Profile: Adam Denman, trumpeter, and the Southern Music Project CIC

The Southern Music Project CIC was created by Trumpet Specialist Adam Denman and is a not-for-profit social enterprise created to support access to music, through education, workshops and concerts to communities in Havant and Waterlooville, Hampshire. Simon O’Hea and Adam are in conversation.

Simon

Firstly, please let me know what projects you’ve got on the boil at the moment.

Adam

It’s been a pretty busy time and it’s hard to remember all that’s coming up, to be honest! I know we’ve had a couple of performances coming up over this term, the first of which is linked with the Waterlooville Music Festival. And this year we’re collaborating with them as partners.

So, we’ve joined up with them support the lunchtime WMF performance on Monday 10 June with a recital between David Cain (piano) and myself on trumpet, followed by a hands-on singing workshop delivered by Heather Uden, the Director of the Portsmouth Military Wives Choir. I’ve been involved in setting this up and all donations will be given to the festival to reinvest into future music festivals.

In the evening there’s a brilliant double bill: Cascade Chorus is a group singing a cappella in four-part harmony with a wide range of popular music and songs from the shows. Africapella brings the glorious harmonies, spiritual music and rhythms of African and Caribbean cultures. They have visited the festival in the past and are always highly entertaining and popular.

Following this, I am delighted to be teaming up with Havant Borough Council and a local arts-based CIC called Creatful, to deliver a series of free children’s Art and Music workshops in Waterlooville town centre with performances from local schools and community music groups at the Waterlooville bandstand on Saturday 29 June from 10:00 until 16:00.

We will also be returning to support the music at the Waterlooville Summer Fete at Jubilee Park on Sunday 23 June.

Additionally, I also have a stand at the Stay Wild Festival on 19-21st July in Elizabeth Country Park, where we will be giving children and adults the chance to play an instrument and have the chance to develop an instrument through two different workshops.

Simon

Tell me about your student showcase concerts.

Adam

The next performance we have lined up is another one of our student showcase concerts: this will represent our 4th showcase concert this year!

These performances are open to any music students aged 18 years or under in the Havant & Waterlooville area, not necessarily anyone who’s having lessons with us, and they are open to anyone to come along and perform at St. George’s Church in Waterlooville.

The Southern Music Project has a number of volunteers (including local music teachers) who support the local music scene and put forward their students to perform. So, we create the platform for the students to perform, but the teachers come along and support and watch their students in the performance context under the pressures of live performance, to support their students in providing additional feedback.

So far, we’ve had a wide mixture of abilities, from complete beginners having their first performance playing some five-note tunes, up to students who are over grade 8 level. Our next showcase concert will be on Saturday 13 July from 13:00-13:45. It’s all free to participate in and it’s free to watch. You can find out more here.

Simon

So are there any criteria that people need to meet? I mean do they have to be a certain standard at a certain age, or not particularly?

Adam

We welcome any students of any abilities under the age of 18. As I said, we’ve had students perform some five-note tunes. We had one student last Saturday change her mind before she performed, which is fine: she played a few selections of her grade one pieces, whilst we have had more advanced students perform pieces such as the Haydn Trumpet Concerto and Muzurka No.2 by Chopin.

The idea is to mix up the abilities so that we can encourage those who are at the start of their journeys to see where they can work up to towards as well. And in the audience, we have had students who weren’t performing but are hoping to perform in the future.

Simon

How did you get to where you where you are today?

Adam

When I was growing up in the Waterlooville area, there weren’t any accessible links to music other than through your school. And the way that I’ve found my journey through music has been through the recommendation of teachers, and if it wasn’t for those teachers, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

For example, my private brass teacher as a child used to come to our house and he was from the Salvation Army. And unfortunately, my parents weren’t in a position at the time where they could afford top music tuition. So Chris (Kennett) was very kind in that he always charged my parents a minimal sum for an hour’s lesson. And in the weeks when my family couldn’t afford it, he would always push the payment over to the following week and never chased for delayed payments.

