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How an idea of note turned into a music group

Thanks to funding from his local ward forum, Gavin Birnbaum set up a local music group and workshop and now, almost one year on, people of all ages and abilities are dropping in to play.

On 5 May, the Hobbayne Music Workshop will celebrate its first anniversary and is encouraging others to get involved.

piano-webGavin, 51, is from Hanwell and has played music in bands for 30 years. He currently plays in a jazz band and got the idea for the workshop one day when remembering one he used to attend years ago.

“I’m resurrecting an old idea,” said Gavin. “I took up the saxophone in 1987 via Ealing adult education. Back then one of the classes offered, that I progressed to and remember fondly, was the Jazz Workshop.

“Someone then told me about the possibility of getting funding.”

Very quickly, things came together and Gavin founded his music workshop with some money from Hanwell Big Local. Then, towards the end of 2016, with things going well, Gavin decided to make the workshop a non-profit, unincorporated association with a written constitution. This allowed it to apply to Ealing Council’s Hobbayne ward forum for funding to keep it going.

Ward forums have a pot of money to award to local initiatives and community projects, and meet several times a year. Go along to your local forum to find out more. If you are unsure which ward you live in, and therefore which forum to attend, you can find out here.

“I wasn’t even aware of the forum until one of the workshop members mentioned it,” admitted Gavin. “Luckily, there was a meeting at Mayfield School the following week, so I popped along and gave a five-minute presentation. Everyone seemed enthusiastic which gave me confidence to apply. A couple of months later Hobbayne Music Workshop was awarded £600 and it has secured its operation for 2017.”

Members of the workshop in action
Members of the workshop in action

From very humble beginnings, the Hobbayne Music Workshop has taken off and there is a steady number of attendees each week. But what can you expect if you go along?

Gavin explained: “We are all ages and all abilities. For example, our youngest attendee is an 11-year-old saxophonist named Morris Chapple. He has been a great addition to the group and we love to hear him blasting out his notes with growing confidence. Connie Lynch, 16, is a talented drummer, yet we’ve noticed she has been practicing at guitar as she seems to get better at that instrument each week. Samuel Murray-Birnbaum, 12, is an up-and-coming drummer with a great ear for music who can play bass or keyboards quite happily.

“Anyone can suggest a song that they know, are working on or have made up themselves. Also members may change instrument, I mainly play bass but will happily move onto sax. Our drummers are encouraged to play guitar or keyboard.

“Everyone is invited to improvise as much or as little as they like and guidance is given about which notes may be best played over a chord sequence.

“The workshop is relaxed and friendly and is open to anyone with a musical interest. Some musical knowledge and an instrument is helpful but not essential because participants are encouraged to play as little or as much as they feel comfortable with. The workshop has a drum kit and stage piano. There are plenty of opportunities try out different instruments.

“The two-hour sessions are led by the more experienced musicians who make suggestions and give guidance on drumming style, bass lines, chords, melodies and improvisation.”

More information

The Hobbayne Music Workshop takes place during term time on Thursday evenings at High Lane Community Centre between 7-9pm. People can just drop in or, if they prefer, they can contact Gavin on 07834 785884. Anyone under the age of 18 needs to bring an accompanying adult. The cost for each two-hour session is £3 per person.

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