What We've Done 2018 - 2022
Since 2018, we have supported 34 live performances in schools by professional musicians. The participating artists have included: three highly regarded string quartets (the Astaria, the Solem and the Carducci); an innovative brass/keyboard duo (Travelling By Tuba) and an outstanding solo pianist (Clare Hammond).
So far, we have extended participation in the programme to 19 primary schools: 4 in Monmouthshire and 15 in Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean), including one all-age school for pupils with complex special needs. The performances have provided over 2600 musical experiences for local children aged from 4-11. In addition, over a period of 18 months, the programme has supported the development of choirs in three schools, funding a talented young local pianist to accompany and lead them.
We also want to provide young musicians with performance and work opportunities. In 2022, we supplied three local schools with a young, recently graduated local pianist to help establish and support their school choirs.
In 2023, we are running an Emergent Artists programme to assist young professional musicians to practice their skills in engaging school children with their music.
These activities have been made possible by funding from two trusts, The Lark Trust and The Peter Stebbings Memorial Foundation, as well as well as generous donations by individual Wye Valley Music Members. Because of the generosity of these donations, we provide local schools with these one-off music experiences free of charge. Schools are only asked to host the visits and to provide feedback (which we use to source further funding to continue our work).
Some Recent Examples
In November 2022, we created some musical memories for local youngsters:
One group enjoyed a clapping competition to an accelerating sailors’ hornpipe. The game was part of a polished and engaging taste of different musical styles from the Carducci String Quartet.
In December 2022, the winter wonderland of snow and ice provided the perfect backdrop for the Travelling by Tuba’s Christmas show. The show gave the children an ‘up close and personal’ experience of a variety of almost anything that can be blown to make a noise, as well as a ‘canon’ made out of a tuba.
We acknowledge that national austerity cuts have hit “non-essential” subjects hard including music. We also recognise that school budgets have little flexibility to provide experiences such as live music. This is particularly true for schools in the more deprived areas of our local communities.
Even our short introductions to classical music can have a positive effect on the children participating in them. Music—listened to and performed—has been shown to contribute to mental wellbeing.
The musical experiences we provide introduce the idea that music can be learned and played by anyone and that it can provide fun, and friendships based on a common purpose.
Learning about a range of instruments and a little of what those instruments can do can ignite a spark in children which some may be inspired to pursue as amateurs themselves. For some, it could even be the start of a professional career in music.
And we can offer aspiring, professional young musicians a chance to conduct community outreach with their art in a most immediate way—by working with pupils at our local schools.
Although it is hard to measure the benefits of listening to live music, we endeavour to check what value we are providing to those organisations who provide our funding. To this end, we ask all participating schools to provide feedback from pupils, staff and parents.
The many schools with which we have worked have shown their appreciation and their interest in follow up workshops and performances.
The children’s responses have been uniformly positive both towards the workshops and musicians.
We hope to reach even more local schools, offering opportunities to secondary as well as primary schools. We aim to enhance and build on what has worked well previously and explore additional ways of engaging professional musicians and local music organisations to provide a taste of live music performed by classically trained musicians to inspire local children.