Wednesday 1 July 2015

Saffron Walden, 140 primary school children, 25 teenagers and the world premiere of FUNKY PEANUT

Britten Sinfonia has been working with Saffron Walden County High School (SWCHS - home to the exceptional Saffron Hall) and ROH Bridge to develop music-making in schools in Braintree and Saffron Walden. Developing their musicianship and leadership skills, twenty five sixth-form students from SWCHS have been training for a year to become Music Ambassadors and gain their Gold Standard Arts Awards. This June, the Ambassadors lead their own creative music-making workshops in local primary schools, under the guidance of workshop leader John K Miles and Britten Sinfonia musicians. Over these two weeks the Ambassadors and Britten Sinfonia have been working with 140 children from 11 primary schools culminating in two Summer Schools and final performances for friends and family taking place in Alec Hunter Academy and Saffron Hall. To listen to the compositions that children and Music Ambassadors performed in the final performances (including FUNKY PEANUT) please click here.

In this blog we hear from participants Katherine Semar Junior School, and Music Ambassador Phoebe Tealby-Watson as they share their experiences of working together:

Reflections from Katherine Semar Junior School

Katherine Semar Junior School was given the opportunity to participate in the SWCHS Music Ambassador Project organised by SWCHS and Britten Sinfonia. Throughout the Autumn Term, Year 5 children were involved in a variety of composition workshops led by composer, John K Miles, and sixth form music students culminating in a final performance at Saffron Hall.

Copyright ROH/N. Strugnell
This project has had an extremely positive influence on the music development at KSJ, not only on individual children, but also on the way music is taught within the curriculum. The children have gained more confidence to create their own rhythmic and melodic ideas when composing in the classroom and want to explore and experiment with fresh, innovative sounds and textures on composition projects. The opportunity to observe the various composition workshops has also inspired the music specialist at KSJ to be much more adventurous in the way composition is taught within the music curriculum. It has encouraged more of a ‘think out of the box’ approach rather than being too rigid and ordered.

"I enjoyed forming our own little bands and creating our own music around a theme." shares one of the children.

The Summer Music School has also been a positive experience for KSJ musicians. Children from Year 4 and 5 had the opportunity to be part of a 70 piece children’s orchestra performing with members of Britten Sinfonia conducted by composer, John K Miles.

Copyright ROH/N. Strugnell
Over 3 days children were part of a series of vocal and instrumental rehearsals where they learnt various performance techniques focusing on achieving the best sound when singing and playing together as part of a large group. These included good posture and presentation, learning how to rehearse in orchestral sections, and listening out for different musical queues from the conductor to achieve perfect timing and good voice projection. Children were also given opportunities to improvise solos with the orchestra group.

Another element of the Summer Music School consisted of sixth-form Music Ambassadors leading small group workshops with the aim of composing a piece of music based on the ‘carnival’ theme. Children were fully involved in the creative process choosing the lyrics as well as the rhythmic/melodic content. Children also made decisions on the style of the piece and on how to structure the final composition ready for performance.

“The Summer School gave children at KSJ a real sense of achievement in all they had learnt and created in the workshops over the 3 days. The final concert made all the children feel proud to be part of this special community music project” 
(Mrs S. Jorgensen from Katherine Semar Junior School)

Copyright ROH/N. Strugnell

Reflections from Phoebe Tealby-Watson (Music Ambassador)

Phoebe Tealby-Watson (Music Ambassador) (c) Elizabeth Hunt
"I have really enjoyed the projects with Britten Sinfonia this year where we have explored and created music with Year 5 children from a range of schools. I already found it easy to interact with children, but these projects have helped me to develop this so that I can be effective in a creative situation with them. I have become more confident in assuming authority and have become better at engaging a group in something that may be unfamiliar to them. For example, I have learnt to adapt how I speak about music to a group, in order to speak in terms that they can understand. I have also learnt some basic conducting skills such as being able to count in or signal dynamic changes.

As well as developing the ability to work with children to create music, I have developed in my own ability as a player. I have explored new ways to create music with my instrument and have particularly developed in my improvisation. I have also been able to learn by ear more easily; this is something that I could already do as a singer but I am now also capable of on my violin.

But besides developing these skills, the work with Britten Sinfonia has just been really enjoyable. I have loved the enthusiasm and creativity put into the projects from all those involved: the members of Britten Sinfonia, the music teachers, the Music Ambassadors and of course the children themselves. It has been a privilege to be given such a great opportunity and to be able to learn from such amazing professional musicians."

To find out more about our Creative Learning department, who organise and run these type of projects, please visit our website.

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