Chris gave me my first cornet on permanent loan, a Boosey & Hawkes Sovereign, which I still have today. He was the most generous and kind man and he was the one who put me on the path for the Hampshire County Youth Brass Bands.

Simon

What appealed to you about brass? What were your first impressions of brass?

Adam

The sound of brass has always really appealed to me. At the age of seven, I loved the sound of Robbie Williams’ ‘Swing When You Are Winning’ album, which featured a lot of the Rat pack tunes. I loved the melodies and the sounds of the instruments.

Then the following summer, my parents took my sister and I on holiday to Jersey. My parents said we could both have one holiday present. And I just happened to see a trumpet in a shop window. I was desperate to have the Trumpet and to learn to play.

My parents just thought it was a fad. But I was persistent for the whole week, and they gave in. We brought the trumpet back from Jersey and it just stuck with me from then on. I just loved the sound and feel of the instrument.

Then in that first year of playing, I went straight to Grade 3 and got that done. And then I got to grade 5 in year five. So, I was progressing quickly with it. And despite struggling academically school due to my dyslexia, it was my carrot to persevere with school, and it helped to bring me confidence.

Then from here, Chris put me into the county band system. So I was one of the youngest players in the band at the time. And I worked my way up to become Principal Cornet when I was about 15. During my time in the band, I then met a teacher for Hampshire Music Service called Jane Bryden, who put me in contact with the Denmead Brass Band. Becky Hill, who was my first school music teacher, directed me towards the Havant Symphony Orchestra. Without them I wouldn’t have known about those different pathways into community music.

There really wasn’t a clear pathway for getting access into community music groups: most of what I did musically came from outside of school through playing in different bands.

I was fortunate enough to get a place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where at the time all I wanted to do was just play the trumpet. It was a very diverse course, including orchestral, jazz and brass band music.

I was lucky enough to be able to play with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, as well as on TV and radio. We also did the Proms, performed on S4C and the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition as well. And we made a Doctor Who recording as well. I was lucky to do some work with RPO as well and side by side with the Welsh opera. And later on I performed with Southern Pro Musica.

From there I got into teaching quite fortuitously, via an internship with Berkshire’s music service called Berkshire Maestros. I worked with them for three years, and it was a great foundation because it was my first foray into teaching instruments in both individual and in small groups, and also whole class tuition and running different ensembles. So I was chucked straight in by conducting two wind bands a week, and I did some Youth Orchestra coaching for them

In my second year I then took on a Big Band Pyramid for them as well and set up a brass group for their senior brass students in Windsor and Maidenhead. This all gave me a really good foundation to then move over to Hampshire Music Service, where I worked for seven years and became one of their youngest ensemble directors at the time, running the Northeast Hants Brass Band Pyramid, which features two different bands. The role of an ensemble director involves a lot of the administrative side and also liaising with committees and with venues. So it gave me a lot of foundation work and understanding in the leadership and administrative areas.

Whilst working in those areas, I just kept thinking about the real lack of access to Music in my home town. So anyway, post-COVID. I had the opportunity to move back to the Havant and Waterlooville area and to be closer to family and for my partner to be close closer to her family as well.

I started a masters in Educational Leadership and Management at the University of Portsmouth. This was purely because I knew there was a there was a real need for this access but I didn’t really know in what kind of direction to go. And I thought that I could widen my understanding of the musical landscape, and wanted to learn how to set up an organisation outside of the music hub context.

This was a very generic education management course, and not specific to music.

And they then put me on a on a booster course called the ‘Enterprise Programme’, which is a one-term programme where we used to get masterclasses and talks from people who set up businesses in the Portsmouth area: many of these people have been very successful and also those whose businesses folded post-COVID and they gave very good explanations as to why that happen.

So that gave me the last kick to really go for it because there was so much anxiety at the time as to whether it was the right thing and how much risk there would be into setting something like this up, while studying and also working as a brass teacher and performer.

