Community Music Sounds CEO: “Have humility to keep learning”

At 16, Richard Clegg dropped out of school as an aspiring DJ with a notable lack of GCSE. A few years later, he was “living the dream” on tour with the Mercury Prize nominated band Foundation of Asian dubbing and now he writes degree courses. To his teachers he wants to say: “I told you so”.

This is not a fluke, but the result of hard work and being with the right people, he says, which is an environment he is trying to nurture for future generations as the CEO of a youth organization. Community music sounds.

With its diverse program of music courses, including music teacher training, DJing, music production, social media, videography, podcasting, musical instrumentation and live sound, both online and at its East London base, CM Sounds aims to “enrich the lives of young people and bring about positive change”.

CMS has some impressive alumni, but the focus of the courses and training is as much on the hobbyist as it is on the professional – some students don’t even want to show their music to anyone else.

Making music and building a relationship with others is a “release” for their emotions and life’s challenges. “It’s a therapy for people,” says Richard.

“I want to help and support young people, whether it’s music or learning, or just transferable skills because we love young creatives, but we don’t expect everyone to go ahead and work in the music industry. And our goal is to ensure that they acquire some comprehensive skills and feel understood and supported. And then they can go ahead and make better decisions on their own. “

He adds: “I think everyone has creativity. Everyone should have access to software or equipment, to create things and create. “

by Jane Mackey 2021 report for Arts Council England on the digital divide of the arts highlighted the challenges for the creative industries.

Dealing with them is key, says Richard, who believes that people should pursue their passions because “they can take people on fantastic journeys” and that music makes people “feel human”. In his introduction, Mackey argues that everyone can “have the right to lead a culturally rich life,” but ensuring that everyone can access such enriching artistic and cultural experiences, many of which are now accessible online, is no small feat. . According to a 2020 Lloyds Bank survey, 11.7 million people in the UK lack ‘life-essential digital skills’. Ofcom estimates that 2.6 million people in the UK are offline and 1.5 million households do not have access to the internet.

Part of the solution is to recognize that modern music is much more than linearly played acoustic instruments, which some proponents of classical music have not grasped. The industry has yet to fully embrace digital technology and devices and accept that drum pads and sampling are as integral as timpani and four-part harmony.

Richard says technology is a way to engage more young people in music. His entry onto the scene was through DJing; rather than traditional methods that he found “boring”.

“Obviously, instrumentation and music theory are important parts of being that well-rounded musician or music producer, and CMS encourages that a lot. But at the same time, with young people, you create that interest. And sometimes delving into a topic might be too far ahead, especially if it’s dealt with in a really boring way, but if it’s done in an exciting way, it kind of ignites a flame. “

He adds, “We’ve managed to grow our TikTok channel to nearly 12,000 followers and we get a lot of duets and I’ll ask them ‘Where are you from?’, And they’re from Mozambique, or Detroit, or something, which is absolutely crazy. .

Despite all the benefits of technology, Richard is a firm believer in blended learning.

“I still feel there has to be the face-to-face element: socializing with other people and making the journey together is important.” She believes that schools and organizations could offer “a lot more” in terms of edtech and that more teacher training should be provided to make sure they are fully connected, even if the latest technology is not used in the classroom.

One solution Richard is preparing is main street pop-up studios where people can come and use existing equipment, rather than raising money for individual home devices, which would benefit small communities. CMS also wants to expand beyond London to other parts of the country – and even beyond that with the metaverse – which would further facilitate remote collaboration for young people. The community is not just a part of the organization name, it is the foundation for the business.

Female music producers are still rare in the industry, so it’s a welcome surprise that CMS has many women taking its courses. Bring in alumnus Nia Archives (BandLab NME Best Producer 2022) organizing training days for women is part of CMS’s conscious effort to open up opportunities for women. “Our goal is to encourage people from all walks of life, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” says Richard. “We are trying to bring everyone together.”

He explains: “Coming to an organization like ours broadens your social awareness, but also your musical awareness and your creativity because you meet people from all kinds of musical backgrounds. It really helps because you can get very fixated on the style of music you create and other people and life experiences are important to expand it. “

It is clear that CMS is the kind of community space Richard would have wanted when he was younger. What would you say to the younger self if you could? “Only that everything will be fine. Work hard, learn and be humble. And, you know, look what life brings. If you can have the humility to keep learning, I think it’s really important. “

Community Music Sounds CEO: “Have humility to keep learning”

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