Davina’s Interview on BBC Radio Leicester – March 2022

Jimmy: Friday morning Jimmy here with your breakfast. Now this is really exciting. I don’t know whether you’ve actually done this yourself, decided to learn something maybe later in life, you put something off for some time, you know, connect with that child version of yourself. Maybe play a musical instrument and learn how to read notes on a page. Well, that and many other musical possibilities are being explored at the Curve Theatre – a conference called “Doing Music Differently” and it is for anyone who’s interested in broadening their own music making or maybe collaborating with other musicians. Davina Vencatasamy from Drum and Brass is involved in giving some of the workshops and she joins me now Davina Morning.   I like the sound of this – who’s behind this idea?

Davina: So it’s really exciting. Drum and Brass, a small arts organisation within Leicester.  We’ve been working so hard to look at diversity and inclusion in music, and we’ve decided that we’re going to put on a conference to bring people together and build networks.   Unfortunately, because music education has been cut back and underfunded, it’s very difficult for people from different backgrounds to get access to musical instruments to play, to sing. So we’re really trying to get an inclusive approach to music making. And we decided to bring the people who are running those things – the organisations and networks – and bring them all together in one place, to experience some really exciting workshops, and be part of a new push to bring great people into music.

Jimmy: It’s a lovely idea and I think we need it more now than ever, this kind of stuff.  Anyone listening to this show right now knows the power of music, music can do so much for us, you know, it can change our mood, our feelings, you know!  If you come home from work, and you’re a bit stressed, you want to put some chilled music on and relax – or if you’re exercising, you want a bit more energy, you know?  People who sing and chant football songs at the King Power Stadium, you know what that feeling is like? So it can change us in a really powerful way.

Davina: Absolutely. It’s so powerful!  My professional background is a music therapist, so I use music to help people connect with their inner thoughts and inner self and heal. So the fact that music can do all of that, for so many different groups of people is such an inclusive thing. But actually, it’s really sad that when you get to professional level musicians, there’s lots of lots of diversity exclusion – especially in the classical world. You know, when you think about classical music, you don’t think about black or brown players playing. And that’s because they haven’t been given the opportunity to develop to that level. So we’re all about making those opportunities there at the ground level for everyone, particularly in Leicester. We’re so diverse in this amazing city, and actually we’ve got so many different types of music!  So Hari Trivedi, who’s really involved with Drum and Brass is an amazing tabla player. And he’s doing this work too and we’ve got all of these different types of music in Leicester that we’re not really celebrating as much as we could do. So this project is to really try and get everyone involved and included. Let’s make music together!

Jimmy: Oh, it sounds great. I love it. And how did the whole idea start? I love the concept of Drum and Brass!

Yes, well, actually, the name comes from Hari who’s the drum bit – he’s a tabla player. And Julie Hoggarth – she’s a brass player and she’s always been very inclusive in brass band playing. This is especially difficult because Brass Band music actually comes from a very white background and Julie is trying to get other people involved in brass band making.  Julie and Hari decided to get together and make music together – and so it was Drum and Brass.

Jimmy: So how big is this conference gonna be, Davina?

Davina: It’s not going to be that big. It’s a bit it’s a bit of posh word, I guess. And maybe that’s a barrier that I haven’t really thought about. Well we’ve got four really good speakers. We’ve got Dr. Helen minors who is part of the EDIMS project which is the Equality Diversity Inclusion in Music Studies. Helen is the co-chair of that organisation, but she really works with orchestras and making music without score – so there’s no music to be read, and you can just come in and play, and that’s really lowering the barriers that anyone can access it. And we have KIZ who was a hip hop, trauma specialist, and she’s going to run a workshop on making hip hop or thinking about hip hop with a different clientele. And then we’ve got Leonie Du Barrie Gurr who is going to be running a session where we are just playing us together. Here’s an instrument – let’s play, and let’s see what happens! We also have Carole Leeming she’s quite famous in Leicester –

very famous. Carol is going to be there to kind of top and tail the day, and really support us. She’s very involved with the BBC Proms and inclusion and diversity in that arena, and it is so, so lovely to have her on board. But yeah, it all came about from having no access to an orchestra and you know, in the city centre, there is no orchestra really.  To play in an orchestra, children have to go out to the county. And for our kids who are in the city centre in disadvantaged areas, who have got all the barriers and not being able to play an instrument the first place because education is music education is underfunded – they don’t have anywhere to go.

Jimmy:  I’m thinking about the fact there’s no orchestra in Leicester. There is in the county but there isn’t in the city! So do you think by the end of the project, you might have your own orchestra, one that you’ve created here?

Davina: Well, funny you say that Jimmy, we have an orchestra now. So at the Woodgate centre, Helen Butterfield has been running an orchestra. Anyone can come on a Tuesday afternoon – it’s an hour and a half after school, and it’s completely intuitive. You don’t have to be able to play an instrument, you just come along and join.  It is free. They will play their first concert on the fifth of March. Wow. This is exciting, really exciting. They’ve been doing composition and creation of their own music, so it’s been really busy and it’s been so lovely to see 20 to 30 kids who don’t have access to orchestras come in to play together right in the city centre. So if you want to come along to that, all the details on the website.

Jimmy:  So please tell us where do we need to go to find out about all this stuff you’ve just told us about – the conference and the orchestra.  Where do we go to find all the information?

Davina: There’s the Drum and Brass website:  drumandbrass.co.uk or you could look on Eventbrite and just do a quick search for “doing music differently” and then that would lead you to the conference page.

Jimmy: Davina, thank you so much for joining us and all the very best for that.  It’s been wonderful to talk to you and you take care now.