So the course gave me a lot of confidence in going down the social enterprise route. And taught me how a Community Interest Company specifically can support the wider community and how it reinvests into the community as well. So the CIC was incorporated in May of last year. And then that gave me four months to get all the foundation work set up ready for a September implementation.

And that’s where we started at the Waterlooville Library. And since then, we’ve now moved to teaching at both the Horndean Technology College and the Pallant Centre in Havant. We have three of us teaching at the moment, but we’re looking to expand in the near future with more teachers and more instruments available, and we’ve then opened out our pathways into supporting different community groups and working on collaborative concerts. And that led us into our fundraising concerts, performances with Havant Borough Council and then obviously these student showcases and partnerships with music festivals. So, it’s been quite a lot happening in a short amount of time!

Simon

So how are you different or how do you relate to the Hampshire Music service?

Adam

So, we relate in that we provide music tuition in itself, but I would say that that’s where the similarities end. There can be a misconception that we’re the same type of organisation. However, we have a different focus on musical access.

Their vision is to create as much music access as possible for children across Hampshire. Whereas for us it’s very specific to supporting the Havant and Waterlooville region musically, and how we can then support a community benefit rather than just for children’s education. So, for us it’s children and adults and anyone who can’t have access to music, how we can make it more accessible but also put on performances as well. But learning an instrument or learning to sing isn’t for everyone. Some other people have different aspects of enjoyment from music. So, it’s trying to make it as relatable to them and as accessible for them as well.

And that’s one of the reasons why we do what we do. For instance, our ‘Monday Night Harp Club’ is a weekly meeting group which provides access to an instrument that is normally very difficult to access. So, we’re trying to make it more accessible in a big group setting on smaller-sized harps and also additionally accessing the holistic benefits. Participants have enjoyed engaging in the instrument as a group rather than necessarily focussing on the educational side of learning an instrument.

So, we’re not target-driven whatsoever, it’s about the wider benefit it gives to the community and then hopefully with these community concerts, the idea is that it brings more people to the town centres and to come and enjoy the towns.

We’re just trying to signpost people to say, well, maybe you could try get involved with this group or even just follow them, come and support a concert, and hopefully that will then support that community group as well, both with membership and with potential bums on seats in concerts as well.

Simon

What about the Southeast Hampshire Youth Orchestra?

Adam

Arising from our short partnership with Havant Orchestras, and a local demand for greater youth music opportunities, we have created the Southeast Hampshire Youth Orchestra. Our first rehearsal and performance yielded 25 students from the Havant and Waterlooville areas, and attracted additional students from as far as Horsham, Petersfield and Southampton! Following this, we had 12 kids come along to a joint rehearsal between the Youth Orchestra and Havant Symphony and then from that, at least five of those members have signed up to become regulars for the Havant Symphony. And then with that, they’ve brought family members to come and support their concerts. And with the last concert, the the orchestra did at Oaklands when they did Dvorak 9, there was a number of those students who came along to watch the concert to support their friends.

So, so far we’ve had two rehearsals together as a Youth Orchestra and it’s always treated as a bit of a scratch orchestra. So we have different members coming along each time. Which is great because it gives those who have been regular for the two rehearsals the opportunity to play different parts to either be a second player or to become a principal player for that rehearsal. And then each time we’ve had that rehearsal, we’ve had an informal performance at the end. I think the first one was a three hour rehearsal with a performance and then the last one we did was a six hour rehearsal with breaks in with the performance at the end. The one on the 30th of June will be a day time rehearsal followed by a formal concert to showcase the hard work of the orchestra.

The concert will be at 19:00 on Sunday 30th June and will be open to public to attend! Tickets will be £8 for adults and free for students under the age of 18, with all the proceeds raised being reinvested to support the continuation and growth of the Youth Orchestra going forwards. Tickets for the concert, as well as donations, can be purchased through the Southern Music Project website.

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