The Music Man Project's COVID 2020 - A Video History
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
2020 was set to be an extraordinary year for The Music Man Project. It started well with a memorable teaching trip to the Philippines, our fifth international expedition in as many years. I was also honoured to publish my Churchill Fellowship research report following a rewarding and inspiring trip to New York in November 2019.
As March began, the charity looked forward to performances at the House of Commons, Birmingham's NEC, a special presentation to Camelot (The National Lottery) and the first concert of our "Music is Magic on Broadway" preview tour.
Then the restrictions put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic took everything away. Our students were trapped inside their homes as the world was gripped in fear and confusion.
I was determined that this virus would not stop our global campaign for accessible music education and inspirational performance opportunities for all. Perhaps this could even be an opportunity?
Here is The Music Man Project's COVID 2020, recorded in 8 videos.
1. United We Stand
My wife and I composed and recorded a new song to let our families know we were thinking of them. It was produced by Music Man Project volunteer Jon Webber from his home studio.
2. Have You Ever Stopped to Think?
Al Steele arranged and produced my song "Have You Ever Stopped to Think". I invited our members to send me baby photos and the video became a moving record of their journeys. A series of blogs followed called "The Stories Behind the Babies".
The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of damage to our community. I wrote about this in two blogs "The Music Man in Lockdown" and "Facing an Uncertain Future". In response, our tutors quickly learnt new skills and were soon delivering Zoom rehearsals, Facetime video calls, Live Facebook sessions, online concerts, slideshows and YouTube videos. With funding from the UK Government, distributed by the National Lottery, we were able to extend these online services even further and we began reaching more people, including those with no previous connection to The Music Man Project.
#MMPWired - Part 1
#MMPWired - Part 2
4. The Music Man Project Big Instrument Giveaway
The Government funding enabled us to purchase new instruments for isolated and anxious families - our small attempt to counter the threat of a physical and mental health calamity among this difficult-to-reach community. We delivered 60 sets of Music Man Project instruments (drums, tambourines, woodblocks, triangles, glockenspiels, ukuleles and hand- bells).
I released a video inviting nominations for recipients of the scheme from across the UK.
Within 3 weeks we had allocated all 60 sets of instruments to the four corners of The United Kingdom.
5. The Music Man Project Essex Doorstep Visits
Online services were effective but they couldn't reach everyone. Human contact is what our students crave and missed the most during lockdown. I started taking requests for personal visits to sing and play to my Essex musicians on their doorsteps.
6. Music Never Dies There's Always a Reprise:
The Music Man Project Essex Returns After Lockdown
Thanks to Southend Mencap and two wonderful teaching venues, physical teaching finally returned to our Essex headquarters in July. The students coped amazingly well with all the restrictions and they were just pleased to be back making music with their friends again after such a long time away. MMP Kent and MMP Keynsham soon followed, initially with outside classes, but our other regions remain closed.
7. Training videos for Berklee College of Music ABLE Assembly (USA) and Music Mark (UK)
Invitations to present at education conferences in the US and UK now meant online videos rather than physical talks and performances. I prepared a 20-minute video presentation to introduce the main education concepts behind The Music Man Project. The film was premiered at Berklee College in the USA in October.
8. Music is Magic at Christmas
Our students across all the regions really missed performing. My own students have been putting on Christmas shows for 18 years. We were invited to record a virtual concert for Naidex in October and it was so well received that we enlisted the services of our filmmaker Paul Carpenter to produce "Music is Magic at Christmas". We were small in numbers, socially distanced and wearing masks and it was not quite the Royal Albert Hall, but MMP Essex and the MMP UK Ambassadors had a great time and we all felt that rush of adrenaline again when the cameras rolled!
Although the virus hasn't gone away, our community has grown and we have found new ways to reach more vulnerable people than ever before. Thank you to everyone who made this possible and to the thousands who joined our musical family during this momentous year.
We will always be here for you. The more separated we were, the more we will find new ways to join together to support one another.
The Music Man Project is now far better placed to provide a well-being response to future pandemics or similar global crisis.