The Prince's Trust is helping young jobless singers and players tune talent to life skills, reports Kenny Mathieson
Last week, 25 young people with an interest in music gathered from across Scotland - from Orkney and Thurso to Glasgow and Edinburgh - at the Badaguish Outdoor Centre near Aviemore.
They came for the six-day Sound Live residential course hosted by The Prince's Trust, the first it has held in the Highlands. The course is specifically for unemployed and disadvantaged musicians and singers aged 16-25 with the aim of improving their skills, confidence and chance of working in the music business.
Disability, having been in care, a criminal conviction, or underachievement in education - factors which might normally hinder progress to a course - can add weight to an application.
Although all the participants must have at least a basic musical skill, very few in this group had ever played in a band before, far less performed in a concert. This was their chance.
"The concert is really important," said Haftor Medboe, who shared guitar tuition with John Goldie. "It gives a structure to the week's work for everyone. It gives them something to aim for and a real sense of achievement."
During the week, the young people worked with three Prince's Trust staff and a team of music tutors, all of whom are professional musicians. They received individual tuition on their instruments (the majority were either singers or guitarists), but the focus lay in forming and preparing groups to play in a concert for an invited audience at the end of the course. While their standards of ability were uneven, many of them had obvious talent.
"At the start of the week they didn't realise that they really need to work at it and get it right," Mr Goldie said. "Now they are taking pride in it and they really want to get it right."
Many of the participants had personal problems or came from difficult backgrounds and the tutors felt that they were not reaching a few individuals: one person left the course in a crisis of self-confidence. However, overall the tutors' problem was one of harnessing their enthusiasm rather than having to generate it. The players and singers were highly committed to the work and although many of them felt that the week was hard, they also thought it rewarding.
The intensive week of workshops and activities has an important personal development dimension, explained David Hughes, the Prince's Trust's Hidden Talent project manager, who is a musician himself.
"Personal development is a big part of the course. In the process of assessing applicants we find out a bit about their backgrounds and histories and whatever problems they may have encountered. We then sit down with them and draw up a personal action plan, assessing where they are in their lives and what the issues are that need to be addressed.
"The practical work on personal development in the course comes through the process of working through the group situations. Music is a good way of developing communication skills and working together to resolve problems.
"Sometimes at the start I think some of the groups will never get it together, but they always do."
The assistance does not end when the course does. The Prince's Trust runs an after-care programme for up to six months to help the participants move on in their lives.
The Trust is ready to provide whatever further aid it can, from advice to cash, said Mr Hughes.
"Many of the people who come on the courses are interested in the music business and we help them with that. We can offer development awards of up to pound;500 and we can direct them to other forms of support as well.
"We had 26 people on the course we ran in Ayr earlier this year and I think only two of them are still unemployed. Many of them went on to further education courses."
For more information on Sound Live, contact The Prince's Trust, tel 0141 225 3379www.princes-trust.org.ukScotland