Words by Smiley Team
For young people fleeing conflict and other difficult circumstances, leaving their homes and families to travel to a foreign country can be deeply traumatising. To rebuild their confidence, Soundmix is a small charity offering refugees aged 14 to 21 the chance to enjoy free music lessons.
Singing, strumming the guitar, playing the keyboard or drumming, the young people are uplifted by the power of music. By uniting to create beautiful sounds, playing tunes from their country of origin and creating their own songs, they gain a strong sense of community.
“I suppose, their newfound confidence comes primarily from social inclusion,” singing teacher Angelina Luzi tells Smiley News. “They get to feel like they are part of something, they're in a safe space and that means a lot for their confidence and general wellbeing.”
Prior to lockdown, the young people met in London. But during the pandemic, they had to switch to online learning. This came with the advantage of opening the experience up to other young refugees across the UK who were keen to develop their musical skills.
Post-lockdown they can gather in person again but to include their new students from outside the capital, they will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and video calls.
In addition to a singer, the charity employs a drum teacher, a guitarist and a keyboard player. Students get the opportunity to select from singing or any of the instruments to build up skills in a particular area. To help them, the charity does what it can to distribute instruments to the young people for them to practice by themselves at home.
Besides confidence, there are other vital skills the young refugees gain from each lesson. Many of the pupils struggle with English initially so singing and songwriting help them build language fluency, allowing them to integrate more easily when they attend school.
To overcome the initial language barrier when she teaches singing, Angelina and the other teachers use techniques such as call and response to help them learn songs.
“We use all kinds of playful methods that help calm the whole body and wake up the brain as well,” she explains.
For them to write their own lyrics, the teachers start with random pictures and invite them to write, explaining what they see, which senses get triggered and how it makes them feel. Then they help them build sentences with those words, which they underlay with chords and rhythms.
Angelina says: “Surprisingly, their songwriting can develop quite far, in the sense that they express what they want to say using pictures or we understand what they want to say, and from that, we can put together as many words as possible.”
At the end of each term, the students proudly come forward to perform to their parents, guardians or foster parents, displaying the progress they have made. The charity also occasionally buys them tickets to concerts, allowing them to experience the pleasure of live music.
With progressively more refugees coming to the UK, Soundmix could offer a vital means of support and happiness for more young people. However, to do so the small organisation requires more donations and funding to allow them to continue providing this valuable opportunity.
DONATE: To send funding or set up a donation that will help offer young refugees music lessons, get in touch with Soundmix at [email protected].
MORE INFORMATION: To find out more about Soundmix, visit the charity's website.