.
Changing Tracks is a programme of peer support and learning for and with music services wanting to improve equality, diversity and inclusion. It is run by Hertfordshire Music Service and funded by Youth Music as part of the Alliance for a Musically Inclusive England. It was previously called MusicNet East. We help music services to be more inclusive by providing a peer network facilitated by Music Mark, funding for action research, support and challenge, advice and resources.
Find out more about us, or check out the other resources and blogs on this site for more help for music services, and If you can’t find what you need, visit the AMIE Musical Inclusion Resource Hub for more inclusion tools and guidance, blogs, videos, and case studies, to help you break down barriers to music-making.