On Monday 19 July, I shadowed an animateur and two musicians during an orchestral outreach project in a Primary school in Oxford. It was day four of the project and they were using the theme of the solar system to inspire their work.
I came in when they were working on creating compositions using graphic scores. They were using percussion instruments as well as a number of miniature violins to create compositions about black holes, red planets and asteroids. They later performed their works to the rest of the school in key stage 2 as well as performing 3 songs: 2 taught and 1 that they composed themselves.
Some interesting things that I observed:
- I liked the way as a method of crowd control, the animatuer would sometimes call out a word and the children would automatically respond. For example, code words used included quail and shark!
- I was impressed how keen all the students were to try the violins. Playing a so-called ‘proper’ instrument was deemed cool.
- Each of the groups had very different method of approaching the graphic scores. I particularly liked one score in the way that it was circular.
- It was problematic keeping the graphic scores simple as they were given so much freedom at the beginning.
- While playing with the musicians may appear to be the highlight for the students, when watching another group’s work they were occupied by watching the professional instrumentalists.
- The class was good at giving feedback to other groups. Examples like, I couldn’t hear so and so featured highly.
- Amusing one of the adults was more insecure and apologetic at getting it wrong than the children.
- During the concert, the audience were encouraged to listen to the words in the song. When knowing what to listen for, they were much better at recognising the words.
- The class sang their own song the best, possibly because it was more lively and because they took ownership of it.
- The teacher said it was not the musical skills learnt but the social benefits that was great about the project.
Things to bear in mind when designing a schools project:
- Half days are preferable
- There is never enough time, as controlling the class is time-consuming
- Plenty of space is needed for breakout work, and working outside is ideal in good weather
- It is good to have a variety of activities throughout and the project and it should incorporate some quiet learning at the beginning
- It is paramount for the musicians and the animateur to have a prep sessions so that they can prepare for the project