During PMZ’s’Extraordinary Times programme’, we’re setting out to listen and learn during this lockdown. As part of that we’ll be inviting a series of guest bloggers, people who who’ve experienced up close what we do. This time we are hearing from one of our ‘Knowledge Exchange’ students from the University of Plymouth – Sophie Corwood. Sophie has taken part in, and supported PMZ’s weekly percussion session for adults ‘Baton Beats’. Here Sophie tells us what music means to her, and how she connected with group members through music, over Zoom. ‘Baton Beats’ is led by PMZ Intergenerational Coordinator and Music Leader, Rob Tilsley – find out more about the session here. Over to Sophie…

Things we used to consider as normal, everyday activities and routines now seem alien to us. Over the past months there has been a feeling of uncertainty with people not knowing what the next day is going to bring. We have had to adapt to the new times to keep everyone safe.

I began playing the piano when I was five years old, both of my older sisters were already learning, and I wanted to do everything that they did. So much so that they were trying to teach me how to play. Mum took me along to a lesson expecting them to say that I was too young to learn, however to mums surprise they said I could start learning! Ever since then, I have been hooked on music. I began to learn the violinwhen I was in Year 4, however this was not so pleasant to listen to! Instead, I decided that the clarinet might be safer for everyone else’s ears, so I began learning this instrument when I was in year 7. From here, this meant that I was able to join ensembles and absolutely loved playing with other musicians; I joined as many ensembles as I possibly could, such as the Devon Youth Wind Orchestra where I went on international tours.

I have wanted to work with Plymouth Music Zone team and members for some months now as it is something that I knew that I would love doing. However, we found out that we would have to be doing the sessions online via zoom rather than in person. There was a feeling of uncertainty as to how the sessions would be, especially as I have never really done drumming or played much without sheet music before as I am classically trained. We are all used to meeting people face to face, where we can interact more with them. NowI sit at my desk and look at them all through my computer screen. It felt very strange meeting people for the first time online and having to get used to temperamental technology! During the session, often when I went to participate, technology often had a mind of its own and would have me talking to myself. I would press the unmute button, everything looked like it should, however no sound would be coming out, leaving me talking or drumming to myself! However, when technology worked in my favour, I really enjoyed playing a new style of music which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try if it wasn’t for Plymouth Music Zone.

Person Playing Nyckelharpa

We used to be able to listen tobuskers in the street, go and watch a concert or play with other musicians. Now, it is like living in some kind of apocalyptic world, there are no posters for up and coming shows or concerts, and no buskers. Our world has become quieter and smaller now we are reduced to staying at home. When restrictions were lifted for education in September, we had a visiting lecturer at the University playing Scandinavian folk music on an instrument called the Nyckelharpa (picture right). We all sat there transfixed listening to her play, it felt incredible to hear someone else play live music. For months the only way in which wehad heard music was through technology or ourselves practising.

In order to keep the music going, we are now doing virtual online collaborations with other musicians. At Plymouth Music Zone we did a samba piece for a collaboration. We each sent a video of us playing a part of the samba, and it was then all put together to form a piece of music. When trying to record my part for the collaboration, it took me many takes as my dog decided that she wanted to join in with my drum

ming! When watching the Plymouth Music Zone collaboration video, I felt really proud to have been involved in the project. Even though I haven’t met any of the people in the video in person, I felt like I was a part of something.

It is a whole new world having done weekly Plymouth Music Zone sessions online for months. To have built the connections, to laugh and interact with people every week via online means. To have a time where I can switch off from everything that is going on, and just enjoy making music with people. I know that when we are able to create music together in person again, I will never take it for granted. Playing music is a big part of my identity and makes me who I am. While I’m grateful we have been able to play together online, nothing will beat the feeling of playing and listening to live music with other people.