Written by Julie Green, Music Coordinator, Welburn Hall School. April 2014
At Welburn Hall, we recently had a music residency organised by Live Music Now and the North Yorkshire Music Hub following the award of £1200 funding for special schools music making. Tom Sherman, a young professional musician, came into school for an afternoon each week between January and Easter. He worked with two of my classes - one KS4 and one lower KS3, 21 pupils in all. It was extremely successful and was very much enjoyed by every pupil in the two groups. They looked forward each week to their music session and were constantly asking when Tom was coming in – though I do worry that they will be very disappointed next term when they have me back as their regular music teacher!
Tom was fantastic with the pupils and did lots of creative music making with them - from singing and signing, to graphic scores, playing lots of instruments, learning to work together, making their own rhythms and melodies and generally helping them become more confident in making music at their own level.
Many of our pupils visibly increased in confidence through the residency. One pupil who struggles to cope in any new situations and would not even enter the music room at the beginning of the school year has attended each session and stayed in the room – a huge achievement. She has gradually taken more part in the sessions, moving from watching other people sing and sign to using musical instruments and progressing to choosing her own instruments, playing rhythms and taking part in songs and compositions. Her confidence has increased dramatically and she is at ease and relaxed in these sessions. Another young lady struggles to engage in many areas of the curriculum. She does not read and write. She has though, an amazing ear for music – she is able to repeat with great accuracy rhythms and notes and learn words and melodies incredibly quickly. She has an exceptional sense of pitch and musicality. Through the residency, she has shown progress through learning to make rhythms on different instruments, learning new songs and being a leading member of the group, something she is not able to do in other subject areas. She delights in making contributions and other pupils value that what she can do in music is extremely special. The self-esteem that she gains from this is incredible.
It was a breath of fresh air to have a young musician in school. On the last afternoon we did a small performance to the school to showcase some of the work we had been doing. As their regular music teacher, I was involved in all the sessions and was able to monitor pupils’ progress and also pick up lots of new strategies and techniques to use when the residency is over. It was certainly a brilliant use of the £1200 funding. Hopefully similar funding may be available in the future so that more pupils in our special schools may benefit from the expertise of professional musicians.