York Music Hub shares online platforms to keep young talent on song in lockdown

In sunnier times: York Music Hub musicians playing outside the Spurriergate Centre, York

YORK Music Hub is responding to the Covid-19 lockdown by launching an online sharing site, #YMHShare.

The idea is to build an online forum featuring music making and creativity by the young people of York, celebrating the fantastic talent within the city. 

The site has been put together by Squeegee Design, the York web design company based at Lancaster House, James Nicolson Link, and is monitored and updated regularly with content sent in from families, individuals and groups.

“The #YMHShare initiative is for anyone who had a concert cancelled, a festival pulled, an exam postponed or indeed anyone who’s using this time to work on being musical,” says Molly Newton, York Music Hub’s strategic manager.

“So much hard work has gone into school productions, concerts and all kinds of events, and #YMHShare offers a virtual alternative. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far, as many of York’s young musicians have uploaded digital performances and video-link collaborations, and groups have taken this opportunity to showcase previous triumphs in absence of planned concerts.” 

York Music Hub had two major events cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic: the Schools Choral Festival in March and the upcoming city-wide showcase Hubfest2020, now in its second year.

Molly Newton: York Music Hub strategic manager

“The Schools Choral Festival usually takes place at the University of York in March,” says assistant strategic manager Craig Brown. “This year would have seen nine primary and five secondary schools perform.

“Hubfest2020 would have built on the success of the inaugural festival last year, featuring 15 primary and eight secondary schools. The festival is a showcase of all youth music within the city; last year’s festival attracted more than 1,000 young people to make music as part of the event.”

The hub’s response to 2020’s cancellations has been to curate the hard work in a virtual space, as young people, families, groups of friends and bespoke online collaborators come together for this initiative, drawing on the many providers and musicians in a “central area of celebration”. Cue #YMHShare, a sharing platform for a “whole host of music making from any and all young people in and around York”, aged five to 21.

“From next Monday (April 20), when school term would be restarting, we’re launching YMH Online Learning,” says Molly. “This will be a dedicated section of #YMHShare where downloadable resources, YouTube live and Zoom music-making sessions will be posted for anyone to get involved with.”

These sessions will kick off with the York Music Hub Zoom Choir, led by York singer and entertainer Jessa Liversidge, the ubiquitous driving force behind so much online singing activity in York and beyond at present, on Mondays at 2.15pm.

Open to any singer aged eight to 18 -18 from York and the surrounding area, the Zoom Choir offers the chance to connect with other singers, take part in fun vocal warm-ups to develop your vocal technique and learn songs in a range of styles: a “fantastic way to wind down and interact with others in these strange times”.

” I’m raring to go with the young singers of York,” says online-singing driving force Jessa Liversidge

“I’m hoping to attract young people who are missing the inspiring feeling of connecting with others through song,” says Jessa. “I can’t wait to see who signs up for a Monday afternoon, after a day of doing work at home (or at school); those who would enjoy seeing and hearing other melodious youngsters on screen. All young singers are welcome, whatever their previous singing experience.”

Jessa adds: “How the York Music Hub Zoom Choir evolves and what we can achieve depends very much on who gets involved, and how long the lockdown continues.

“I have all sorts of fantastic songs planned to work on with the group, as well as some lag-resistant experiments, and I’m really looking forward to getting going. After a short, self-taught crash course in Zoom choirs these past few weeks with my adult groups, I’m raring to go with the young singers of York.”

Singing For All @TheHub will take place on Fridays at 11am. All are invited to tune in to these lively singing sessions suitable for all ages, again led by Jessa Liversidge. “We want to get everyone involved and lift your spirits with songs and singing games, from well-known school assembly songs, partner songs and rounds to classic pop tunes and even some new songs to learn,” says Molly. “Tune in every Friday at 11am, live on the York Music Hub YouTube channel.”

Ukulele Stars tuition will be open to all ages on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am, with these fun and interactive YouTube sessions being led by Steven Hawksworth, of Hawkulele fame. No previous ukulele experience is necessary.

Curriculum-based GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition sessions for Key Stages 4 and 5 will run throughout the summer term, led on Wednesdays from April 22 at 11am by York Arts Barge Project co-founder, workshop leader, teacher and bass player Christian Topman.

York Music Hub GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition session tutor Christian Topman

These tutorials will be delivered via Zoom but also will be available every week to catch up on via York Music Hub’s YouTube channel. They are aimed at students in Year 9 to 13 who will need to access the Zoom app to join in with the live sessions. They can contact Christian directly at christian@yorkartseducation.org.uk with any composition ideas 

Those needing more information regarding the sharing site or any of the online sessions should contact info@yorkmusichub.org.uk.

Summing up the importance of music-making at this time, Molly says: “It seems to me that music is our salvation. It’s what we turn to in times of celebration and sadness; it keeps us calm or builds us up, it helps us relax, escape, endure, survive.

“It’s the medium through which we express and share our feelings. As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music.

“The internet is now flooded with “virtual” responses to current events: isolation compositions; play-off challenges; streamed concerts and Broadway shows; balcony performances and quarantine choirs.”

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating,” says Molly Newton of her love for musical interplay

Molly’s passion for music oozes from her whenever she leads a project or performance. “I was lucky enough to have hugely supportive parents and inspiring music teachers in my youth and grew up believing that anyone can achieve musically, regardless of their perceived ability or intellect,” she says.

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to see hundreds of young people flourish and grow through music-making opportunities.”

Why is music such a good educative tool, Molly? “I’m going to draw from Plato, who said: ‘I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning’.

“However, regardless of how much music can support the learning of other subjects, music is important in its own right in that it’s a fundamental aspect of all societies.

“Music is a truly collaborative subject, a universal language, and learning it enables a global communication with others that transcends borders and cultures. It’s a subject that teaches creative thinking, discipline, confidence, resilience, patience, perseverance, diligence, achievement and joy, to name but a few!”

“As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music,” says Molly Newton, as she builds up the York Music Hub online sharing forum

In these strange, alien, disconnected days, Craig has noted our power still to be creative and musically resilient. “The #YMHShare site has really embodied a public celebration of the arts,” he says. “Within this feed, we see so much of the appreciation, value and celebrations of music.

“We speak to many of the city’s instrumental teachers, who are continuing to give private lessons through video links, and it is clear that pupils and parents really value the role that music is playing, offering an escape, opportunity of relaxation, or providing a welcome challenge.”

Looking ahead to when musicians can meet up again, how may York Music Hub celebrate? “We’re already planning a ‘Post-Lockdown’ celebration and are hoping that we will be able to bring as many schools, providers and young people together in a truly collaborative and inclusive way,” says Molly.

“Given the uncertainty and challenge we’re all facing, we’re hoping that when this is all over, we will be able to bring people together through music and remind ourselves how joyful it feels to play and sing together.”

Roll on that day. In the meantime, make a home for music at home.