I arrived in Glasgow from a difficult situation, we lost everything… For a musician, losing your musical instruments is like losing part of yourself.
In El Salvador, Gerardo Cruz, 25, was a medical student and a talented, self-taught musician. Arriving with his family in Scotland in 2019, he found himself in Govan, Glasgow, looking to create a new life in the city. He was quickly introduced to the Musicians in Exile project run by the Glasgow Barons.
This brings together asylum-seeking and refugee musicians – providing instruments and space where they build relationships, create music, and rehearse for regular live performances.
Founded in 2017, Glasgow Barons creates community music projects with and for the people of Govan. As well as performing professional orchestral concerts in local venues, they devise and deliver hands-on creative programmes across a wide range of musical genres. The charity is using music to build local pride and to foster self-confidence, connection and resilience.
Gerardo, who plays multiple instruments but principally guitar, is now a regular member of Musicians in Exile. Although settled in another part of the city, he makes his way to Govan each week to take part. The group is a real cultural mix – from Spanish to Scottish to Iranian, and from heavy metal to classical, and everything in between. “We make the songs our own, create something different and try new instruments. I enjoy learning from people from different cultures. It’s a place I feel comfortable, where I can enjoy and share music – and it’s really helped to improve my English.”
Musicians in Exile has been a lifeline: “We didn’t know what to do and we didn’t speak English. Finding this has helped with the stress, helped us settle in, make friends and get to know the city.” As well as making music again, Gerardo hopes one day to return to his medical studies.
2019 was the second year the William Grant Foundation has supported Glasgow Barons, helping the young charity to pursue its growing ambitions to build community through music.
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