Music projects are a very popular form of engagement when it comes to young people. This is mainly because it is one of the most sociable, personal and emotional thing connected to everybody, after food! We all experience and enjoy music in one-way or the other, whether whilst watching TV or listening to Spotify. Moreover when it comes to a music project, young people use their interest and joy in music to apply it for engagement and learning.

However not all music projects are the same, some can be old-fashioned and out of sync with young people’s interest and worst of all, can make some hate music making workshops. So therefore, as I predominately come from a background where I have delivered music workshops for over a decade, I have a thing or two to share, well ten in this case anyway.

Although this post is based on workshop participants being young people, however note that these points can be applied to any/all music workshops.

  1. Be Relevant & Meaningful

When planning projects for 16 year olds, don’t include activities intended for 10 year olds. Or if you’re working with a group of rappers, don’t have activities for rock bands and vice versa. That doesn’t mean not to stimulate them to learn other music forms or other tasks, but always make activities relevant, age appropriate and meaningful to their interests.

  1. Be Flexible & Adaptable

As a workshop leader we all can cope with change, it is something one tool we must all have. However we should learn how to become more adaptable, flexible and the ability to cope with change effectively. Although this gets mastered through experience though at same time, the key is to plan in flexibility and adaptability within your workshop.

  1. Stay Tuned

The most important thing you can do is keep up to date with musical trends, social interests & developments of young people. Keep an eye on social media, and what holds their interest. Regardless of your beliefs, you may have to join in with the Gangnam style or The Harlem Shake. If you don’t believe us, then watch here. This will make your participants more comfortable with you and your choices, allowing you to plan better workshops. 

  1. Be Young People Friendly

Following on from the above point, this is crucial.  Whilst planning workshop activities include young people’s social interests as much as possible. This can be done through TV shows, movies, popular music, fashion and trends they follow. If you refuse or cannot keep up with this, involve them in your planning stage for an insight into their lives, likes and interests. 

  1. Make Your Evaluations Effective

Give young people the chance to evaluate as much as possible to give you a good indicator of how your work is perceived by them. This can help you to find out if your work is making an impact, how, when, where and why. It is hard work I know and can seem tedious, but my advice is to adopt many different methods beyond the simple questionnaire. You should evaluate through things like games, role-plays, video diaries, group discussions, one to one meetings etc. The list can be endless. Use a tool like the Evaluation Builder from YouthMusic for lots of different methods of evaluations. 

  1. Put Young People In The Driving Seat

We all have experienced the challenges that come from engaging young people, but putting them in the drivers seat in my opinion is key to get them motivated and involved in any workshop. Valuing their ideas gives them a chance to feel like they’ve made a difference to your work, which it can and has in my years of experience. So give them a voice and watch them get hooked in your project.

  1. Become A Friend

The last thing young people need is another authority figure in their lives telling them what to do, how to do it. You should be on their “level” building a positive and influential relationship with them whilst gaining their confidence and trust. Make sure you are approachable and have the charisma required to interact with them. They will always be on your side if they see you as a friend more than a mere professional.

  1. Lead By Example

If you are a music workshop leader, make sure your own music is good, simple as that! Young people will not look up to their workshop leader if they don’t think much of their skills. One must be able to excite and inspire participants through their own work in order for young people to take instructions from. Remember, to build creditability, one must build their own portfolio.

  1. Chill Out With Them

Give young people enough time to ‘chill out’ and get to know other participants in between sessions. This allows them to not only unwind and have fun but most of all, build relationships with each other. You can also join them in this ‘chill out” time and use it as a form of group discussion talking about the topic in hand in an informal manner.

  1. Celebrate Achievements

If young people have worked towards a qualification, don’t just hand them their certificates. Run an event! Even if they haven’t worked towards a certificate, as workshop leaders we should provide a platform for young people to celebrate the work they have done for your project. A good way to do this is through a showcasing event where young people can perform their music in front of their friends and family. Whether you do an event or not, make sure you allow the last day of the project to be the most remembered day whatever you do. A trip to the cinema, a go-karting trip of even a BBQ would do. Remember if you end your project on a lower energy than it started, this could lead into being the lasting impression it would have of them. So make sure you plan and budget a celebration activity on the final day of your project.

Final Thoughts

These are only a ten tips that I have thought about right now but I’m sure between us we use more techniques. I am a huge believer that if we building positive and trusting relationships with our participants then this does half the job.

But in the meantime, let me know what you thought about these tips by commenting below or share your own tips for being a music workshop leader