Royal Birmingham Conservatoire grads host 'Brum Rocks'

From left to right: Reuben Penny, Rob Jones and Rosie Penny

Three Royal Birmingham Conservatoire graduates, who founded Misfits Music Foundation, are set to host the first ‘Brum Rocks’ in July, dubbed ‘the biggest band in Birmingham.’

Reuben Penny, Rob Jones, and Rosie Penny (née Clements) met whilst studying the BMus (Hons) Composition course at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, with Reuben and Rosie also eventually getting married.

Misfits Music Foundation was founded in 2018 by Reuben and Rob, which began as a small voluntary group, with their first project being the ‘Moseley Misfits’. The aim was to create a space where adults who played instruments could come together and make music in a friendly, non-auditioned ensemble.

Rob said: “We designed a system of arranging and composing music that enables adults of all abilities and instruments to take part in Moseley Misfits equally.

“The name ‘Misfits Music’ recognises that it is a space for people who don’t fit into the standard set-up of music groups.”

Reuben added: “Orchestras tended to require auditions or at least a high musical ability to participate. This meant that there were many people who felt that they couldn’t join these groups as they hadn’t played their instrument in a long time and felt out of practice or had picked up a musical hobby as adults but had no group to join. It is these “Misfits” that we wanted to appeal to.”

When the pandemic hit, they found that the need and demand for community and creative activity to improve wellbeing vastly increased, which encouraged them to register as a charity and develop new projects and groups across Birmingham and in Sandwell.

Now, they run a core series of six weekly music groups for adults, and adults with learning disabilities, alongside ambitious one-off projects such as ‘Brum Rocks’.

‘Brum Rocks’ is the Foundation’s latest project and began with two regularly-meeting community rock bands that they run, Moseley Rock Collective and Bearwood Rock Collective. These groups are designed to be encouraging for beginners and for those with more musical skills, and they allow for personal development with continued participation, and aim to break down barriers to entry into music.

To make the project possible, the Foundation were successful in raising a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund - The People's Projects, which involved the project being featured on ITV News, with the public having a chance to vote for their favourite.

‘Brum Rocks’ has already involved over 60 free rock music workshops for adults across Birmingham and Sandwell.

‘Brum Rocks Live’ will take place at Forum Birmingham on Sunday 14 July and bring together all of the participants.

Those who attend will have the opportunity to be part of the premiere performance of the newly commissioned Anthem for Birmingham, called ‘Brummie Steel’, penned by Birmingham Poet Laureate Jasmine Gardosi.

Rob said: “It will be a chance to come together to celebrate Birmingham in all its wonderful talent and diversity and is something truly positive for our city.”

Rob undertook a joint degree in Saxophone Performance and Composition for the first three years of his studies, before turning his focus mainly to Composition for his final year.

Alongside Misfits Music Foundation, Rob is a Freelance Composer, Music Teacher, and Freelance Community Consultant, providing advice and guidance for other people who want to develop community projects across Birmingham. He is also a Visiting Lecturer of composition and arranging at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Of his time at RBC, Rob said: “It's a really special experience that I will never forget.

“Our course was crucial for us to have the creativity and skills we need to run Misfits Music Foundation. Technically, we need to know how to arrange music, compose music and be able to coach performers. But we also need to be very adaptable and creative which is something we honed through our degrees at the Conservatoire.”

Rob’s advice to RBC graduates is to build good relationships with your fellow students and illustrates this by now working with fellow graduates Arjun Jethwa and Shannon-Latoyah Simon, who are Trustees of Misfits Music Foundation.

Reuben also works as a local Event Photographer, an interest that began at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His advice to RBC graduates is to be humble and open to the idea that your next steps into your chosen career path will challenge you in ways that you will never expect.

Rosie is now a Freelance Producer having worked on events including Flatpack Film Festival, and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies. She is also a Director of Propel Dance, the UK's first all-wheelchair professional dance company.

Rosie said: “I really enjoyed studying at the conservatoire; I was so impressed with the range of skills and experiences we were offered and encouraged to develop throughout the course which set me up for a life post university.”

Find out more about Brum Rocks

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