Inspired by the now World-famous Venezuelan music programme “El Sistema”, which was brought to the attention of the world by the acclaimed Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, and which has transformed the lives of thousands of children living in poverty in Venezuela through the power of music-making, the Ely based charity “Making Music Changing Lives” (MMCL) was started in 2009 by the vicar of Ely, Revd Jan Gould – herself a former professional musician – with the aim of transforming the lives of children in Ely and Caerau by teaching them how to play an orchestral instrument. The charity is based at the Church of the Resurrection in Ely.
Starting with live interactive concerts for local schools over the course of the first year so that children could actually see as well as hear what fun music can be the charity has gradually expanded its teaching programme. We now teach around 40 children aged 7+ violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, cornet and trombone at our after school sessions throughout the school term time, and families pay £2.00 per week as a contribution towards the cost of tuition and use of an instrument. Of course not all families can afford £2.00 every week, but their children are not excluded – we believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn how to express themselves through music, and so if they cannot afford the contribution we take them free of charge.
Music has the most extraordinary power to transform lives in many ways – for example, it teaches self-discipline, it increases self-confidence, it encourages concentration at a deeper level (something which local teachers have commented has a knock-on effect in the classroom with higher levels of academic achievement), it develops community cohesion by bringing children and adults together with a sense of pride in what is being achieved, it allows perhaps difficult emotions to be channelled in a creative way, it raises aspirations……..and the list goes on……
Quite a few of our children have taken practical and theory exams, and apart from one Merit everybody else has passed their exams with Distinction! The children are at different levels ranging from almost beginners to grade 5. Each week they have practical lessons in small groups or individually, and also are taught music theory by our dedicated theory teacher. We are currently recruiting a new group of beginners for strings and woodwind. Our teachers are all final year students or graduates from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and we enjoy an ever-deepening relationship with the college, constantly looking for new ways we can work together.
In addition to our teaching programme we also employ specialist Pre-school music teachers to work with children in six Flying Start nurseries across the area. This work has proven very successful in helping 2-3 year olds with severe communication difficulties to learn how to express themselves more freely, and other nurseries in Cardiff are now buying in our Pre-school services because of the positive effect the work has on young children.
We still continue the series of interactive concerts – Feel Good Friday’s – throughout the school term and over the course of a year would work with over 1000 children in this format. Hopefully these will inspire the next generation to pick up an instrument and have a go!
In recognition of the transformational work the charity is doing in the communities of Ely and Caerau Revd Jan Gould, as its founder, has been delighted to receive the Community Foundation in Wales Philanthropist of the Year Award, a Point of Light Award from the previous Prime Minister David Cameron, and was included by the Independent on Sunday in their “100 Happy List” 2015. IN 2016 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community. The charity was also the subject of a BBC Radio Wales programme which won a national award for the best Easter radio programme, and has featured in the Media on several occasions. The orchestra has performed on BBC Songs of Praise, as well as giving regular concerts in Ely and beyond.
Telling the story has power because of the individual details of the children involved. It is their faces, with a mixture of concentration and almost surprise that they can do this, which stand in the mind of those who have accompanied the charity over the last few years. What those who have promoted the charity believe is that MMCL shows two things. First, it shows the power of music to form children in a way they did not expect and to take them to places where they did not think they could ever go. It is also a small contribution to the task of transforming a proud community which is often denigrated in the local press.
Beyond this, for those who are religious, it is important to say that God’s work of transformation is not simply confined either to the congregation or to the institutional church. In this small venture something of what religious people would call the transformational power of the Holy Spirit is surely seen to be at work.
“Making Music Changing Lives” is a community music project which aims to provide quality music education that is accessible to all children and young people regardless of social & economic background.
As a registered charity, MMCL is entirely reliant on grant funding and fundraising, This means that every little helps! If you are able to donate any amount we can assure you that it will make a real difference
To donate by cheque, please makes cheques payable to Making Music Changing Lives, and send to Revd Jan Gould, Church House, Grand Avenue, Cardiff CF5 4HX
Making Music Changing Lives – Registered charity Number 1148447
MMCL relies on our amazing team of dedicated volunteers. We are lucky enough to have a strong connection with the prestigious Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. However, we are constantly looking for new volunteers with or without a musical training background.
Anyone who becomes involved must hold a recent DBS check (we can organise this). Regular volunteers are rewarded through the Time Bank scheme established with Communities First.
Church of the Resurrection, Ely
Communities First : Ely/Caerau
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
ACE – Action for Caerau and Ely
Community Foundation in Wales