Music to ears of dispirited young

Denyse Presley

The Prince's Trust is trying to give a life boost to musically talented young people and put them on the path to employment, reports Denyse Presley

These days, getting into the pop music business might seem as easy as burning some tracks on to a CD. However, young people disaffected with formal education might struggle to acquire the skills to get that far.

That is where the Prince's Trust in Scotland comes in. The organisation has received some pound;189,000 of funding from the Scottish Arts Council to finance its new Hidden Talent project, which is designed to build the self-esteem, confidence and skills of musically talented young people and support their moves towards education and employment in the music - particularly rock and pop - business.

It is building on the pilot success of Sound Live, a six-day residential course of music skills workshops and personal development programmes initially for 60 young people, by offering more courses in more locations with a more diverse musical content, including disc jockey skills.

The first of seven six-day residential courses for 30 18 to 25-year-olds starts on March 18 at Auchincruive College in Ayr. It will focus on the contemporary poprock group format - guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals - and is open to competent instrumentalists and novice singers, with five places for hopeful DJs.

David Hughes, the Hidden Talent project manager and a musician with the Trash Can Sinatras, has been involved in support activities for the music industry for 15 years. "What Sound Live taught us was that there is a demand for DJ skills. Being a DJ interests the young and socially excluded because it doesn't require expensive equipment and can offer the chance for self-employment."

The music workshops will be led by professionals such as members of the Musicians' Union Band. Participants will be able to try out different instruments, experiment with a range of musical approaches and develop new musical styles. Two planned courses on traditional instrumentation will look at the possibilities of fusing traditional forms with contemporary. They will draw on the talents of Scottish musicians Martin Stephenson, Michael Marra and Eddi Reader.

Thanks to the Prince's Trust's network of music industry links, other workshops will involve the Musicians' Union, Performing Rights Society, Mechanical and Copyright Protection Society, journalists, concert promoters, venue management, record company staff and speakers from educational institutions such as the Paisley University Campus in Ayr and Glasgow University.

Many of the participants in the pilot project went on to full-time education. Mr Hughes wants the next Sound Live participants also to give further education serious consideration. "The pilot highlighted its importance so we bring in educators who run music courses to show that it can be fun," he says. "While some youngsters might start out thinking it's unachievable, we can change their minds and get them thinking that it is a realisable goal."

A typical day on a course might feature a morning of specialist instrument and skills tuition; in the afternoon, specialist workshops dealing with aspects of the music industry, career planning and goal setting; in the late afternoon, group rehearsals and tuition or advice and then jam sessions and individual performances in the evening. Mr Hughes says:

"Essentially the week is about having fun, learning and teamwork."

Other cities hosting courses over the next few years include Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Stirling.

Because the Prince's Trust aims to help disadvantaged young people, and pop music has proved to be a way of reaching them, Hidden Talent is recruiting those who have been unemployed for more than six months. The focus is particularly on the most vulnerable, including former offenders and drug users, those in or leaving care, those from ethnic communities or young parents.

The Hidden Talent project's commitment means that after the residential courses an extensive aftercare careers programme is offered, including referral to the New Deal for Musicians, securing music related work placements and volunteering opportunities within the Scottish music industry and advice by the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust on music related self-employment.

Contact Sound Live Office, The Prince's Trust Scotland, The Guildhall, 57 Queen Street, Glasgow G1 3EN, tel 0141 225 3379, for a Sound Live course application form or online via

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