In August 2022, we started a Music Project for 11–18-year-old Ukrainian
refugees at Milton Campus, Edinburgh college.
The project consisted of 9 guitar sessions over the period of one month. The project was focused on guitar, but also included 5 drum clinics and flexibility to teach more instruments.
The group of young people we got involved with are coming from a Ukrainian orphanage supported by the Scottish charity “Dnipro Kids Appeal”. The charity helped them to get to Scotland from their city “Dnipropetrovsk”, after the war in Ukraine started. We were aware that these young people have been in traumatic situations way before the war started, so we took extra care in our teaching and youth work approach.
The attendance was great with almost 20 kids interested in attending the lessons more or less regularly. The young people were split into groups of a maximum of 5 people according to their past experience. There were complete beginners and quite advanced players who have attended music courses in Ukraine. The lessons covered various concepts and the young people were welcome to request certain topics or songs to be learnt. The lessons were thought in Ukrainian; however, English terminology knowledge was encouraged, and the material provided was written in both Ukrainian and English to facilitate their later transition into school and to help them with English.
During the first week of the project, we assessed each participant’s abilities on guitar and settled on certain topics and goals for the term. Tinderbox also pupil each participant with a guitar to practice, both electric and acoustic depending on their preference. Although the project lasted one month, the guitars were available to them for two months to encourage practice and self-study afterwards. The young people were very involved in the lessons and had questions and the will to learn certain songs and techniques. The tutor Alina gave them guitar tablatures and scores for a few songs and each pupil was free to learn which one they preferred and then play it in the next lessons for the group, if they felt comfortable doing so. A run-down over the essentials on guitar was also offered to all the pupils, to make sure there were no gaps in knowledge before going forwards. A similar approach was taken by the drums tutor who assessed the pupils abilities with drumming techniques and decided on the content of his next cliniques. There were two to three people in their drums group more or less regularly.
The last week of the lessons was focused on clearing any gaps or doubts about what was covered during the term. The musical repertoire learnt over the term was also consolidated so that the pupils could perform it at their “Ukrainian Independence Day Celebration Exhibition”. A small private concert was organized by their community in the halls of Edinburgh College. This offered an amazing occasion to show off the knowledge and skills that they gained over the past month. On the last lesson, the tutor made sure to offer direction and support for the pupils’ self-study after the end of the project. The students expressed their enjoyment for the project and even wrote cards with a personalized thank you note.
Overall, the project was a success and offered the refugees a creative escape from their recent traumatic events. Their musicality was also developed and maintained thanks to the availability of guitars and drums to practice on. Moreover, some students had the opportunity to explore both electric and acoustic guitars and changed their mind about the complete “separation” of the classical and contemporary approach on the instrument. For example, some classical guitarists were not engaging with electric guitars or the use of plectrum in the first lesson considering it was something that did not relate to their musical experience. At the end of the lesson, after seeing some of their peers playing they requested to have an electric guitar even if they already had their own classic guitar. The tutor was pleased to see that the group of young people got more united, and everyone’s musical experience was enriched.
A few weeks after the project’s end, the tutor Alina was offered to play a concert for Ukrainian refugees in Stirling. The participants were encouraged to join in and take the opportunity to perform in front of a bigger and new audience. Three of the participants agreed to perform, this really benefited their confidence and musicality on their instruments. We are looking forward to being able to provide more music lessons for Ukrainian young people to support them in a moment of need and make sure that their passion for music is encouraged.
By Alina Levanova