A youth group and a children’s choir provide young people with new opportunities and ensure normality after the pandemic.
The sessions are free to access and, at the youth group, participants do not need to own their own instruments but can borrow supplies from the cooperative.
The idea is to make music more accessible to young people of all ages and backgrounds as well as improve their mental well-being following the difficulties caused by the pandemic.
After only a few weeks of operation, the Wrexham Group and Denbighshire Choir have proven to be an invaluable lifeline to children in both counties.
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Among the latest to sign up, eight-year-old Ethan Roberts is proud to be the only tuba student in the brand new Belle Vue Community Youth Band.
At first, he was considering learning the cornet but when he was offered the tuba, he jumped at the chance even though he is almost as big as him!
Smiling broadly behind the lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family, he laughs: “That’s great. I love it. I want to be Wrexham’s most famous tuba player!
The other members of the group, Angharad Roberts, 10, and David Moskal, 9, are delighted to have the chance to learn face to face with professional tutors.
Live music lessons had to be put on hold during the pandemic shutdowns and have been sorely missed by many young students, but music co-ops have been working hard to get them back up and running as restrictions ease.
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Angharad, who is learning the cornet, said: “It’s great to play music with others in a band because it gives me more confidence. It helps to see other people my age playing the same music and it’s reassuring to know that we all make similar mistakes and can learn techniques to overcome them.
David is also learning the cornet, but has the drums as his heart.
He said, “I would love to play drums one day. It’s such a fantastic instrument. Maybe now that I’ve joined the group, maybe I’ll get the chance.
The youth group was set up for children aged eight to 16 by Wrexham Music Co-operative director Scott Lloyd, who said it had been a smash hit and now had around 20 regular attendees, with more seats available.
He said: “The social and cultural demographics of this region are extremely diverse, which means that we have children in the group who speak about five different languages.
“Some have moved here with their families from war-torn and troubled destinations abroad and speak minimal English. But the beauty of the music is that it is all-encompassing. It has long been the language of friendship and harmony, and now it has become a catalyst for healing.
“With everything going on in the world, it’s great to have a haven in music, a safe space where young people can learn a new skill and freely enjoy their creativity.”
Veteran soldier Scott played in an army marching band before returning to Civvie Street as a full-time music tutor. It also works closely with the Ifton Colliery Band and the Wrexham Concert Band who, like the youth group, meet at the Parciau Community Center in Bellevue Park, Wrexham.
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Founder and head of service, Heather Powell set up the non-profit co-ops nearly a decade ago after cuts to funding for music education services across Wales. Today they offer music sessions in 200 schools, covering over 5,000 children, and they have over 70 independent tutors on their books.
Heather thanked local and national arts and community organizations for their support, including Denbighshire and Wrexham Councils, Offa Community Council and the National Lottery Community Grants Scheme.
She said: “We have faced many challenges keeping music lessons alive over the two years of the pandemic. With social distancing in effect, face-to-face lessons were out of place and some instruments could not be played at all.
“It is extremely rewarding not only to see our existing services operational again, but also the addition of new sessions like the youth group and the children’s choir.”
The Bellevue Youth Band meets on Tuesdays at the Parciau Community Centre, Bellevue Park, Wrexham, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. For more details, email [email protected] or visit their Facebook site.