On tune

6 March 2018 | North East England

Tom Robinson - The Soundroom

Music charity gives youngsters chance to shine.

Not everyone has the chance to learn to sing or play music. But the Soundroom Community Music Project is bringing that opportunity to youngsters in the North East who otherwise might not be able to afford the activity.

The charity is helping youngsters like Caitlyn Hughes, from Gateshead, for just a token fee. The teenager, who has dyslexia, taught herself how to play the saxophone by watching YouTube videos. With Caitlyn’s school dropping funding for music lessons, and private lessons too costly, it was only after she joined The Soundroom that she was able to develop her talent with other music-minded teenagers.

She has now mastered a number of instruments after realising she found reading sheet music easier than books and plays the bass and electric guitar in a five-piece band with friends.

The charity has opened up music to dozens of other youngsters like Caitlyn in the area and also offers a variety of music-related activities and projects for people of all ages.

As well as hosting a twice-weekly Music Cafe, they also offer a studio for rehearsals, recordings and supporting community projects with any musical or sound related needs. A local arts group has even used it as a workshop for young Syrian refugees.

Tom Robinson, youth and community manager, said: “Access to music is lacking in this area. Music is seen as a luxury and private tuition is out of the question for many parents. We wanted to make it affordable, but also wanted to put some cost in to give the sense that it is worth it. That is why we charge the teens £1 a session.

“But for that, kids can come here and use professional quality equipment. There is a soundproof recording studio and drum kits, guitars, and a PA system so you can sing on stage.”

The session Caitlyn attends is Youth Night, for youngsters aged between 14-17. Anyone wishing to play an instrument, sing or want to go behind the scenes as a sounds engineer can get involved.

During the session the kids are also able to enjoy a bite to eat, as the Soundroom receives surplus food such as sausage rolls from a local bakery, which would otherwise go to waste. “I got into music because I am dyslexic, but music lets me express myself,” explains Caitlyn. “The Soundroom has really built my confidence. Tom is a great mentor, you can talk to him about anything. And I have made new friends too. Before, I didn’t really know any other people my age playing music. Now we have jamming sessions every week.

“But Tom has shown us, it is not just a walk in the park - you have to put a lot of effort in.”

Tom is hoping to progress things so that the Soundroom can put on music events and invite the public to watch. He also wants to get more youngsters locally involved. For him it is not just about the music.

“They get to come here to have fun, play music and have a bite to eat. But it is also about building confidence so that they will challenge themselves. A big thing too is that they learn to listen to one-another, and show each other respect. There is also teamwork. I feel proud and a real sense of satisfaction seeing them develop and go from strength to strength.” Mum Hailey added: “There is not that much going on around here, so to have a community project like this on our doorstep is amazing.”

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