Spreading the classical music bug to boost school achievement

25 Jan 2013 15:40:12.097


Music students from The University of Nottingham will be mentoring primary schoolchildren in the city as part of a new scheme to tackle social deprivation through music.

It’s all part of a project inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema programme which has taught music to children and young people in South America with astonishing results for over 30 years.

The aim of the new UK-based In Harmony programme is to give children from poorer backgrounds the chance to learn a musical instrument, nurture undiscovered talents and boost their confidence. It’s hoped the project will also improve attendance at school in deprived areas and raise academic results.

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A musical collaboration

Nottingham’s City Council Music Service, the University and the East Midlands-based professional orchestra Sinfonia Viva were awarded more than half a million pounds to run one of six ‘In Harmony’ projects in the UK funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education.

Sixteen second and third-year students studying in the University’s Department of Music have been chosen to act as mentors to pupils at four inner city schools. The junior school children are all being given the chance to learn an orchestral instrument with free professional tuition. The schools taking part are Dovecote School, Clifton, Mellers School in Radford, Robin Hood School in Bestwood and William Booth School in Sneinton.

Discovering talent to transform lives 

Dr Nanette Nielsen from the University’s Music Department said: “Being an In Harmony Mentor is a pioneering role, and our students gain invaluable experience contributing to this important, highly creative and effective music education. The Department is thrilled to be able to offer such an amazing opportunity to our students – an experience with the potential not only to have a transformative impact on the lives of children and communities, but also on the lives of the students themselves, adding hugely to their professional portfolios and personal development.”

Third-year music student Nirali Shah said: “The unique teaching experience of In Harmony will prove to be a challenge, no doubt, but the prospect of inspiring and encouraging children to be creative with their instrument, as well as sharing my love and passion for music, will be an exceedingly rewarding experience.  I’m incredibly excited to be involved with this music programme as it will present me with a rare opportunity to gain an insight into and inspire the lives of underprivileged children in Nottingham.  I’m certain that the various skills I will develop throughout the In Harmony scheme will prove invaluable, especially if I am to consider a career in education.”

Tackling deprivation

City councillor, David Mellen said: "In Harmony will be a huge boost to city children by helping children who otherwise might not get the chance to learn an instrument to discover all forms of music. A lot of children in our schools now learn instruments, with more than 600 performing in the Royal Concert Hall before Christmas. In Harmony will build on this. We were one of just six projects in the UK to win the funding award which is a tribute to the strong reputation for musical education in Nottingham."

Chief executive of Sinfonia Viva, Peter Helps said: "The long-term and intensive nature of this project means we have a real chance to have a transformational and permanent impact on the young people with whom we are working."

Once established in the four Nottingham primary schools the plan is to extend the programme into neighbouring schools and communities where young people will be invited to join orchestras, neighbourhood bands and choirs.  

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Nanette Nielsen, Department of Music, on +44 (0)115 95 14761 nanette.nielsen@nottingham.ac.uk 

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