Loud ‘n’ Proud is using tech to keep music lessons alive for kids

Paisley charity Loud 'n' Proud is getting creative to ensure music lessons are still accessible for everyone during the Covid-19 crisis

For nearly twenty years, Loud ‘n’ Proud has offered something precious to the young people of Paisley and beyond: the chance to learn how to play a musical instrument.

Working with between 80 and 100 students, the charity offers regular lessons at £15 per week, although around half of their activity is funded by grants that allow them to provide tuition free of charge. The goal isn’t just to get kids playing music – students are also brought together into bands and given the chance to perform on stages which have included those at the Wickerman Festival and the SEC Armadillo.

“We don’t just put up posters and wait for people to knock the door,” says founder Tommy McGrory. “We go out and find people, often working with other groups, and give kids an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have had. That’s what we’re all about.”

Then coronavirus changed everything. Suddenly cut off by lockdown, and facing an uncertain, socially-distanced future, Tommy and his team were desperate to find a way to keep working with their students and, if possible, help other people struggling through extraordinary times.

“The idea came from a few parents saying that their kids had nothing to do, and that they were struggling to help them stay occupied during the lockdown,” he said. “One of the things that’s really difficult under these circumstances is music. Most of our students’ parents don’t play so they can’t help with that, so we just had an idea that even a lesson a week might help. That’s where it started.”

Working with a group of five tutors, Loud ‘n’ Proud has used funding from Foundation Scotland to produce more than twenty online videos, with many more to come over the next few weeks. By the end of the Lockdown Lessons project there will be nine tutorials each for guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals. The classes are designed to offer something for students at various levels of proficiency, mixing introductory concepts and advanced techniques. Crucially, every single one is available on Youtube completely free.

“We’re putting things up every Monday so the kids have something to look forward to and something to work on each week. It’s fun but also beneficial for their mental health. And it’s all available to everyone – you don’t have to be one of our students to access it.”

It’s not just those watching the videos that are benefitting. Loud ‘n’ Proud’s teachers are all self-employed, working musicians – but with the hospitality industry here and abroad effectively closed, their work, and income, has disappeared. Getting paid to produce the Lockdown Lessons helps but, according to guitar teacher Ian Thomson, it isn’t the main motivation:

“All our tours are cancelled and we’re stuck at home,” he tells me. “But this at least gives us the chance to be productive. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to give something back by helping younger musicians.”

“We’re used to performing on a stage when you’ve got specialists dealing with sound and lights and set-up but now we’re performing on a camera in the house and doing it all ourselves. It’s difficult to adapt to online lessons but it’s been a great learning curve for us too.”

Drummer Jamie McGrory has also found the process extremely valuable:

“From a personal standpoint, it’s given me something positive to focus on during this time. Being able to provide people with useful lessons has given me a feeling of purpose. I think it’s a really good way for us to keep providing people with material that can improve their playing but also, maybe, their mental state too.”