| Starlight Music Academy (SMA) was founded in September 1997 by a small group of individuals who were concerned about the lack of available activities for young people living in Peckham, south London and surrounding areas. These young people were also very talented and needed an outlet for their skills. Our vision was to establish Peckham’s version of Harlem’s Apollo and provide a stage for some of the considerable youth talent that existed in Peckham and the surrounding areas. Starlight was to become an outlet for this talent and twelve years on, we continues to nurture and develop local talent.
Our small group of four formed a management committee, constituted the organisation and were almost immediately successful in attracting “traditionally excluded groups” and enabling many of them to achieve their dreams. We have seen that young people who achieve a level of success at SMA performances gain confidence and become successful individuals as success breeds success in other avenues in their life. Many of our participants were progressing on to university and securing well-paid jobs. We discovered that music was scientifically proven to help stimulate the development of the left side of the brain, enhance problem solving techniques, spatial intelligence and educational development. Another added benefit discovered over the years, is that music is also an excellent vehicle for improving community cohesion, self-expression and creativity. As time went on and unemployment amongst young people grew, the need for enterprise and leadership training as well as volunteering placements were identified so these were added to the SMA portfolio to help young people overcome the challenges, which otherwise lead to poverty and disadvantage.
Key partnerships have been established with community specialists, local businesses, schools, voluntary organisations, local agencies and public sector bodies. Through the SMA music programme, young people gain important life skills because they are measured “not by what they start but by what they complete”. Students have to work hard towards performances and winning competitions so this brings out qualities such as tenacity and persistence, life habits, which bring about positive and productive living standards. SMA is currently located on the border of Southwark and Lambeth, which according to the 2001 Census data, are two of the most deprived boroughs in England. We will continue to struggle to provide these much needed services for young people as we can see the huge benefits and difference it makes to their lives.
Written on 21 March 2013, 21.48
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