Interview: Music for the Mind

Our BMus alumnus Kell Hallman tells all on his Music for the Mind initiative… 



The last year has been challenging for many with the pandemic and accompanying lockdown having a huge impact on our lives.

Despite the ever-changing situation, it’s been inspiring to see the ICMP community support each other, launch their own projects and work tirelessly in using music for good. 

New project, Music for the Mind, is a great endeavour from BMus Popular Music Performance alumni Kell Hallman, Nacho Stax and Evin Durkin looking at running a series of live gigs to raise money for various charities. 

The trio have now launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the project and we caught up with Kell to find out more…

Could you talk a little about the Music for the Mind project? What is it all about and how did it come together? 

Music for the Mind started as a reaction to the devastating psychological impact the pandemic is having on people everywhere. Lockdowns, isolation, and uncertainty about various aspects of life are all hard enough things to contend with, even without the threat of the virus itself. Furthermore, the music industry is haemorrhaging revenue (80% down in 2020!), and it's been predicted that a large number of musicians could leave the industry. 

A mutual friend pointed this situation out to us, and that few people were doing anything to support these aspects of the struggle. That's when we decided to do something! 

We're running three gigs (whenever the situation permits) to raise money for the Samaritans and YoungMinds. The first is planned as a private event for influencers, journalists, creatives, and mental health brand/charity ambassadors, with live fundraising. The second and third will be public, with ticket revenue going to the charities. All will feature budding artists and musicians.


How did the team behind the project meet/come together?

There are three people behind the project: Nacho Stax, Evin Durkin, and myself. 

We all met through ICMP, despite being on different years of our respective courses. I started an event brand Stagewave with Nacho and a few other peers in my second year, while Evin has his own project, Empathy. This is also aimed at bettering lives through music. 

Evin has experience in raising funds for charity, while Nacho and I have experience running live events. It made sense for us to collaborate and play our part in helping those who needed it.

You recently graduated from the BMus course - what led you to ICMP? And how did you find your time with us?

After my A-Levels, I attended Hertfordshire College of Music. They had strong ties with ICMP, and organised several sessions with ICMP tutors and graduates; after that, I knew I wanted to come. I remember Tim Elsenburg being especially inspiring - the way he talked about music and the community of incredible, passionate people at ICMP really lit a fire inside me.

My time at ICMP was transformative. While the skills and knowledge I've acquired can't be understated, it's the people that made the experience what it was. Being surrounded by so many like-minded musicians from all walks of life." 

What was the most important tips/advice you learned while studying with us? 

It's not all about skill; there are tons of jaw-droppingly good players out there. You also have to be reliable, amiable, hard-working, and have a whole host of ancillary skills if you want to succeed as a working musician. 

Have you any advice on how musicians can maintain good mental health?

For a long time, I personally have struggled with comparing myself to others. Especially with social media's prevalence, comparison truly can be the thief of joy. We are constantly bombarded with others' best moments, which we then compare to our everyday experiences; unsurprisingly they don't stack up. It becomes easy to see yourself as a failure, or un-talented, when behind the scenes it's the same for all of us.

The advice that worked for me was: focus on yourself, and only yourself. Do what you want to do, because you want to do it."

What other projects are keeping you busy at the moment? 

I've mostly been writing and recording drum parts for people, writing articles, and teaching. I've really gotten into the swing of staying creative and productive virtually, and there's a lot to like about it. 

Have you any tips for aspiring session musicians? 

Times are tough right now and the future looks precarious at best, but there will be a way through it all. Music isn't going anywhere anytime soon; even the world of Mad Max had flamethrower guitars! It's all down to how we apply ourselves to whatever new normal is waiting for us. Keep your chin up, be adaptable, and look for opportunity in adversity.

What else does your musical future have in store?

Myself and Nacho play for artist Vincent Bugozi (also ICMP alumni), and pre-pandemic we had big plans for 2020. Lots of shows booked at home and abroad, festival slots, music releases... Virus permitting, we're going to get out gigging again ASAP and make the world dance! As Stagewave, we're eager to start producing some incredible music and shows again. 

Visit the Music for the Mind website to find out more. 

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by Jim Ottewill
January 15, 2021
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