Aaron (19) is a young man diagnosed with anxiety disorder, Asperger’s and ASD. He was bullied at school and became very anxious in crowds, which led him to be home tutored from year 8. He always had a passion for singing but was very reluctant to access mainstream music activities. He spent much of his leisure time at home in his room playing computer games and shutting himself off from a world that he felt was both frightening and dangerous.
In 2014 Aaron began studying at St Vincent’s College in Gosport and, as part of his course within the learning support unit (LSU), he set himself a personal goal of attending a singing group. After reading about The UVG in a local newspaper he joined the group in March 2015. Although very anxious around large numbers of people his desire to sing and the support given to him by music leaders and peers in the group gave him the determination and tools to manage his fears.
“I have grown out of my shell of anxiety into a proper independent, supportive confident person”
Aaron’s journey with UVG has seen him grow in confidence in both in singing ability and social skills. Prior to attending, he was very anxious around large groups and it was initially surprising but also inspiring to see him singing with up to 40 other young people within a relatively short period of time.
The UVG team worked with Aaron to create an environment that enabled him to participate in the sessions; understanding ‘trigger ‘points; providing both a safe space for him to go and a member of staff to support him if he became anxious. Although he did not feel confident enough to sing at their annual concert in 2015 he did attend the gig and this inspired him to perform his first solo two days later in front of his peers at college. After almost a year of attendance Aaron’s anxiety began to increase at sessions. This was possibly due to an increase in numbers of young people resulting in a decrease in the average age. He would often have to leave the room due to the levels of noise and there was a worry he would stop attending. As Aaron was nearing the age of 18 the UVG Director suggested that he may like to attend the Havant Adult UVG group (AUVG) as the space was larger and the environment more appropriate to his needs. AUVG is a fee paying group however, to ensure that they have a route of progression when they leave the younger groups, we offer ex UVG members free access up to the age of 20. Aaron joined AUVG Havant in March 2016 and has regularly attended ever since. He is now confident enough to take on solos and perform with the group at large events; including an audience of 500 at our 2016 annual concert. He also continues to improve in both ability and confidence at college and has built up strong relationships with staff and peers.
What impact has accessing the UVG activities had on your life?
Before I started coming to UVG, I was a very much scared of doing anything due to my anxiety being so high from bullying. But after I started coming to UVG, I have learned on how to cope with new situations like going out places and doing gigs around 200+ people, where a few years ago I wouldn’t even dream of being able to do what I do now.
Attitude to other people
My attitude towards members of the public and others was a little bad, I used to always hide myself away and try not to talk to people unless spoken to, however I would either ignore them or just try and end the conversation quickly. Now since UVG I’ve been able to meet and speak to new people not just within the UVG family, but in public too and keep a conversation with them.
Improvement in confidence
By coming to UVG, I have gained friends and kept them, which previously I’ve struggled with in the past. I can now do solos which I never thought I would and that has had the biggest positive impact on my life, not only have I gotten the confidence and used it in college, but I’ve done gone out on my own with my friends which I haven’t been able to do for a long time. I’ve now recently passed my driving test which I never thought I would be able to do with my low confidence, but since UVG had helped my so much, I have been able to complete one of everyone’s biggest and important life aspiration.
I’ve became a lot more independent in college and my teachers and class mates say this to all the time, this year I have achieved a cross college (Mainstream) course which I haven’t been able to do for about 6/7 years, the course is Level 2 BETC Crime and Society and next year I’ve been accepted to do a Level 2 AAT accountancy. I have a large group of friends now and I had always only had a few friends.
Perception of others and myself
Most of my life I was ‘’hiding away’’ from other people and stay at home inside my room because I thought that if I went outside I would be picked on, which was somewhat true, but since coming to UVG that’s all changed, I’ve been able to go out on my own to places other than going to UVG without being so scared of wondering if I’ll be beaten. And everyone that goes to UVG make me feel like I am a part of their massive family and make me feel like an equal part of the group and not just someone with needs.
I didn’t have much of any real aspirations before UVG, I didn’t have much of an education at all as I kept moving to different areas and schools, but now I’ve soon got a baby girl and I’m hoping to become the best dad I can be, and I will soon going be doing an evening course at college after September to do the AAT Level 2 Accounting course and become an accountant. But I’ll always keep UVG as my hobby and hopefully in the future be doing gigs for myself.
How have you Improved?
I used to sing when I was younger, but stopped due to bullying, but it was at year 10 when I started to sing again with someone and I felt the passion on music once again. So coming to UVG has helped me wonderfully to get back into singing and help me to find my new voice since I don’t have the voice I did when I was younger. I was helped by their voice couch Sally, and did private sessions with her to help improve my singing even more. Since I’ve found my place at the alto section I look forward to improving and hopefully moving back to mezzo again.
Before starting UVG I found staying in crowds of people above 30 was enough to make my panic, but now I can stand within a group of 100+ and sing in front of crowds of 500+ people without even breaking a sweat. I have grown out of my shell of anxiety into a proper independent, supportive confident person who still somewhat suffers from anxiety because everyone does at some points in their life, but UVG have taught me on how to self-overcome anything if you put your mind to it.
Would I recommend UVG?
I very much do recommend both UVG to anyone with additional needs, it has well and truly opened my world up and I know for a fact that UVG is the reason on why I’m who I am now, without that part of me I know I’ll be on my own in my room, probably even more petrified of the world as I was all them years ago. Amba, Charlie and everyone who works in the UVG team are all really friendly, patient and supportive and gave me support when I needed it and never turned me down when I needed help, they also ensure that UVG is a fun evening that you can go to and become a different person and to ignore any problems you may have in life. I have met some amazingly talented and supportive people while going to UVG and I enjoy going weekly to sing and socialise with everyone. I really am thankful that I found UVG when I did, without this massive part of my life I really don’t know what my life would be like now, but I do know I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Deborah Bull is a teacher in the Learning Support Unit of St Vincent’s College in Gosport. She has been working with Aaron for the past 3 years and over that time has seen a marked change in his attitude and behaviour.
I first met Aaron when he embarked upon a BTEC Vocational Diploma Course at St Vincent. He came across as a very confident, if brash, young man, who could at times, be capable of distracting others in the class with his somewhat dominant personality. It became apparent that much of this was down to Aaron’s anxiety issues which he concealed with his displays of over-confidence.
Aaron expressed an interest in music and performing arts but needed to find an appropriate channel to cultivate this interest. He told me about a group, the Urban Vocal Group, that he was going to consider joining. He did join and since then I’ve seen a great change in Aaron.
He is still a confident, out-going young man but these traits, which were in the past often exhibited in a negative way, are now strengths as they have been positively channelled. Aaron has matured and has a positive attitude which, I believe, has been helped by the self-control and discipline he has experienced in the UVG.
Since joining the UVG, Aaron has also joined the Glee Club at St Vincent and recently participated in the showcase which was performed for college students at St Vincent. I was impressed to see how Aaron demonstrated excellent team working qualities as part of a performance group but he also had the understated confidence to perform a song solo.
In summary, I feel Aaron has benefited from joining the UVG, both in terms of channelling the skills he already possessed and helping him to discover and develop others.