MAC Makes Music: Autumn Events at Midland Arts Centre

Previous readers of this blog may remember that I told you about some fantastic sounding events from inclusive musical experience providers MAC Makes Music held at Midland Arts Centre, or MAC, in Birmingham over the summer months. Well, as if that wasn’t enough, MAC Makes Music have a great line up of inclusive music events for under 25s over the Autumn as well and you will find highlights of these events below in this post.

Midland Arts Centre

Firstly, before getting into much detail about the events themselves, I would like to tell you a bit about the venue MAC. We live in walking distance of Cannon Hill Park, and our local arts centre is MAC. This is a multi-arts venue that has been around serving the Birmingham communities for many, many years, it is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022. I attended courses and events here with my family when I was a child, and now take my children. MAC has loads of different spaces for the arts, with dedicated gallery spaces including in corridors that lead to workshops and function rooms, theatre spaces, studios and a cinema, a bar and the lovely KILN cafe, which does some very nice cakes and a good coffee!

MAC, as a multi-purpose arts centre, of course has a full schedule of events year-round, and they regularly hold shows, events and courses aimed at families and young people. It is always worth having a look at their website to see if there is anything on that you fancy giving a go. With its location at Cannon Hill Park with the swan pedaloes, crazy golf, happy train, fairground style rides, 2 play areas and loads of parkland MAC is the ideal place to take the family for a day out.

So who are MAC Makes Music?

MAC Makes Music are an award winning programme based at MAC (the clue is in the name), offering inclusive opportunities for music making to young people in the Birmingham and surrounding area. MAC Makes Music do a lot of work with Music Education Hubs, run courses for music educators and help Early Years settings, Primary Schools, Youth Offending Teams, and Special Educational Needs schools all over Birmingham and the Midlands, so they really know what they are doing when it comes to music events for children and young people.

MAC Makes Music puts on events for young people under 25 years old, and are open to people of all levels of ability. Some sessions may be for a specific age group, and others are open to absolutely anyone, and session leaders are great at making sure all participants feel comfortable to join in. I do like this approach as, especially for school children, our children are placed in a class of people based on their age and geographical area and often don’t get a chance to mix with people outside of their own age bracket until they are much older. Wherever possible MAC Makes Music are committed to offering a hybrid online/in person approach to their events so that their events are open to people who prefer attending the venue in person, and people who prefer accessing events from home. I will point out below when discussing these events which ones are online only, which ones in person only, and which ones offer both options. Though you should note, that with events that have both online and in person sessions, these will be offered at different times because in MAC Makes Music’s experience it is difficult to have some participants at home while some are there at the MAC.

The events are also, it is important to say especially with the pressures on people’s wallets increasing every day at the moment, free of charge. So without further ado, here are some fantastic sounding events coming up at MAC over the autumn term that you might be interested in going along to.

Autumn Programme of Events

For the events I discussed in my last post about MAC Makes Music events there were a number of one-off events. Largely because it was the summer holidays, and families who would otherwise be busy at school and work etc would have more time to attend events. For the Autumn, of course, many young people will be back into their school/college/University/work routine, and so naturally the programme of events will be a little different with MAC Makes Music largely offering regular weekly opportunities rather than one-off events, although there will be a number of events aimed at Families during the October half term, including an online Open Mic session, sessions for creating Soundscapes, a Come and Sing event, and an event for young people to attend and talk to MAC Makes Music about what music making opportunities they are interested in to help them develop their programme in the future. Head over to MAC Makes Music’s website in the next few weeks for more information, and to book for these events.

Family Creative Sounds

Family Creative Sounds is an after school music making club. There are different groups across the West Midlands: Core Theatre at the Touchwood Centre in Solihull, Draper’s Hall in Coventry and Windmill Community Centre in Smethwick, Sandwell, and a new group has just launched at MAC in Birmingham on alternate Sundays. Check with each venue for the days and times they hold this group.

This is a club that is held in person at each of the venues, and is an all ages, all abilities club. Each session lasts an hour (with the exception of the group at MAC, Birmingham, as it takes place every other week rather than every week), and the idea behind Family Creative Sounds is that through the club young people can share their own creative, music-making ideas. In the process, social skills are developed in the participants as they share their ideas and listen to other people’s ideas. The people attending Family Creative Sounds find that their confidence is boosted by making music together with other people and with having people listen to and discuss their music as well. The sessions are tailored as much as possible to the people who attend them. For example, in Sandwell, sessions have developed into ones where the whole family takes part in them, but in Solihull it tends to be that the parents tend to choose not to get involved with the sessions themselves (although they are very welcome to attend and get involved if they want to).

