We all feel the power of music ‘ how it can change mood, make one feel better about oneself – but for many teachers, music is a critical ‘tool’ in giving children an all-round education, enabling positive development in other areas of the school curriculum. Many of our schools put music at the very heart of school life. As well as encouraging young talent, performance by pupils becomes a focus for the school, and a celebration.
Jeremy Gladwin, headmaster of St Edmund’s School Canterbury, told the Wealden Times about the school’s active music life. ‘Music is woven into the fabric of school life. In June we have Little Voices for the youngest children.
‘In the junior school we have a musical – this year it was My Fair Lady. In senior school, we have some kind of musical extravaganza every term. In November we are doing Beauty and the Beast, we have a gala concert and a final Carol Service at Canterbury Cathedral.’
Musical life is just as busy at Dulwich Preparatory School, as Director of Music Cornelis Taekema told us: ‘We offer our children a variety of all types of music ‘ jazz, brass, as well as the orchestra that plays classical but also film theme music. We took the chamber choir to Rome in April and I was lucky enough to arrange concerts in the city including at a mass at St Peter’s Basilica. It was just us but they really rose to the occasion.’
But can young people be changed through music’ Mr Gladwin of St Edmund’s thinks so. He says: ‘Music can transform children. For example, our choristers sing in Canterbury Cathedral. In the classroom they are just like any 13-year-olds – full of energy, vibrancy, dynamism and then they go into the cathedral and perform these beautiful songs. The contrast is splendid.’
Mr Taekema agrees. He says: ‘I have encouraged children with difficulties, for example, one with a dyslexic profile, to try singing. They might not pitch very well to start off with but after six months it starts to come and it is fantastic. The child feels so good about themselves knowing they can do something.’
Mr Gladwin agrees. ‘Music taps into the other part of one’s experience, one’s life – rhythm and music. It taps in to the left hemisphere of the brain.’
Bruce Grindlay, the new Headmaster of Sutton Valence School, is a former Director of Music, a Cambridge University organ scholar, and also plays piano and saxophone. He says: ‘Music provides an artistic and cultural dimension in any school, as well as helping with spiritual development. It’s proven that learning a musical instrument stimulates connections within the brain, which help a child’s academic development.’
Mr Taekema says: ‘Learning music is such a fantastic way for a child to channel their energy and discipline but also social skills, the interaction with other children.’
Mr Grindlay agrees: ‘Music is also about learning team skills. Playing in musical ensembles promotes reliance upon others in working together for a greater whole, but not in a competitive way, as well as encouraging leadership skills and having the confidence to offer an opinion.’ So how do you encourage children to take on a musical instrument’ At St Edmund’s, like many schools, music is offered at the start: ‘We offer formal music lessons as part of the curriculum where people can start to learn with specialist teachers offering all the main instruments coming into school,’ says Mr Gladwin.
Mr Taekema adds: ‘We have demo sessions where the teacher brings the instrument to the lesson and plays it to them and this is the way we try to encourage them. It is important you find the right teacher for your child. It is the one-to-one relationship that is important. Then it is parents who come in on the learning process by supervising their children’s practice.’
Mr Grindlay adds: ‘Music is also about discipline. Having to sit in a practice room on your own, practising your instrument, demands personal motivation, determination and focus. What better lesson is there for life?’
- words: Lesley Finlay
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