SoundStorm was founded in 2002 by Dan Somogyi and Steve Harris, who were both deliberately recruited from non-formal music backgrounds. SoundStorm started as a development arm of Dorset Music Service, primarily serving Bournemouth and Poole. Its mission was very much to shake up the existing music education scene and offer a much more inclusive and broad style of music education to all students.
Young people were soon involved in completely different types of music education projects; improvisation sessions, junk bands, South African township choirs, DJ sessions and much more. New sectors of the population were engaged for the first time, such as early years students and young people from challenging circumstances. SoundStorm also had a community remit and rapidly began to support a range of initiatives including Bournemouth Modern Jazz Club, Safehouse Musicians Collective, Boscombe Arts Festival and Dragon of the South Chinese Dance troupe.
Partnerships have been central to SoundStorm’s development and top musicians such as Lincoln Center Jazz, Soweto Kinch, John Harle, Osibisa and Andy Sheppard regularly visited Bournemouth and Poole schools. A professional development and training programme was also implemented for teachers and practitioners.
Tragedy struck in 2008 when Steve Harris, who’s improvised experimental collective ZAUM was by this stage garnering rave reviews, succumbed after a year-long battle with liver cancer.
Following a period of re-focus, new responsibilities were taken on, including managing the wider opportunities programme for Bournemouth and Poole and writing a new Music Education Strategy for the conurbation. By 2009, SoundStorm was back on track, and the partnership with Bournemouth and Poole reaffirmed.
Since then, SoundStorm has gone from strength to strength. A more strategic approach, coupled with its trademark cross-arts and groundbreaking activities, led to a new run of successes. Following a lengthy consultation with schools and other key stakeholders Poole and Bournemouth local authorities separated SoundStorm from Dorset Music Service to make their own music service. This process completed on 31 August 2011.
By 2010 SoundStorm had set up a Music Strategy Group and a partnership of local providers to drive forward music education policies, a forerunner to the current Music Education Hub landscape. In 2012 it was announced that SoundStorm had been successful in its bid to the Arts Council to lead a new Music Education Hub and to Youth Music to be one of 22 national strategic ‘Musical Inclusion’ partners. Pulling in over £1m of music education funding to 2015, a packed programme of activities is planned for the coming years.
In June 2012, Dan Somogyi was promoted “upstairs” to oversee both wave arts education agency and SoundStorm. Claire Lewis came in as new SoundStorm Manager in September 2012.
SoundStorm has worked with over 200,000 young people since its establishment, over 900 teachers, and over 500 musicians. Over 600,000 audience members have viewed SoundStorm performances. In 2012, SoundStorm won the Major Award (the top award) at the 2012 National Music Council Music Education Awards and also a Will Michael Jazz Awards Diploma of Merit, national recognition for a remarkable year.