A Cup of Tea with Personal Development Manager Hermione Jones
Hermione Jones joined the ITT office team in 2013, but that’s not how we first met her. Now her role has evolved, so we asked her to tell us all about being our Personal Development Manager and what it’s like working so closely with our participants.
Hermione will be delivering two workshops about her role as part of ‘Taking Off’, Sound Connections Challenging Circumstances Music Network conference, on Tuesday 17th November – full details and how to book are here.
ITT: We first met in 2012; how did you originally become involved in the Trust’s work?
Hermione Jones: An email popped up in my inbox while I was studying at the Royal Academy of Music, offering the opportunity to join the pilot of Sounding Out as a support musician. I was about to graduate and had become very involved with the Open Academy department. My motto was to reply ‘yes’ to any opportunity that came my way, it just so happened that this particular one was incredibly exciting and ended up changing the course of my career.
ITT: You joined the office team in 2013 as ‘Projects Manager’ but your role has gradually evolved and you’re now our ‘Personal Development Manager’. Can you tell us what that involves?
HJ: My first week of the job was on a Making Tracks project. So it was very much a case of jumping in at the deep end. The community work was still very new for the Trust and it became apparent that the young people needed a lot more support in order to fully engage and benefit from the project long term. That’s how my new role came about.
My focus is on forming strong trusting relationships with participants in order to support them through the course of a project and beyond. At the heart of it, for me, is the belief that each person possesses huge amounts of potential and deserves to engage meaningfully in a project of integrity and value.
ITT: What motivates you about working for ITT?
HJ: The participants. They are a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me. I feel very lucky to be in a position where I am able to support them to achieve things they perhaps didn’t think were possible. It’s a challenge, it tests me, but ultimately it is incredibly rewarding. Getting a phone-call from a past participant about their new job or college course or seeing someone’s face when they get their Arts Award certificate – it’s very moving.
ITT: What sort of changes do you see in participants during the course of a project?
HJ: It’s not an exaggeration to say that some people are almost unrecognisable after a project. I’ve met up with people a few months later and been completely overwhelmed by the difference in them. What’s great about Making Tracks is that so many of them stay involved and keep in regular contact. It’s great to see people develop as they return to the project as mentors, volunteers and ambassadors. It’s not a short-term project, it’s something that provides opportunities for people and continues to nurture and support them.
ITT: Have there been any standout moments during your time with ITT?
HJ: A participant wrote a song for me once to say thank you. It was the last session and she had written and rehearsed it as a surprise. That was a moment where I felt quite overcome by the transformation of that person and incredibly privileged to have been a part of that change. Before the project she wouldn’t sing in-front of anyone and had no confidence in herself or her abilities. To see her belting out a song she’d written, commanding the space, with a massive smile was an image that will stay with me.
In general though, the stand out moments would have to be at the end of each Making Tracks project, sitting in the audience and watching the group perform. When you know what people have worked to overcome, and you can see them sharing something in such a positive way, it can be very emotional. There have been A LOT of laughs too though, it’s not always intense and full-on!
ITT: Are there any exciting projects coming up for you?
HJ: I’m looking forward to Sounding Out starting up again next year. That’s how I first became involved with the Trust, so being a part of that again in a different capacity will be exciting and present new challenges for me as I see how my role fits in. Making Tracks will also be expanding to East London, so it will be a busy time!
ITT: How important is music to you? Can you tell us a bit about your musical background?
HJ: For me music is an important form of self-expression. It’s a means of communication that has the power to impact on people and their lives in often quite unexplainable ways. I certainly found that to be the case from a young age, but as I’ve developed it has taken on a new meaning and purpose. I decided I wanted to be a cellist when I was 11yrs old and spent many years practicing long hours (often in small spaces without much/any natural light) in a rigorous and self-disciplined fashion. It doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, but at the time it didn’t bother me at all! In the end though, I realised that what really drove me was sharing music with people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to access it.
ITT: Is there a piece of music or song that has particularly inspired you?
HJ: Well, the Elgar Cello Concerto (played by Jacqueline du Pre) is the reason I wanted to play the cello. So I guess that would have to be one. Apparently, I used to listen to it curled up on the sofa, hugging my cello, crying. Which is pretty intense, but something about it obviously had a profound effect on my 8yr old self!
ITT: What do you like to get up to in your spare time?
HJ: I have always secretly wanted to be a tap dancer, but it wasn’t until a year or so ago that I actually bought some tap shoes and started going to classes. I don’t go that regularly any more, but I did learn some basic steps and a routine to ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ by Cyndi Lauper. If I’m ever feeling a bit stressed out, I’ll put some Fred Astaire on and practice my paradiddles (that’s a technical term).
I’ve also recently started a course in Psychotherapy and Counselling, so I’m been doing a lot more reading!
ITT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Did you take it?!
HJ: “Do it so it’s done.” That’s what my Dad always says (I think he picked it up from my Mum). I definitely say it a lot, and try to do it…so it’s done.
ITT: Good advice! Thanks Hermione!
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