Spotlight on Ben

Ben is 12 years old. He is from Raploch, Stirling – one of the most deprived areas of Scotland.  Ben first got interested in music when he saw his father learning how to play the drums. He then decided to join Big Noise – a free music programme delivered in his former primary school by Sistema Scotland. He plays the tuba. Ben joined NOFA in July 2016; so far he has attended the Summer Course and Winter Sessions.

Ben’s first experiences of NOFA

Ben cherishes the new opportunities NOFA has given him – traveling outside of Raploch, visiting new places and meeting new people from across the UK. He noted that these sort of opportunities are often not available to young people from Raploch. Most of all, Ben has enjoyed sharing his love for music with a group of like-minded young people: “we are all there to play music because we love it… and that makes me feel good because you know you are not the only one who likes music”.

The creative aspect of music-making has had a big impact on Ben. During the Winter Sessions, he experienced making music by ear without a music score within an orchestral setting – improvising and creating new music with others was a novel and inspiring experience for him: “in November we played [Stravinsky’s] Firebird but we made our own versions… the creativity from the normal piece to the creation of a whole new piece was fun”. The improved confidence and self-esteem that this generated within Ben inspired him to start making creative plans for the future – he is currently thinking about starting his own band, training to become a music teacher or even creating and leading a Scottish NOFA branch!

Ben thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and felt that he was representing Scotland, which made him feel proud about his hometown. He was astonished by the fact that many of his NOFA peers found it challenging to understand his Scottish accent! He valued the opportunity to be away from home and appreciated meeting a diverse range of people. “Going away from home to be honest is quite difficult, but it is good as well because you get a break and you get to play music instead… people were like ‘come and meet someone from this place or that place’ and that was really good”.

Ben’s grandmother is very pleased, thankful and proud that he has gotten involved with NOFA because she can see it makes him very happy. She has noticed that he seems to have matured and is more motivated to practice his tuba. He is also very attentive when it comes to future NOFA events and involvement – something that she hasn’t seen in other aspects of his educational life, but she hopes this newfound maturity will filter through to his attitude to school: “He is not so childish anymore, he seems more grown up, he realises that music is not just a baby thing and that serious adults can do this as well… he has developed a lot as a musician and everybody in the neighbourhood knew he played at the Leeds arena – he was very excited about that”.

Ben is now practising more regularly and understands a lot more about music and different musical concepts; he is sharing these skills at school.  We look forward to welcoming Ben to the NOFA Spring Course in London in April and watching him develop further as a musician, and in other aspects of his life.