In 1616, Edward Alleyn took action to help improve the lives of his contemporaries, and founded the Dulwich we know today. At this year’s festival, we’ll be looking at similarly dynamic individuals from our community, and finding out more about what inspired them to act.
Jim Trott is the Founder of the Brass for Africa for Charity which aims to make a positive change to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in Africa through brass music and brass music education.
What first gave you the idea to found Brass for Africa?
There wasn’t actually an idea or a plan to start the charity in the first instance, it came about through opportunity and circumstance. As an airline pilot I was flying regularly to Uganda and this made it possible for me to place about 30 unwanted and surplus instruments from my young son’s brass band into an orphanage home in Kampala. This seemed a much better option than the instruments going to scrap. As I continued to visit and work on getting tuition for the children I became aware of how powerful and transforming the music was to these youngsters, who had very little else, and it became more and more important to ensure they continued to get this opportunity.
This year’s Dulwich Festival pays significant attention to Edward Alleyn, and considers how he took the initiative to improve the quality of life in his society. Was there a watershed moment in your life when you became resolved to make a difference?
I wouldn’t say there was a watershed moment, it crept up on me! I became ever more aware of the impact music was having on the children as individuals, seeing them come out of themselves with renewed self confidence and self esteem. I then became aware of the impact the fledgling programme was having on the community as a whole and it became obvious that we had to find away to support the programme so that it could continue and grow.
It’s not uncommon these days, particularly amongst young people, to hear of them wanting to make a and ‘give something back’ to their communities. As someone who has done this with great success, what advice would you offer anyone wishing to make a similar positive contribution to society?
Go for it, take action. There are many volunteer schemes and programmes, both abroad and in the UK, available for young people to get involved. If you can contribute in anyway you will make a difference, if you can do it through something you love, in my case music, then it can be great fun, hugely rewarding and will enrich your life as much as those you aim to help.
Tell us something about how music can have a positive effect on the lives of young people.
There are so many positive effects to learning and playing music and there is much published research to show how it can aid learning and education, but for me the most remarkable effect is how empowering it can be. The ability to play together, and for others, builds confidence, it instills self belief and self worth. Music can give a voice and provide a way to communicate, music is uplifting, it can bring hope, and its great fun!
What would you say is your greatest career achievement?
In my short career as the Director of a charity there have been many highlights, but what pleases me most is that we have been able to employ and train 10 disadvantaged young people from within our programmes to become music teachers. Giving them a living, aspiration and ensuring a future for music education in their community.
What does the future hold for Brass for Africa?
Well the grand plan is to grow the charity, we are aiming to move into 5 African countries and to be working with at least 5000 disadvantaged children and young people by 2020. This is going to take a lot of work and will require a significant increase in our fundraising, but having seen the effects with my own eyes I believe we must continue in our mission to make a positive change to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in Africa through music.