“Time after time, Plymouth Music Zone have supported me, built me back up and played a big role in making me the musician and music leader I was yesterday, I am today and I will be tomorrow.”  Josie Newton

As Plymouth Music Zone celebrates its 20th anniversary year, I have been talking to music leaders about their individual journeys into the work. As an organisation we are really keen to share the stories of those who are currently working for us as part of our music leader ‘pool’ who have also been participants themselves. This quote above is directly from music leader, Josie Newton who is currently delivering work for us, from Early Years to adults and tailored 1:1 sessions. Here is Josie’s story in her own words about how Plymouth Music Zone has travelled alongside her. We hope that it inspires young music leaders and / or participants who want to make a difference in the world using music…

Getting involved…

“In 2006, at the age of 14, I was introduced to PMZ through the Saturday Songwriting club. I had always had an interest in singing, writing and performing but had never found a place, outside my family, which encouraged it. With my friends, every Saturday gave me the opportunity to do something I loved, songwriting and making music.

Through performances at the ‘Summer and Festive Jams’, I was introduced to a whole array of musical groups and projects to support and get involved in. I remember playing to a packed room in the summer of 2006 (the mayor attended!) and only wanting to do more and more. I was incredibly inspired by the whole spectrum of participants of PMZ, and feeling proud that I was one of them.”

Becoming an advocate for PMZ and progression opportunities…

“I became part of the PMZ Forum and the Sing Up group alongside being part of South West Music School, a great opportunity that PMZ had been an essential part in making happen for me.

During this time, I matured personally and musically, and as my music developed, PMZ continued to support and give me opportunities to perform and share my music. My family were a huge support, attending all my gigs and carrying my gear, and helped me continue my musical journey when I was faced with challenges.”

Starting employment…

“In 2010, I was invited to work with PMZ and Sing Up, working with five schools across Devon and Cornwall to compose original songs for a performance and for the national Sing Up website. At the time I was about to release my debut EP, something I was very focused on, and this opportunity allowed me to explore another avenue within music. I loved the work, truly I did. I thoroughly enjoyed working with young people and creating original pieces for the classes to perform. I have treasured a bracelet from one of the schools since; it has the word ‘awesome’ on it because I said awesome a lot!

This project gave me the confidence in my musical ability and planted the seed for working with PMZ as an apprentice. Given my love for music and the relationship I had built with PMZ, it only felt natural for this to be my next step. I enjoyed working and shadowing with several different music leaders in that year, learning from all of them and forming my own way of music leading. In the following years, I worked on several projects I still hold dearly; ‘Nowhere Island’ with the Red Cross and all the Early Years settings I have worked with.”


“During those years as a music leader, I faced several health issues and unfortunately, it took almost that whole time to figure out what was the cause. But PMZ remained a great support and still showed belief in my work, and in me, even when I didn’t. I will be forever grateful for that.

There have been several occasions where sessions have fallen flat, or haven’t worked out the way I planned, and it’s easy to take it personally, or feel you are letting the organisation down. I am grateful for the time I was given in those moments of doubt, because I am now equipped to manage those situations independently and move forward.”

…and finally, some words of advice to emerging music leaders…

“If you’re interested in music leading, my advice would be this –  you’ve got to enjoy the sessions yourself. PMZ’s strength has always been its person-centred, informal, friendly environment and the sessions must reflect that. The sessions should always be shaped around the participants, even if your musical tastes are different! But most of all, bring all your musical and personable strengths to a many sessions you can; work with as many diverse participants as you can, because we could all do with a little bit of wonderful music making in our lives.”

Josie’s website gives details of her other work outside Plymouth Music Zone. See: www.josienewtonmusic.com

As per all our music leaders, sessionals lead varied and busy lives teaching, performing etc. and in some cases, working in completely different fields.  We will share more alumni stories soon of participants who are now on our music leading team.

Many thanks to Josie for sharing her thoughts on her years spent with us and her encouragement of others who are new to music leading or thinking of developing themselves as leaders!


This post was first published on Youth Music Network.