Musical transitions

This week I had the absolute pleasure to listen to, and play with, the Nottingham City Music Service Area Bands. They had agreed to play at Directors Forum #df2011 and around 80 children, mostly from Year 5 and 6, came along to perform a number of pieces. They were fantastic. Of course they were all enthusiastic, they were dedicated, the concentration was palpable, there were a number of proud parents in the room, some brilliant teachers and truly engaging and supportive adult supporters. It really was an excellent performance. First up they played Carmina Burana, followed by Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and then The Passenger.

Not sure what The Passenger sounds like? Bet you do, it’s the Iggy Pop song that has been used for the most recent T Mobile ad – you can listen to the Trombone part here:

MF Transition Project: Trombone

Why am I telling you this? Well there was a twist – we were encouraged to join in. Now I don’t consider myself to be very musical, I can sing reasonably enough, and played four different recorders as a youngster, but it is *years* since I have done anything even vaguely musical. Nothing could phase the conductors though, indeed they were confident they could teach anyone to play the required part on the violin or cello.

…You know what’s coming don’t you, I jumped onto a Cello and I can honestly say I haven’t had such a great time in a long time. I am still suffering with a sore finger – no doubt from pressing my strings too hard in all my excitement but it was brilliant. It was fantastic to practice something, relatively simple (we only needed three different notes), to feel like you made progress so quickly, to feel part of something bigger, to really enjoy it without too much pressure. The children and teachers who showed us what to do were amazing, very patient and oozing enthusiasm.

The National Music Transition Project is a pilot project working with Year 6 students who are due to leave primary school, they learn an arrangement and leave primary school confident in their ability to sing and play it. Then in the first half term of secondary school Year 7 teachers work with children to create an extended arrangement. In Nottingham the number of children who give up playing a music instrument on transfer to secondary school is staggering, ‘68% of those playing instruments in primary schools had given up two months into Year 7. It is a similar story across the country, hundreds of children who stop playing music once they move into secondary education.

The project supports primary schools to introduce The Passenger into their instrumental work, and encourages secondary schools to talk to their feeder primaries and schedule sessions that are based around The Passenger at the start of the year, to enable primary school children to show what they can do musically. You can find out more about the Transition Project on the Musical Futures website. Audio and video resources are available alongside a Teacher Resource Pack.

I know I’m not the target audience of this project, unfortunately I left primary school a long time ago, but at that time I stopped playing recorder. I didn’t feel confident enough to try out for the school orchestra, I did fancy playing the Trombone but after a couple weeks of practising in our terraced house (and not too much progress) my folks put a stop to that. I think this project has huge potential to ensure people don’t lose the love of singing or playing – a number of us spoke over dinner about the fact that as adults we didn’t tend to sing or play any more – I’d recommend it, even if just once in a while, it really did wake up a very latent part of my self! Now anyone know anyone who gives Cello lessons in Devon….

(cc) Photo by Lance Shields on flickr

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3 thoughts on “Musical transitions

  1. Sounds like a brilliant project. Sadly a lot of young people have to stop learning because of the costs involved. We are retying to capitalise on the Glee effect and get some youth choirs going so hopefully there will be some joyful noises from Torbay soon!

  2. Hi, Im a teacher at Huntingdon Primary School, St. Ann’s, Nottingham. We attended the event with our school band.
    Thanks to all the directors who made the evening such a pleasure for the children, they really playing and loved showing adults how to play! So hats off to a fab group for making the children’s day.

    Paul Hopkins.

  3. Hi Paul, the pleasure was all ours. Seriously, a week on I’m still raving about it to anyone who’ll listen. In fact am sat watching Glasto and wondering whether any of your young stars will be on that stage in the future. Whether they chose that path or not, I’m confident they’ll remember their school music days fondly – so thank you to you and your colleagues for that, George

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