The CMP is trying to make the Cambridge musical community less granularCambridge Centre for Music Performance with permission for Varsity

The website bills itself as “the online Cambridge music resource” in its about page. When I checked before, it recorded a dozen or so student bands that had long since left the university and, we can only hope, gotten jobs and moved away. The page, if visited today, unceremoniously reads: “This site is closed for maintenance”.

The CMP has support from the university for all kinds of music, not just choirs and orchestras

This is the fate of many efforts to link together Cambridge’s disconnected student music groups. College and uni-wide music societies can get people together, or they can host three awkward socials then gradually fade from existence. And you can know all the good venues - primarily nicer pubs with music nights - but if you don’t know students to gig with, chances are you will be tasked with befriending rooms of quiet, beer-clutching older men. Or at least I find I am…

One approach to this problem is the Cambridge Centre for Music and Performance. Unlike other initiatives, the CMP has support from the university for all kinds of music, not just choirs and orchestras. I spoke with Felix Asare, who works as the CMP’s contemporary performance assistant, about the role the CMP is setting out to fill.

Felix was deeply involved with the music in his time at the university, including classical performances and the hip hop scene. ‘Everyone has their own interests and groups’, he says, ‘and the freedom that people have to do whatever music they want is great.’ However, this freedom can also lead to what he calls ‘people asking people’: if your band needs a saxophonist, you ask the saxophonist you know, while anyone else who might be looking to play is excluded. The easiest way to join a band in Cambridge is to know someone in a band. This isn’t a case of deliberate exclusion, but results from the lack of ways to connect Cambridge’s diverse groups and get people talking.

The easiest way to join a band in Cambridge is to know someone in a band

A main goal of the CMP, Felix says, is to give people outside the music scene a way in, and a platform to play their kind of music. As well as rehearsal spaces, in September the CMP began setting up a Band Hub for getting like-minded musicians together - according to Felix, they’ve had around 100 applicants so far.

I like the approach of the CMP - they’re focusing on the granular details of the scene, and trying to connect people and groups in a way that goes beyond word of mouth. They’re also organising outside events such as their band and songwriting competition which both collaborate with institutions inside and outside the university, again bringing the musical community of Cambridge closer together.


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They’ve also been running a series of gig nights at the Portland Arms throughout the term that are free for students, and will continue into Lent. This sounds like a good place to start for meeting like-minded students who are willing to brave the varying demographics of pub gigs. In this way, the CMP is succeeding where other initiatives have failed as they have dedicated access to funding from the university to let them put on events like the free gigs and workshops which would not have been able to happen previously.

It was great to talk with someone like Felix who is so committed to knitting the music scene closer together. The way I see it, it’s not about replacing the many different societies, groups and genres, but improving their access to resources and creating new opportunities for them to get together. Regardless of which projects do or don’t work, it’s exciting to see ways forward.