What does the project involve?

A team of talented, enthusiastic and awesome professional musicians and supporters working with vulnerable and ‘newly arrived’ young people. The I Speak Music (ISM) team offers a creative safe space within which the team and the young people make music and write songs together as equals. Starting with several taster sessions where our young learners get a gentle introduction to the world of instrumental sound and rhythm the programme moves on inviting our learners to explore rhythm, melody and lyrics. At the heart of the programme is a series of song writing sessions.  During these the ISM team and young learners, inspired by themes such as Equality, Wellbeing and Identity, put feelings and thoughts into words and pen to paper. With the team’s help, the young people’s words and stories are given rhythm and melody creating a song, their song, which they get to record in a professional studio and keep as a memento of their ISM musical journey.

When will this happen? what has happened?

The taster sessions took place in the first half of 2018. Some at a further education college and some at the Electric Theatre in Guildford. By the end of 2018 about 52 hours of music making and song writing, mostly at the College, will have taken place leading up to a professionally led studio recording session in December at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. Contact mona4youthmusic@gmail.com for more information.

How does this project benefit young people?

The project believes that by participating in ‘I Speak Music’, the budding young leaner musicians grow in self-confidence as well as improve their musical skills and increase their life opportunities. The song writing experience in particular also supports the development of both their written and spoken English language skills. In participating they are able to learn as well as to relax and have fun all the while developing friendships and making their music. When relevant, instruments are provided - western classical, rock and those sourced from participants' region of birth. Specifically, and longer term the project hopes that the young people who take part feel inspired to join and progress onto other Surrey Arts ensembles and groups. This means that they will continue to build on what they have learnt and explore other music genres after the project ends.

How does the project benefit tutors, project partners and supporters and professionals involved?

Tutors, supporters and project partners also grow through this experience, as they are equal players. They gain a better understanding of the challenges the young people face and grow in confidence through engaging with them. To support this objective, the project organised and delivered several Learning and Awareness raising events aimed at the project team as well as some partners. Well established professionals were invited to share their experience, knowledge and advice with the project team. In addition to these learning events, the project has programmed opportunities for tutors, partners and supporters to reflect, learn and be aware of their self-care needs.

Networking and knowledge share

On June 7th 2018, a unique networking event brought together over 60 professionals and community groups who work with, or have an interest in supporting newly arrived and vulnerable young people through music and the arts. Participants came from a very wide range of backgrounds such as the Arts, Social Care, Health, Police and the voluntary sector.

The event was facilitated by Marc Jaffrey (OBE) and included guest speakers/presenters such as singer-composer Roshi Nasehi, Co-founder and Trustee of The Big Leaf Foundation Kayte Cable, Surrey Arts Manager Jim Pinchen, Sound Connections Jennifer Raven, and FairBeats Catherine Carter. There was also live music from Syrian Viola player Raghad Haddad and from singer song-writer Anna Wilsdon accompanied by Rami Merhi on darbuka.


The ISM project ‘side effects’ One thing led to another and soon the ISM project gave birth to the ISM Community Orchestra made up of musicians and non-musicians from a variety of cultural backgrounds, of refugee and non-refugee backgrounds, all coming together as a ‘family’ to make music together. This Orchestra performed for the first time in June at the Refugee Week event in Woking, was then invited to perform at a Police organised memorial event and most recently in September, invited to take part in a TEDx Conference in Farnham on the themes of building empathy and resilience. Surrey Music Hub’s vision is for this model to grow and be replicated up and down the country.

Click here to listen to Jim Pinchen & The ISM Community Orchestra - TEDx Conference

Click here to read Jim Pinchen on ‘Building empathy between refugees and host communities’ – Youth Music Network



Get involved

To find out more about the project, register or for language assistance please contact: mona4youthmusic@gmail.com