PMZ have run music workshops at Devonport Views, an extra care housing scheme, for many years.  Throughout 2023-2024, music leader Rob Tilsley was joined by University of Plymouth music student, Millie McCabe, as part of PMZ and the Uni’s ‘Knowledge Exchange‘ programme.  Here is the third of four blogs shared by Millie, sharing her experience of working with PMZ.

As a regular member of many of the university’s music ensembles, I have been planning to organise a session for members of our jazz band to go into Devonport Views and create music alongside the residents, many of which have had incredibly musical lives.

On Tuesday 19th of March, I received a message from Rob that the 26th would be the last Devonport Views session with Rob, and with the help of him we were able to organise a handful of musicians from the University’s Small Band to come along.

8 of us left the university campus and headed towards DV, we were greeted by much excitement from the residents, both regular attendees of the sessions, and some newer faces. The session began like every other, a rendition of the: “Devonport Views Blues” which the university students were excited to join in. It wouldn’t be the DV blues if there wasn’t a solo section, and this week had the longest and most energy filled solo section, composed of student solos on their brass instruments, and residents shaking or drumming. This really helped everyone get a feel for the session, and we were then able to continue with residents picking their song of the week for a sing and blow through.

I think sessions like this show that not only the residents gain positive outcomes, but everyone who attends. The Small Band musicians got to relax and have a sing to some older and some hidden classics that the residents enjoy singing along to. For once it wasn’t about right notes and rhythms, scales, or articulation, but feeling good and being one with the room. The happy spirits from the enthusiastic residents eased the musicians into the songs, especially the ones they didn’t know. An important thing to note for me would be that Rob has created a safe space for musical exploration at DV, where residents are the most authentic versions of themselves. This was truly visible when the students came and joined and were encouraged to let loose and “jam out”.

Residents enjoyed the company and indulged in sweet conversations at the end of our time there. Many giving us advice to continue with our instruments and music, despite age and other commitments. Although Rob is going on to new adventures, myself and other students from the university look forward to continuing PMZ’s link with Devonport Views in the near future to be able to provide music through what can often be seen as a isolating period in their lives.