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First steps into music making at Bristol Beacon Summer School

Young people playing trumpets, clarinets, guitars and percussion perform in a hall.

Our first musical experiences are often the most formative and lasting. They can lead to a life-long love of and appreciation for music.

Throughout the year, we run hundreds of music making sessions, workshops, ensemble classes, and rehearsals at Beacon Music Centre, our creative learning base in Southmead. Each summer we host a Summer School to give young people, who may have never picked up an instrument before, an opportunity to take their first step into music making.

Last month, Abi from our team spent the week up at Beacon Music Centre for the two Summer School sessions we were running: Music Factory and Sound Bites. We caught up with her to find out more about what the young musicians got up to and how she found herself feeling nostalgic for her own formative musical experiences.

By Abi Millican

Starting a musical journey

In a small junior school library, me, a shy curly haired child, began her first clarinet lesson with the finest woodwind teacher in the village.

Initially, I borrowed a well loved clarinet from the school music service and managed to coordinate my fingers and brain and mouth to make some basic melodies.

Many broken reeds and squeaks later, I was sat in the orchestra on Wednesday evenings with friends (who I still hang out with to this day) joyously playing the Black Beauty theme. I still haven’t seen Black Beauty, but hearing the theme takes me back to sharing wonderful musical experiences in the school hall.

It didn’t seem much to me at the time, but I realise 20 years later that those days shaped me and built my confidence, in more than just making music.

The feeling felt familiar – musical energy and excitement pulsed through the building

Abi Millican

A clarinet in its case on some blue velvet padding

Fast forward to August 2022 and I’m working in the Beacon Music Centre office in the last few weeks of the summer, watching the corridors fill with students for our Music Factory and Sound Bites Summer Schools.

And the feeling felt familiar – musical energy and excitement pulsed through the building: these brilliant kids in Bristol, just like the child I was, trying new instruments and exploring music genres.

I hope they left inspired. They might end up playing in an international symphony orchestra, producing, performing in a rock band, DJing, or, like me, making music into adulthood just for the enjoyment of it. These first exciting musical experiences can to lead a lifetime of music making.

About Bristol Beacon Summer Schools 2022

Music Factory

60 children, who may have never picked up an instrument before, joined us from 22 – 26 Aug for a week of musical discovery with Music Factory.

After some team building and ice breakers, Summer School participants were able to try different instruments and then choose what they wanted to focus on learning for the following days, including guitars, drums, keyboards, singing, bass guitar and more. The week ended with a spectacular performance including White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army.

Children who were completely new to music left enthusiastic and excited for the new school year, with more than half of them now booked in to start music lessons for the coming academic year.



“[Our child] came home buzzing every day”



Sound Bites

After the Bank Holiday we welcomed over 170 young musicians to four musical workshops in to Beacon Music Centre. The workshops focused on composing and rehearsing in a new musical genre each day including Klezmer, Blues, Latin and Film Soundtracking.

The young musicians worked in small groups for each genre, coming together for a performance at the end of each day to share what they had learned each day.



“It was lovely to see the enthusiasm the young people brought to the sessions. It’s brilliant to see so many young people continuing their musical journey with us.”

Elizabeth Connell, Education Programme Manager, Bristol Beacon

Listen to Sound Bites

Listen to students in the Sound Bites Summer School perform their own compositions to film clips.

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