Kaito Mizukoshi is a Management Sciences BSc student at the UCL School of Management. He tells us about his experience leading a Student-Led Volunteering Project, UCLef. UCLef is a life-long dream realised for Kaito, and a project designed to share the beauty of Western-classical music with those who are socially, economically, and physically disadvantaged. He not only organises events and concerts, but he himself plays the piano and the violin to those who would otherwise not get the chance to be introduced to classical music.
Why did you want to become a Project Leader?
This project is a life-long dream of mine that I wanted to start since I was very young. It became consolidated when I went to high school and started playing the violin. I was inspired by a famous violinist, who is doing a very similar thing that we are now. So, I wanted to disseminate music, because sharing this experience with people is amazing, but also because we are fortunate to have talent, and we must use it for good.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as a Project Leader?
Being the leader of UCLef came very natural to me. Now that we can practice properly, face-to-face, my role overall is to manage our practice. I organise the sessions, and monitor our practices to see if we are effective and productive with our time. Additionally, I have not had a co-Project Leader for a while, so I also manage our concert schedule, and keep in touch with our partner organisations. I need to consider everyone’s schedule, as well as the organisations for whom we are playing. Lastly, I also write articles about the project and post it on our blog.
What difference do you feel you’ve made by leading your project?
We made a great impact on our audience at our concert, greater than I expected to be honest. I was expecting just a regular concert, where we go there, play, have a little fun, and get a little applause - that’s it. Perhaps they would say they are happy we came, and a little mingling after. But in instead, I was astonished to see how much people were enjoying themselves. Some people during our concert at the One Housing Group would be clapping while we played or sung and hummed along with the melody, which was great to see. For our Christmas concert we prepared Christmas songs and I could see that the residents really liked our performance and enjoyed our music from the bottom of their heart. Then, after the performance, several people came to us and told us they are very emotionally touched by our music. They said that they were feeling sad, and isolated due to the pandemic and their life being on halt, but that our music delivered a moment of joy. I felt very happy and proud that we could so clearly realise the essential aim of our project which is to make people feel content through music.
What impact has volunteering, and leading a project had on you?
Being with people who of course I love, and with whom we share a love for music has been very good for my mental well-being. We have many similarities and sympathies even if we are different, and we are brought together by music. I feel very happy to be with them, and I know I won't feel isolated during difficult times as I have this community.
Of course I enjoy performing a lot, but also I really enjoy practicing with these people. The amount of people sharing my enthusiasm for music has exceeded my expectations. While sometimes we had conflicts about our varying interpretations of music, we all know that these clashes of opinion come from individual passion and, I think, from wanting to deliver a piece that we are all genuinely happy with. UCLef is then not just about practicing and giving concerts, but also about creating our own music by sharing our thoughts and interpretations, and I feel very proud of that.
What are the key skills you gained by being a Project Leader?
I've been able to learn project management, as well as leadership skills at the same time. Time management is another thing I learned, having been without a co-Project Leader for so long. I had to do many different things, including scheduling practice, concerts, keeping in contact with organisations, all while studying full-time. My discipline is business management so this role, being a management position is well suited with my expertise of organisational behaviour and managing people. I believe my communication skills were also strengthened, having to navigate sometimes heated conversations about music among our members, and while liaising with partners.
How has your network developed whilst being a Project Leader?
Thanks to this project I could extend my networks considerably, both in terms of fellow students at UCL, and professionals in our partner organisations. We were offered another opportunity to perform in the next three months, and I consider that a great success. Within my project, meeting people, mainly the core members has been great. Sometimes they bring their friends too, who also play music, and who often become friends to us too. Even though we cannot always play together, I am still very happy to connect with other classical musician because it is difficult to find the truly talented people at UCL, as it's not specifically a musical school. Networking with new people was very exciting for me as leader.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you overcome this challenge?
I was leader last year too, during the pandemic, and that was interesting, but I think this year, managing people in person has been more difficult and made me learn a lot. When there are five people in the room with different opinions, especially about music, they have very different interpretations. So, mediating debates about music, and accommodating everyone’s opinion into a concert schedule has been a challenge. On the other hand, I developed so many skills mediating all the differing opinions. Sometimes people’s opinion clash, and I learned how to alleviate conflict.
Brushing up our performance by the deadline was another challenge. We only started practicing for the Christmas concert at the beginning of October, so we had to be super-efficient with our time as we were playing six different pieces together, as well as some solo and duet pieces. We had a lot to go through every week, and naturally, everyone was busy with their academic lives.
Some people felt less comfortable playing with others, and lacked confidence. As leader, it was my responsibility to make sure that everyone felt comfortable and ready to perform.
Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst being a Project Leader!
Online, it was the last concert we offered to One Housing Group. Although it was a remote concert, the streaming was a success, and we played a variety of pieces from a wide range of periods in music history. This year, the best moment was definitely the Christmas Concert - maybe not just of the project, but my own life too. Hearing people truly listen and enjoy our music was priceless.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about being a Project Leader?
I would say just draft your idea and give it a shot. Don't be afraid to be Project Leader because as daunting as it might seem, there is a lot of support available, and realising your dream is worth all the trouble.
Kaito's story is a perfect example of how to take initiative and make a real difference to people's lives. If you think you could rise to the challenge as a Project Leader, check out our Student-Led Volunteering Programme.