We look at how one primary school in the north-east of England was supported in encouraging even more children to pick up an instrument and make music.
When Paul Dixon, head teacher of a junior school in County Durham, was signposted to Music for All to apply for a grant, he did not think that the process would be quite so easy - or the outcome have such impact.
Paul and his teaching colleagues at Consett Junior School, some 14 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne, have long since recognised the need to develop the whole child with both music and physical education being high on the priority list.
And as a school of more than 200 children with nearly 60 playing band members, the school has always been looking to expand its “crop of instruments”. However, the financial burden of this can be high – especially at times when budgets are tight - so he looked for funding from elsewhere to supplement the school’s music-making resources.
“The application process was a surprisingly pleasant and straightforward experience. Collating the quotes was easy too and once we had completed the online form, it was simply a matter of clicking – and waiting,” says Paul.
“Imagine how thrilled we were when we learned we had been awarded a grant from Music For All for ten pCornets and ten pBones – giving us the opportunity of introducing brass instruments to even more pupils.”
The twenty new instruments – provided by Warwick Music Group – are ideal for schools and bands as being made in plastic means they are both lightweight and durable, and therefore much easier for children to hold and play.
“Our Year Three children – seven to eight-year olds – are desperate to try out for the band but with limited resources it could be well after Easter of their first year before they got a chance. With our new instruments, we can significantly enable larger numbers of children to play and enjoying music,” says Paul.
“The best aspect of introducing instruments to the school has to be the smiles on the children’s faces when they receive their instrument – and especially when they make their first sound. The only challenge we face as a school is to ensure we can allocate sufficient time in school for the children to practice and develop their skills.”
Clearly perseverance pays – for Consett Junior School Band was invited to play at City Hall in Newcastle upon Tyne as part of a charity event in support of Cancer Patient Care. Known as ‘Daft as a Brush’, it is an event based on the Last Night of the Proms.
“We were honoured as we were the only school from around 240 primaries in County Durham to be invited to the event. You just can’t give children that kind of experience.”
And what advice would he give to other schools about making music?
“Ensure you prioritise the foundation subjects. Make music something special in school and don’t limit who it’s for. Ensure music is inclusive – and then step back and watch them grow!”