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Creating new songs and unlocking voices with The Songwriting Charity

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.

You can read more case studies in our Annual Report


Analie Hart: Primary music – top tips for resources and support

Heron Primary School Analie Hart

There are lots of resources available out there for primary music teachers, but knowing how busy we all are, we also know it’s not always possible to find/access them.

With this in mind we asked Analie Hart, from Heron Primary, to put together her ‘top tips’ for resources and support that range from ‘free’ to ‘great value’

What can you get for FREE?

  • BBC Ten Pieces – a fantastic project exploring ten pieces of classical music with loads of video clips and resources. You can order a free DVD and also download a fantastic free e-book all about instruments of the orchestra. Visit the website
  • BBC Musical Mysteries – this is a fun website exploring different musical elements. Visit the website
  • MMG website and monthly enewsletter – make sure you are subscribed to the newsletter. It will keep you up to date with news and opportunities for you and your pupils, and local and national resources. The website is also full of helpful articles, advice and links. Visit the website. Sign up for enewsletters. Follow MMG on Facebook and Twitter
  • Espresso – if your school uses Espresso, there are some great resources and video clips under the Music section.
  • YouTube – if you are able to access it from school, YouTube is full of fantastic resources.
  • Linking with other local schools – you may find that your local secondary school would love to create a link with you. For example, this might be bringing their choir to perform at your school or allowing you to use their resources.
  • Free support session from a music specialist – did you know that you can have a day’s input (up to three hours in-school) from a music specialist to help you with developing music in your school? This will be tailored to your needs. Visit the webpage
  • Small Grants of up to £1,000: did you know that you can apply for a grant of up to £1,000 to develop extra-curricular music in your school? One example is a school that bought a set of Djembe and then paid for a specialist teacher to lead the African Drumming Club. One year on and the club is thriving with a small financial contribution from parents each week. Find out more

What can you get that’s very low cost?

  • Cheltenham Music Festival – every year the Cheltenham Music Festival offer a series of heavily subsidised workshops for schools, approx. £30 per workshop. They also invite children to a concert at the Cheltenham Town Hall with an optional workshop afterwards. The cost is generally £1 per child and is an amazing opportunity for children to experience live music. Make sure you are on their mailing list to ensure you have up to date information. Visit the website.
  • Charanga Music – MMG subsidise the cost of Charanga music (an online music scheme), bringing it down to £150 per year. The scheme is proving very popular across the county. You can get a free 30-day trial to get an idea of what is on offer. There are also free training sessions. Visit the Charanga website or the MMG website for more information.
  • Cluster singing events – Contact Lisa Mayo, MMG’s Singing Champion, to find out about being part of Cluster Singing Events.

What can you get that’s great value?

  • Young Voices – an amazing opportunity for children to perform as part of a huge choir with thousands of other children. Our local one is Birmingham, usually in January. An unforgettable experience for the children. Visit the website.
  • Music for Youth – another fantastic opportunity for schools as well as young people. Enter your music group and you could get the chance to perform at Cheltenham Town Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall and even the Albert Hall! Visit the website.
  • The Songwriting Charity – will come in and work with a class or group of pupils to create their own unique song in a day. This can be accompanied by a video. To see the high standard of their work have a look at some of the songs and videos on their website or YouTube
  • The Music Works – services include whole class iPad/music tech programmes, small group music mentoring for students at risk of exclusion, low attainment, mental health problems, singing programmes. Visit the website.
  • Gloucestershire Music – offer whole class ensemble tuition on a variety of instruments including violin, clarinet, recorder, brass, percussion and ukulele. Visit the website.
  • Groove On – offer world whole class percussion in blocks of 10 or 20 weeks, or half/full day sessions. Visit the website.
  • Gloucestershire Academy of Music – offer whole class woodwind, string and brass tuition in blocks of 20 weeks. Visit the website.

To find out more about the offers above, as well as other partners of the Hub, download our latest Schools Brochure here.

We hope you’ve found this list helpful. If you know of any other resources and/or support that you think should be included please let us know – email Brenda Whitwell

Good luck with developing the music in your school!

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