Concertini talks to Yolanda Brown!

Concertini is sending a big congratulations to the fabulous award-winning Saxophonist, Broadcaster and Author Yolanda Brown this week. She has just been appointed as a National Council Member for Arts Council England. We have no doubt that Yolanda's voice will bring around some amazing things, with all her knowledge of how children interact with music and the arts.

With this in mind, when Yolanda came to Norden Farm in April, we managed to sit down with her in between shows to talk about all things music and young people, let’s see what Concertini founder, Julia Bentley Dawkes and her had to say…

Yolanda Brown wearing a colourful jacket on stage playing Saxophone energetically.
Yolanda Brown at Norden Farm, photo by Jonathan Bowker

Julia: So to get us started, lots of our audience members ask how they can get their children into music. Do you have any suggestions for families that are perhaps under the impression that they’re not musical?

Yolanda: I think everyone is musical, we all enjoy music in different ways.

Whether it be just dancing in the kitchen, which lots of families did a lot of in lockdown, you don’t have to be musical. The main thing is that your children see you enjoying music. And even if you are doing a sing-a-long, you know, pick your favourite song as a family. And just sing! It’s not about the notes, it’s about communicating through music, and you’ll find a rhythm together and enjoy.

If it’s about your children learning an instrument then in that case I would say go to your local hub or to your local music shop, identify what’s their favourite instrument. You know, don’t be afraid to let them try various musical instruments because it won’t always be the first instrument that you pick that will be their voice. And then just encourage them by listening to them practice - you don’t have to know what they’re playing - just be encouraging and make sure you can see their enjoyment whilst they’re playing to you.

Julia : You’ve already answered all my other questions!


Julia: Oo no actually we do get asked a lot … how old does my child need to be to start a musical instrument, do you have any thoughts on that?

Yolanda: There is no set age I would say. It’s only when that child shows a passion for the music. I remember my daughter was five she said “Mummy when I get home from school I’d like to have a piano teacher.” I was like, “Oh okay we’re there now! I thought it would be a couple more years!” But then for some children it’s later on and I think the main thing is to be just open to them wanting to make music, try music, even if it’s just banging the pots and pans, encourage it! And you’ll naturally know when they want to for the first step.

Yolanda and her Band at Norden Farm, photo by Jonathan Bowker

Julia: Okay great, so for our audiences that have children who already play musical instruments, how should they encourage them to practice at home?

Yolanda: Ah yes, I get asked this a lot! I think the main thing is to make sure the musical instrument is accessible, so if it’s a piano have it in a space where they can just walk up to it, have the books open, or make it accessible to them so they can just walk up to it and make up a tune.

If it’s an instrument like a saxophone or cello, make sure you buy a stand even if it’s a flute or a clarinet, the first thing I would say is to buy all your accessories but make sure you buy a stand so they can walk past it and just grab it.

And then practice doesn't have to be hours and hours. Especially in those early stages. So if they pick it up for 10 minutes and they're just there tooting away with the TV, for me that’s practice! And then once they are engaged with the instrument they will start to practice what the teacher has set them as well.

(laughter) Well… hopefully!

Julia: That's a great idea about getting a stand! And finally Yolanda, the million dollar question is, is there anything as parents we can do to get our schools to place more emphasis on music in the curriculum?

Yolanda Brown and her band mate stand on stage with Confetti Canons aimed at the audience, multicoloured confetti flies into the air.
Yolanda and her backing singer with Confetti Canons at Norden Farm, photo by Jonathan Bowker

Yolanda: I think it’s to always keep asking. As parents, we always think, what can we do because the school leads the curriculum but as parents, we have the power to ask for more music, ask for more performances. And you know if you can rally the troupes if your school really isn’t offering enough and there are other parents who are in common with you and want more music, then ask for it, because the school will always be able to reach to their local hub to ask for support. But they will do that when they know there’s a need for it. Or go to your local music hub and get them to help out from the other side. But I think schools will only understand the importance of music when they see the change, see it happening. So keep on asking, keep on encouraging.

Julia: That’s brilliant, thank you so much, and now I’ll let you go and get ready for the next Concertini!

Thanks for talking to us Yolanda! Don't forget if you want to see Yolanda perform you can catch up on YolanDa's Band Jam on BBC iPlayer and follow her on Instagram @yolandasbandjam. Or check out her website for all the latest news:

Also if you missed our Concertini with YolanDa's Band Jam and would like to see what it was like from a backstage view you can check out this amazing video on Yolanda's youtube here:

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