In January 2019, Stafford based charity Make Some Noise (MSN) began a project with Burton Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) to bring music making, singing and the spoken word to pupils in extremely challenging circumstances. The Acting Head of the Unit, Mr Mark Bocker, contacted the charity to see if there were innovative, engaging ways of bringing music to their young people and the project was made possible with the support and funding of The Music Partnership, a group of the North West Midlands leading quality music education providers and performing companies.

To reach this group a less traditional approach was required and Make Some Noise’s talented team of professional musicians met this challenge with their bespoke Beatbox Orchestra programme. This consisted of six sessions, usually delivered over a half-term period.The PRU also enlisted Kurly McGeachie, a spoken word artist, DJ and musician who delivers poetry and hip-hop workshops and who was shortlisted for Birmingham’s poet laureate for 2016/18. Some of the pupils were able to work towards and be accredited with a Bronze Arts Award ‘Arts Award Discover’ certification.

Beatbox Orchestra was originally designed as a tool to encourage smaller groups of up to 15 transition-age boys in school years 6 and 7 to engage in singing, utilising modern ‘looping technology’ to encourage participants to use vocalisation to build rhythms and melodies that they can then sing or speak over so it was a perfect fit.

Mr Jon Nash, the member of staff from Burton PRU responsible for making the project happen, said of the experience: “I just wanted to thank you for agreeing to deliver the Beatbox Orchestra programme for a group of our students and then also to cover the costs for the 2 young people that have completed the Bronze Arts Award during the project. Thanks again for being so patient and flexible with the group they have really enjoyed the project and I believe have taken a lot away from it. They have grown in confidence and self-esteem and for them to be able to experience the project together and have the space to be themselves and talk openly have really benefitted from the peer support.”

Acting Headteacher of the PRU, Mark Bocker added: “Thanks to Jon and thank you to the staff at MSN – our young folk are a tough act so praise this high is a testament to your outstanding commitment.”

The PRU aims to encourage their students to believe in themselves, to realise their potential and to achieve a successful social and academic future. The partnership with Make Some Noise, worked towards achieving these aims and towards achieving a valuable qualification in the form of the Bronze Arts Award Arts certification. This was possible because of the significant subsidy from The Music Partnership’ and underlines what working in partnership, and delivering high quality engagement through music and singing, can achieve in bringing lasting and tangible benefit to young people.