“Music is a creative outlet and exercises my mind in a totally different way.” – student at Huntington school, Yorkshire
When we advocate for music in schools, we often talk about the scientific evidence that music improves academic attainment and the importance of creative expression to a young person’s development. These are both important points, but it’s also worth remembering that music is a lot of fun! As we say in the 10 Things Booklet, ‘music making is not only good for the brain but also the heart.’
This week, to celebrate the start of a well-earned break for many working in schools, we’re reflecting on a small handful of the brilliant lockdown music education projects which have bought joy to children, young people and their families during the pandemic.
Things haven’t been able to carry on as normal, as Encore Youth Choir in Bury show in their video. Whilst reflecting the sadness many feel about being unable to meet, sing, and play together, the video highlights the value which group singing has in young people’s lives.
Numerous music projects have continued at a distance; Norfolk Music Hub collaborated with NYMAZ and Charanga, The Big Sing project transformed into the Virtual Big Sing. This enabled both key worker students in schools and young people working at home to access resources to learn the dance, signing and singing and join in for a virtual singing event. The national event opened up opportunities for 39 different Music Hubs to collaborate and put smiles on the faces of young singers across the country.
In addition to the Virtual Big Sing, in recent years Norfolk Music Service teachers have worked with their schools to create performance opportunities for Make Music Day within their schools and local communities. With all live events cancelled for Make Music Day, the staff at Norfolk Music Service decided to create their own performance to share with their students across the county. The team also created resources to accompany the video for schools and home learners to access to encourage students to keep playing during this difficult time.
Make Music Day is a global event and their successful move to online was a highlight of many music education calendars in June. A particularly brilliant performance came from the winners of the Make Music Day ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ Competition, Reel Youth Media in Edinburgh.
In York, York Youth Orchestra have not been deterred by the lockdown. They’ve recorded the Illustrated Hall of the Mountain King which proved a real challenge without a conductor! They wanted the project (like the originally planned family matinee concert) to be broadly inclusive so they encouraged children from York primary schools to visit the BBC Ten Pieces website, listen to the performance, read the short story they’d prepared and then draw, paint, sculpt their responses and send a photo of the results to York Arts Education. It wasn’t long before they had about 95 trolls, troll kings/princesses, mountains, caves and a few Peer Gynts thrown in – all from children aged 4 to 11. The joy of the project was how it engaged with such a range of children and young people and how effective simple ideas can be. As one parent said, “My daughter was thrilled to see her artwork and hopefully she’ll be playing in the youth orchestra one day. Great to involve and inspire children through collaborations like this”.
If you follow our Newsfeed you’ll know Nottingham Music Hub have done amazing work to develop The Robin Hood Youth Orchestra during lockdown, running international youth music projects like Into the Unknown and Kopanica. The Music Hub have worked hard to provide opportunities for children from across Nottingham City centre to take part in online performances and mass instrumental recordings. Check out staff and children from Nottingham City schools as well as staff from the Music Service’s fun rendition of ‘Tequila’.
Their most recent project MusiQuest2020 is not limited to just school children but is certainly going to be a fun and engaging way to learn about music. Children are invited to join the BBC’s well-known explorer Andy Day for a musical challenge to take them through the summer!
Looking to the future, music curriculums and opportunities for young people to make music next academic year are being carefully planned. As we look back on a ridiculously challenging term for music educators, it’s great to be able to celebrate some real successes. As we’ve seen, music making can continue under the most difficult of circumstances. And it must; because it has great cognitive, social, and cultural benefits but just as importantly… because it’s fun.
Photo Credit: Chris Vaughan Photography for MEHEM Conference 2020