Each month, Nikki Wilson interviews an Ignite Member, asking five simple questions, to find out what creativity means to them, and how they see culture and creativity, and its potential, in Chelmsford.
This month Nikki talks to Becky Wasteney.
How would you describe what you do?
I’m a Community Musician with Ace Music Therapy. I use music as a tool to support people in the community.
I work with a real range of ages, so I work on a long COVID project, which is with adults, working through the different symptoms that they have, like breathing and brain fog, and fatigue and working through the mental health aspects, using music as a tool to support them through their condition.
I also work in Care Homes, with people with dementia and Alzheimers, so I play music, and they have the opportunity to play instruments and sing along as well. I also visit Daycare Centres for adults with learning disabilities and special needs. Quite similar to the Care Homes I’ll play, get them involved with instruments, and they’ll sing and play the instruments as well, so an interactive session.
Photograph: Becky playing sound shapes (drums) with a woman during a session in a care home, encouraging cognitive functioning and supporting communication using rhythms.
Photograph: Becky with two ladies playing a djembe drum. This is at a Care Home session for people with Alzheimers and dementia. Residents are encouraged to sing, dance and play the instruments.
I visit schools and support children with their Mental Health, through music, and I also have individual clients, where they may have special or complex needs, or they may be visually impaired or blind. Sometimes I teach them to sing or play the piano or a variety of instruments to support them and their family.
I also used to run an under 5s group, which is called Ace Adventures, an all-inclusive group, for parents and their children. It’s a story-led group that introduces different instruments each week, which supports communication skills and social interaction.
Photograph: Becky with a toy “Itsy bitsy spider” taken at “Ace Adventures”, an all inclusive session for under fives.
I run choirs as well, and we did a concert last year with the different choirs, getting both the elderly and babies involved, and we had a specific choir for parents of children with special needs, as well as it being a support group for them. We also had a choir for adults with learning disabilities and special needs.
I’ve also run groups for people with chronic illness and at the moment, I’m running a Djembe group called “Beat the Blues” , for Mental Health. Again, it’s an all-inclusive group which anyone can attend that thinks that they can benefit from it .
I was Head of Music at a secondary school beforehand and that’s where the passion to support others through music grew really. I worked in a deprived area and I supported lots of the students where music really was so beneficial, it transformed their lives. So that’s kind of what led me to where I am now. So working with adults was fairly new to me at first, but now it’s nice working with children and adults. Like I say, I still go into schools and support children, so that’s really nice, it’s still sort of a touch of what I used to do which I still really enjoy. It’s nice to still have that, but then also have a new challenge with the other aspects of the work as well, which is obviously quite different to what I used to do.
I think whilst working in schools before, obviously, the curriculum was kind of the priority, but if children benefited from the impact of music by their involvement, then that was brilliant, but it was a secondary thing. The students would come and perform a lot in their lunch times, which they loved and it got them involved in the department as much as possible. Their confidence and communication skills grew from these experiences. but I think it’s nice to fully focus on using music as a tool to support people now.
And who, or what gives you creative inspiration?
I think sometimes life experiences can. So I very much like writing songs and quite a lot of my creative influences can come from actual life experiences. And that’s often when I feel most creative in those kinds of situations.
If you could try any new creative or cultural experience or practice, what would it be?
I really like to dance and I’d like to dance more. I love art, and when time allows, I enjoy painting and drawing . In terms of types of dance, I’d probably like to do more ballet or street dance. I did ballet as a really small child, but not for very long. I was classically trained on the piano and I think I’d really love ballet and the discipline of that now. It’s a beautiful genre.
And if I had to think of a new one, what would I do? I’d be intrigued by photography and I think I would enjoy the creative aspect of capturing certain images.
I’m generally quite a creative being and I do get a lot of pleasure out of the arts and would love to have more time to give more time to them. Music is obviously something that I’ve taken much further and dedicated more time to but I am a huge advocate of the arts. I love musical theatre and being part of a performing arts group would be great, if i had more time!
Photograph: Becky with a melodica: introducing clients to various instruments throughout sessions to expose them to various sounds. This picture was taken from an Ace Adventures session.
What excites you about creativity and culture in Chelmsford?
I think it’s developed a lot. So I grew up in Chelmsford. And I think over the years, particularly as it’s become a city, it has developed quite a lot more than what it was like before. So that’s quite exciting. We have collaborated with Chelmsford museum on a few occasions and it was a great opportunity to bring music and history together. I love history and it was an exciting collaboration for me personally. We ran some sessions in the Meadows and it was great to see how Chelmsford had developed its creative opportunities for the public to enjoy. There was also a story-teller there and the families seemed to enjoy it.
What would you like to see in Chelmsford that isn’t here yet?
I feel like despite its developments, there’s still not a lot of diversity. I think it’d be really nice to see more live music and dance of different genres. It would be nice to see more opportunities for new talents to showcase themselves in Chelmsford. I think a lot of people probably still go to London, in order to have those experiences. So yes, it’s developed a lot, but I think we’ve still got a long way to go.
I probably don’t come to Chelmsford as much as I did before, so my knowledge in this area is not as strong as it could be but when I’ve wanted to go and see live music I found, it’s not really been available. At one point there were not many opportunities at all. In other areas of Essex, such as Colchester, there is a little bit more live music going on. Even if there are things going on in Chelmsford, it’s not really advertised very well, therefore, it doesn’t encourage people that don’t live in Chelmsford to visit either. So promotion is also another thing that could possibly improve.