Attending the sessions, people will find that before they turn up the room will have been set up so that there are lots of different instruments out and available to play, brass instruments, keyboards, percussion instruments, guitars etc and people are free to explore whatever instrument they want to that session, and a separate area with a circle of chairs for everyone to sit in and share their ideas when they are not actually playing. More music technology and recording facilities have been made available at these sessions as well as the participants have talked about wanting to develop recorded music for Spotify, or YouTube, to get their music heard by a wider audience.

At the end of term, people taking part in Family Creative Sounds put on a performance so that friends, carers, parents can come along and see what they have been doing.

SWITCH Band

Every Tuesday from 5pm to 7pm, MAC Makes Music hold rehearsals in person at MAC for their inclusive band, SWITCH. The band is open to members and is aimed mainly at young people from 9 years old to 25, regardless of musical ability. Members of the band write, produce, record and perform (both at MAC and sometimes other venues in Birmingham) their own music that relates to and reflects the issues in their own lives. Music leaders will support band members with whatever they want to do musically, and with whatever their level of musical ability from beginners to more experienced musicians. If you are considering joining SWITCH Band, you can go along to a rehearsal to see what it is like and if it will suit you and you will enjoy it before joining up.

Variety Jam

This is a group for older, more established young musicians who are already creating their own music. As a guide, it is an inclusive group for young people aged about 14 to 25, and ope to all ability levels. It is an online sharing session and takes place on the first Saturday of each month from 2-4pm on Zoom.

Variety Jam started off as an Open Mic event but after performing, people wanted to explain a bit more about how they had made their music and so MAC Makes Music created an opportunity for young people to do just that – perform their own music, whether than be a piece of music they have learned or written, and then talk about it. During Variety Jam sessions there is a lot of conversation about the music that participants have been creating; sometimes they have a debate about it and discuss their creative processes, or they talk about the music they love listening to and making and why they love that music. People taking part in Variety Jam are all at different stages in their musical life, all make different types of music and that leads to some fascinating discussions between everyone.

It is an online only session, but that does mean that people from all over the Midlands, all over the country maybe, can take part. In fact one person who was taking part in Variety Jam moved to Florida which would normally stop you from going to a music making club in Birmingham in the middle of the UK, but because Variety Jam is helped online, they can still join the sessions and they are still part of the group. And of course they have a whole new set of musical influences to bring to the discussion now as well.

Inclusive Choir in partnership with Soundabout

The last regular event I want to tell you about here is MAC Makes Music’s Inclusive Choir which they run in partnership with the charity Soundabout. Soundabout are specialists in music making with young people with complex learning difficulties and disabilities, and so it is important to know that while the choir is absolutely open to all young people and their families to join, the emphasis for the Inclusive Choir is on creating music making opportunities for people with additional needs.

The Inclusive Choir meets up in person at MAC once a month to rehearse. They choose songs that they want to sing in the choir, and sometimes people write songs specifically for them. This choir actually feeds into the West Midlands Inclusive Choir, who meet once a month online, and in fact the sessions at MAC act as a rehearsal before they all meet up online as West Midlands Inclusive Choir. The West Midlands Inclusive Choir is made up from MAC’s Inclusive Choir together with inclusive choirs from Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull and Worcestershire. So, people singing in West Midlands Inclusive choir take part in 2 sessions each month, one for their own area (MAC< Solihull, Sandwell, Coventry or Worcester Inclusive Choir) and one online rehearsal for the larger regional choir.

In addition to these two rehearsals each month, there are other events that choir members can take part in through the year, for example last April the whole of the West Midlands Inclusive Choir met in person at MAC. At this amazingly joyful event, the choir members all came together sharing their voices in a way that suited them. For example, some people are non-verbal and they joined in by using a noise maker, or through movement. Others had developed the confidence, through their membership of the choir, to show what they have leaned with sign language and were showing everyone the signs for parts of the songs. West Midlands Inclusive Choir recently performed at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The Inclusive Choir has developed, over time, into a lovely, affirming, joyful community for its members and is a fantastic thing to be a part of.

So, there you have it. 4 different opportunities for music making. All with a distinct purpose, and all aimed at helping young people develop their own confidence in being able to make music and express themselves and their own ideas through music. If you think your child, or any young people in your family may be interested in any of the events discussed above, please visit MAC Makes Music’s website for more information about the events and how to sign up for them: https://macbirmingham.co.uk/mac-makes-music/music-groups-events

Or email them: jen.loffman@macbirmingham.co.uk

If you have enjoyed reading my blog post, thank you. I am always looking for ideas for the blog, so would love to hear from you with suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in the future. Also, if you would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, buying the books to review here, and supplies to make the DIY instruments, for example, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

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