This blog is part 5 of a series of case studies about the work of hub partners in reaching more young people with music in Gloucestershire. Case studies are taken from our most recent annual report so some programmes will have ended, but they are representative of the work of the hub that is ongoing.
This year saw the continuation of the MMG and Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning (GHLL) funded term-long Vocal Projects delivered by The Songwriting Charity. The programmes help young people to create their own song, which is then performed, recorded and filmed.
This year the projects extended to seven of the county’s secondary schools and one primary. The focus was to include as many children from as broad a range of backgrounds as possible with three clear aims, which were to:
- achieve a good gender balance (increasing access to singing for boys in particular)
- increase the number of students who have struggled to access and maintain any regular singing
- continue to develop new ways for young people to engage with singing though songwriting, lyric writing and instrumental work, as Director Ben O’Sullivan explains, “responding to the songwriting process and ‘unlocking their singing voices almost by accident”.
The gender balance this year was good, with 96 boys and 72 girls takingpart in vocal projects. Cleeve School’s programme involved all boys, and Ben says: “It gave us confidence that music educators and headteachers are keen to encourage boys to sing. And just as importantly,” he continues, “that boys them selves genuinely love singing in a group, get a lot from it, and respond well to being encouraged to shine as singers and songwriters.”
The video from the programme, featuring the song, ‘Strong’, attracted a lot of attention, achieving 6,000 plays on YouTube in January alone – watch it here.
The Songwriting Charity also worked with Gloucester Hospital Education Service in partnership with The Music Works, and ran a whole school primary songwriting project involving 180 students across the key stages.
Pilot data on attendance from the programme in Newent school shows a marked improvement in attendance averaging a 55.2% reduction in absence, compared with the same period in the previous year, when the project didn’t run. This means that students taking part increased their attendance by 43 extra days in school overall.
In addition, six of the students now have 100% attendance, compared with only one before the programme began.
The Songwriting Charity is now working with schools to increase the scope of the study on attendance, exclusions and progress.
The Songwriting Charity has now worked in more than half of the county secondary schools (19 of the 39) and five others through G15 schools concert, and one-day workshops.
This blog is part 1 of a series of case studies about the work of hub partners in reaching more young people with music in Gloucestershire. Case studies are taken from our most recent annual report so some programmes will have ended, but they are representative of the work of the hub that is ongoing.
It’s unusual for Groove On to take their work beyond ‘first access’ with the same group of students, but at Innsworth Junior School they were able to do just that.
Their Whole Class Ensemble Teaching residency in Summer Term 2016 involved children they had worked with two years before, at Innsworth Infants.
At the infant school, Groove On music leaders Eddie and Elaine Furness had worked to give children the foundations of all music skills – especially listening and basic ensemble skills.
Two years later, we’re pleased to see how these children, now in Year 4, were able to tune in to more sophisticated music and take part in a large scale performance with lots of changes and more exacting demands.
The Dragon Song performance involved around 75 performers. Some parts of the piece involved all children; some sections were performed by separate classes; some individual children were featured as soloists.
The opening of the piece described the Dragon’s cave, dripping, dank and glittering with gold and treasure; the drums and percussion represented the stomping dance of the fiery creature; and the piece was exquisitely topped off with interlocking patterns from the xylophone orchestra, including two great jazzy solo improvisations.
You can read more case studies in our Annual Report
Some of you may remember Kirsty from her days of teaching music around the County. After working in Swindon for the last ten years Kirsty has returned as Executive Director for Gloucestershire Academy of Music…
Those of you who have had as long a career as mine will know that things go in circles. My professional loop brings me back to Gloucestershire following a 10-year stint in Swindon, running an arts education agency and then as a director of arts specialism in a secondary school.
In September, I was delighted to take up the post of executive director for Gloucestershire Academy of Music, working with the dedicated GAM team of administrators, teachers and trustees.
I started work in Gloucestershire in 1998, teaching music at Foxmoor Primary School. I then went on to co-ordinate the vocal strategy and deliver school and early-years CPD for Gloucestershire Music. At the same time, I was the regional officer for Youth Music, the national music education charity. It was a heady time. There was an air of optimism, plenty of development funding and a determination to stream-line music opportunities for young people and create new partnerships between providers. I enjoyed working with a huge variety of musicians and learning about our diverse musical ecology: traditional music, early years’ music, western classical music, jazz, Asian and African music, cathedral and choral music, rock and music technology. I met gig promoters, brownie leaders, youth-club workers, playgroup leaders, teachers, community activists and policy makers.
At this time, I came across Gloucestershire Academy of Music (or GAMPA, as it was called then). I visited one of their summer courses based at Beauchamp House, outside Gloucester to advise them about Youth Music funding. My perception was that GAM delivered music courses to groups of happy, enthusiastic children and young people who were making rapid musical progress in western classical music and getting masses of exposure to ensemble playing, sight-reading and great quality tuition.
How has GAM developed during the intervening years? The ethos and ambition remain, but GAM’s scope has increased hugely. GAM worked last year with nearly 700 children (90% of whom attended state schools) and 100 adult learners and these numbers look set to grow significantly this academic year. GAM employs 40 teachers. It has an impressive record of retaining its learners and providing progression routes (for example, 21% of the 142 young players taking part in The Big String 2018 in Gloucester Cathedral this month are Grade 7 and above). 27% of our Big-stringers will be playing in a music ensemble for the first time.
Whatever our approach or musical genre, we all want to ignite that spark which will instill a life-long love of music in our participants. I know that some GAM students have their sights firmly set on a career in the music industry, but many more will continue their participation in music-making into adulthood, as I have done, as an amateur, enjoying all the social and well-being benefits that this brings. I sing with The Oriel Singers (under the baton of Ben Sawyer) and am a recent recruit to Gloucestershire’s Community Gamelan.
Every fortnight I work with a wonderful group of singers called ‘The Wallace House Warblers’, all older people, some living with dementia. It’s a completely joyful afternoon and a tangible, visceral reminder of the transformative effects of music participation.
So, back to circles, and here we are again, fighting for music’s place in the curriculum, making the case for music’s contribution to well-being, trying to fill the gaps in provision and reach those people who need music most. GAM is glad to be a member of the Make Music Gloucestershire partnership, working towards achieving this in Gloucestershire.