The word band, it means so many different things – a band of brothers, to band together and obviously the context we know it best… sweat covered, long haired, committed rockers moving crowds of thousands in grimey, muddy and rain sodden fields. Well that’s what I think of anyway.
The dictionary definition is perfect.
- a group of people who share the same interests or beliefs, or who have joined together for a special purpose.
Could there be anymore special a purpose than to make music?
We live in the most divided of times; a post Brexit Europe where the UK is pulling away from the rest of the continent with an arrogant and assumptive swagger. We all wait with baited breath as to whether a suspiciously orange reality TV star will make it all the way to the White House. If he does it will be built on hate filled rhetoric designed to pander to the fear filled masses in America, a very scary thought. Add to that the now wide spread mistrust of different races and religions, in fact anything that makes you different from the majority and you’ve got a situation that is crying out for something real and heartfelt to pull people together. And this is before we’ve even talked about the Pokemon Go epidemic…
We all know that from struggle the best music has come – the blues from the spirituals of slaves in the South or the visceral and raw anger of the Punk movement rallying against the establishment and voicing a generation’s unrest and disillusionment. But what’s more important is the unity that these genres provided. They created cohesion where there were divides. I would say that more than anything that’s what we need now.
Fast forward to Glastonbury 2016. The biggest, muddiest, rainiest one for years. It was precisely 3 days after project fear in the UK rocked the trendy lefties and the central ground and divided us in so many ways. Yet in the face of it 150,000 people gathered on the Sunday eve with a weird and palpable feeling of WTF. It happened. But in amongst the very real sense of unknowing there was genuine unity and solidarity long before a single note was played amongst that crowd. There couldn’t have been a better soundtrack to that moment than Coldplay.
A parent recently dismissed my impassioned claims of the importance that his daughter watch the Coldplay performance to learn about all about fronting a band. He declared Colplay to be boring. I stayed calm. Album 2 could be accused of perhaps being a little middle of the road but not boring. And the endless anthems they’ve created – Viva La Vida, Charlie Brown, Yellow, The Scientist, Hymn For The Weekend … the list is endless! When their first greatest hits album comes out people will be suddenly realise just how prolific Chris Martin and the boys have been. It’s an incredible body of work they’ve created!
As the crowd sung every word at the top of their lungs and flashed in time to the anthems with those amazing wrist bands it was comforting escapism. Chris Martin rocked backwards and forwards on his piano stool with ridiculous faith it wouldn’t break leading the crowd, directing them, building them up. As you watched the audience watching Coldplay what you were left with was a feeling of the music being enjoyed by everyone all at once and together. This was miles away from the astonishing fan girling happening for The 1975 – a brilliant band who I’m a huge fan of, Matt channelling Bowie and Brett from Suede is always great fun to watch. But their set was a personal not collective experience for the Topshop generation of guys and girls. Coldplay’s set was galvanising in a way I’d not seen before.
As they took the Pyramid stage by the scruff of the neck it was amazing to think that here was a band 20 years into their career who have stuck together. A band that divides everything four ways respecting everyone’s contribution. A band whose entire message when on stage is one of love and togetherness, however clichéd you feel they mean it. If we were all a little bit more Coldplay I can’t help but think we’d all be a little bit happier…
So how is this relevant to The Band Project and our students? Excluding our first adult bands none of our lot can vote and I somehow don’t see Brexit and its fall out meaning much to the 9 year old boys in the Silver Bullets in our Chiswick Centre or the girly tween chaos of the Krazikorns at Dorset House Prep School. It’s about the future and what we can teach our students to carry forward.
I’ve spoken so many times to parents, students and tutors about how the music is the most important thing in our sessions. The song always comes first and teaches our bands how to respect something and through that learn to respect each other and the roles that everyone has – it’s a microcosm of life. Once our bands understand that then we support them and work with them to develop their self confidence, ensure their contribution is valued and treat everyone as an individual – being in a band, just like life is not a one size fits all ‘thing’. It’s from that support and sense of value that our students create the end results they do which in turn gives them the sense of achievement that’s at the heart of The Band Project experience. If they can carry those skills into the world proper, or if they pursue music full time in the future, it will set them up to work better with people, invest in whatever they are doing fully, understand and value their team mates/colleagues/band mates and be able to express themselves. So maybe The Band Project’s teaching ethos should be renamed ‘How to be a bit more Coldplay’…
Founder of The Band Project