Page 1

Students in Converge A guide by Simon Bolley

Simon Bolley first got involved with Converge as a second year music student volunteering to run a short five week course in African Drumming for people who use mental health services. Simon continued to work alongside Converge and has been key to developing our Music courses, with his particular style and love for improvisation he was a natural at growing and supporting the ‘Experimental Jam’ sessions. Simon was the natural choice for undertaking a piece of student led research to help us, to better understand how Converge can support the role s of York St John University Students working with us. Simon graduated with a BA in Music and is currently studying for his MA in Music Composition. As an emerging artist, freelance teacher and successful musician, he is well known drummer and guitarist, having both a singer/songwriter practice and playing in a number of bands including the brilliant ‘Montego Bay’. Here he presents his research finding as a guide for future students.

Attributes of the Converge workshop leader. Here Simon provides guidance on the attributes and attitudes needed to be a good Converge workshop leader. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Treat people as people: as you would wish to be treated yourself. Be yourself! Don’t worry about being patronising, just be genuine. Accept but don’t dwell on or highlight and peoples differences or issues. You are working with an incredibly diverse client group. From the technically able, to the technically challenged, and from the very sociable to the reclusive, so your session needs to be simple enough that all can participate, but interesting enough that none are bored. 6. Create a welcoming, open and empowering environment. The best thing for me about Converge workshops, are that it is a community where I feel accepted, open and able to just be myself. 7. Whilst being gentle, we must also give firm clear instructions, being unafraid to repeat ourselves, the fact is that some people will need to be firmly or repeatedly spoken to, others less so. We must learn our participants and get to know them. 8. We must abide by health and safety guidelines and all that Jazz. 9. Natural light is good. 10. Pay attention to the finer details, all this goes into setting the scene for your workshop and it is the environment that produces a good atmosphere and good work. 11. The aim of the Converge workshop leader must always be the integration of the participant. If we spent a whole session simply chatting, but everyone felt involved and able to share, then it would have been a successful workshop. 12. A good workshop leader can read the mood of the group, and has the solution to a variety of possible problems. 13. A workshop is a composition, improvised but structured. A good leader must have a sense of flow, dynamic, and again intuition. 14. Respect your participants, and put the planning in. That said, don’t be afraid to go with the flow, and follow an idea of inspiration. 15. What kind of person are you? I am someone who will go into a room with a clear defined purpose, and no plan of how to achieve it. Then I proceed to use any and everything at my disposal to achieve that purpose. On the whole, this works for me. The other extreme, is the person who goes in with a 6 week lesson plan, and a minute by minute break down of each activity, this also works. 16. Whilst in the workshop, be polite, kind, genuine, if you ask someone a question, pay full attention for their answer, treat each person as valuable. It is these things that make a workshop experience worthwhile for all at hand.

17. Do not feel you have to answer every question; some are not made to be answered. Know your plan, know the reasons behind your activities, but don’t always feel obliged to tell everyone why. 18. Start off at ground level, a simple introduction, a very simple warm up. Say away from such words as ‘should be easy’ you don’t know what should or should not be easy for them. Stick to words of encouragement where possible, but don’t overdo it. Applaud achievement with body and smile, and a calm honest word on top. ‘well done’. And then move on. 19. Give time for free learning, this allows the participant to go at their own rate, and to take ownership of their learning. 20. Stick to what you know, don’t feel you have to have all the answers, don’t presume because someone doesn’t get it their stupid, or that they can’t, but don’t expect everyone to get everything, know when to stop pushing an issue. 21. There are many aspects to an art. It is the interpersonal nature of our workshops that is universal. 22. I work with improvisation because it’s a mini society, where all the difficulties and challenges of life are represented, and where these issues can be challenged and assured, in the safety of the room. I will fight tooth and nail for my brood. 23. John Stevens book Search Reflect is the ethos that I grew from. His games are wonderfully constructed from years of hands on experiential research. 24. Pulse. Rhythm, harmony, melody, listening, interaction, reflection. 25. Instilling the ability to listen, and respond appropriately, then to reflect, is what we are looking to teach. We do this through our discipline. 26. Whilst we are not there to be therapy, the interrelated and often ignored issue is that being labelled with a mental health problem is marginalising, and often means an exclusion from society, and a feeling of inability to interact with society. 27. Your aim is to breed inclusion 28. Education: learning something makes you feel better, feel like you are doing something worthwhile, valuable, it improves self-esteem. 29. If you look out for the group, they will learn to look out for each other. 30. The workshop sessions should be heading somewhere. 31. Plan your sessions with various outcomes. I ran my first set of sessions with the simple aim of having a group performance that was recorded and played back to the group at the end of the session. 32. Start simple, and play to your strengths, and most of all, don’t panic.

