SoundStorm was founded in 2002 by Dan Somogyi and Steve Harris, who were both deliberately recruited from non-formal music backgrounds. It started as a development arm of Dorset Music Service but always focused upon the Bournemouth/Poole conurbation because of the funding structure. Its original mission was to shake up the existing music education scene and offer a more inclusive and contemporary style of music education to all students, many of whom were at that time excluded from participating.
Young people were soon involved in very different types of projects to complement the traditional Western classical approach; improvisation sessions, junk bands, South African township choirs, DJ sessions and much more. New sections of the community were engaged for the first time, such as early years 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.
Sadly, in 2008, Steve Harris, whose improvised experimental collective ZAUM was by this stage garnering rave reviews, died after a year-long battle with liver cancer. Dan Somogyi continued the SoundStorm offer on a solo basis.
Following a period of re-focus, new responsibilities were taken on, including managing the Department for Education’s ‘Wider Opportunities Programme’ and developing a new Music Education Strategy for the conurbation. By 2009, SoundStorm was back on track, and the partnership with Bournemouth and Poole reaffirmed.
There began a period of striking growth and development. 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 opted to separate SoundStorm from Dorset Music Service and make it their own music service. This process completed on 31 August 2011.
By this stage, SoundStorm was already operating a genuine partnership model with a range of local and national partners. Thus, in 2012, when tenders were invited to lead Music Education Hubs across the UK, SoundStorm was in a prime position. In 2012 it was announced that we had been successful in the bid to the Arts Council to lead the new Music Education Hub for Bournemouth and Poole. Youth Music also invited SoundStorm to be one of 22 national strategic ‘Musical Inclusion’ partners.
Initially pulling in over £1.5m of music education funding, SoundStorm once again began to grow. In June 2012, Dan Somogyi was promoted to become Director of both Wave Arts Education Agency and SoundStorm. Claire Tudge was recruited as the Manager in September 2012 and Claire Butler became Senior Business Support Officer. Michael Armstrong joined as an additional Manager in 2014, Claire White as additional Senior Business Support shortly afterwards, followed by Helen James as Arts Marketing Officer. Since then we have been lucky to work with colleagues like Rachel Sene and Cathy Murray – the team now includes Jo Farley who joined in 2019 along with Sarah Derwish who is currently covering Claire White’s maternity leave.
SoundStorm has continued with its tradition of inclusive, unusual and exciting music education projects whilst developing a much more robust and comprehensive offer for all school phases since 2015. Infant, primary, secondary and SEND schools all now have an extensive package of support they can access when they sign up for Hub membership.
SoundStorm continues to work with an extensive range of local, national and regional partners, including major organisations and individual practitioners. Funding from Arts Council England currently extends to 2021 and SoundStorm is regularly consulted by national and international partners on upcoming initiatives, including WOMEX, Youth Music and Arts Council.