The Roles of the student working with Converge The student working in Converge has a number of roles: 1. The workshop facilitator: This role is to take charge of actively running and planning the sessions on a weekly basis. 2. The Student participant: The importance here is to model ideal participant behaviour (being attentive, fully participating in the activities etc.). The aim is to enable the participants to engage fully in the workshop - the gentle nudge or quite word in the ear allows the facilitator to get on with the job of guiding the session. Being alongside the participants and learning with them can be a useful way of engaging with participants who might be shy of the facilitator as an authority figure.

3. The shared leadership role: under the guidance of the facilitator, student volunteers are empowered to run and lead parts of the session. This is an important role, and one that naturally leads on from the participant student role. Not only does it give the participants a varied experience of leadership, it give the students valuable experience in workshop leading and help them decide if they wish to take the step into facilitating in their own right. 4. The student mentor: in this role students who have been facilitating for a while and gained experience and confidence can still play an active part of Converge and impart their valuable and hard learnt knowledge to less experienced facilitators. This could range from regularly meeting with facilitators, helping with the planning, attending a few sessions, to meeting occasionally or simply through email contact. This role again is vitally important, as without it all of the experience of facilitating a Converge workshop is lost. The beauty of this role is that it allows ex-facilitators to stay involved and in touch even after having left the university.

An example of a workshop plan. Here Simon provides an example of a workshop plan TIME







Sitting where we like, introduce ourselves.

Sitting in the pre –arranged circle of chairs.

Chairs, Circle,


Beach Ball Icebreaker

Lauren to lead: Standing or sitting, participating, throw and catch the ball, answering the question your thumb lands on.

Sitting or standing within group of chairs.

Beach Ball (or similar) with Questions written on segments.

Boom Whackers Warm Up

Simon to lead.

Stand round chair circle, focus on Simon, Leaders spread for questions and support.

Boom whackers with octave caps.

Sitting in circle with Drum. Focusing on Harry and Tom, knowing they have the support of a leader near by.


Still in circle, sectioned off into rhythm set by Harry and

Djembe, pre set up Roland Edirol recorder attached to

(8mins) 13.10

Hitting boomwhackers on the backs of the chairs follow Simon’s instructions.



Drumming Main Activity

Tom and Harry Lead, sitting everyone inside the circle with a drum, Simon and Lauren spread out to help individuals and lead a rhythm. Harry and Tom lead discussing some history, then basic technique, then go into rhythms, then try rhythms together again.



Stand Behind chairs spaced between participants, keeping attention

Record Piece

Continuing in our positions, Simon to deal with recording and play back devices, everyone

Use just a diatonic scale for pleasing effect.

else as they were.

Tom, led by either S,H,T,L.

amplifier and speakers.

Listen and enjoy, encourage praise and positive response.

Sat in circle, Focusing on number task, which gives participants time to calm down. /leaving, taking drum to the corner as they go.

As above, door, exit strategy.

(5mins) 13.50

Playback and Warm down


Lauren to Lead warm down, number game into rainstorm. Remain seated where you are, for number game try to get to 20. For rainstorm copy Lauren. Leaders collectively to close off, thank all for participation, and give goodbyes.



Pack Away

Encourage out any Joyful yet stragglers, pack away calmly on their recording and play way home. back equipment, boomwhackers, Djembe, and chair circle ready for next users of the room.

Boomwhackers, Beach Ball, Djembe, Beaters, Edirol, Amplifier in cupboard.

Workshop planning sheet This is a useful resource to help you plan your workshop. You will find an example below. TIME





Simon's guide for YSJ Students  

A guide and practical tips for York St John Students working with Converge. The guide was developed by Simon Bolley as part of a student led...