Orchestras Inc, at West Sussex Music, has been delivering a blend of online sessions and live roadshows for almost two years now. Starting out at the beginning of lockdown, our 20 minute online singing sessions reached between 60 and 90 young people each week, bringing together young people in special schools and developing a community both between schools and within schools at a time where isolation and bubble were everyday words and very real situations.
The model gradually progressed to eight online sessions per term and the content developed from singing alone to singing, signing and learning instrumental parts on tuned and untuned percussion instruments to accompany the songs – thus developing a ‘band’. The terms’ work has been culminating in live roadshows. This has given young musicians from different schools the opportunity to come together with people they have seen on screen to rehearse and perform the repertoire they have been practising. Learning to work together through listening, turn taking, sharing and experimenting, a total of around 110 young musicians have enjoyed being part of a bigger musical community, making new friends and feeling valued for their contributions.
What’s changing? As time goes on, our young musicians are becoming more familiar with the general layout of the learning journey during our termly topics and are therefore more confident. Participants are actively engaged and clearly enjoy being part of the Orchestras Inc musical communities. Their singing and playing is improving and they are comfortable to communicate and make suggestions. As a result of this we are noticing an increase in creativity and inventiveness from our young musicians and so our sessions are becoming less teacher led and more collaborative.
How can we make this model more inclusive? This term we have invited children working with SENCOs in mainstream schools who may find it difficult to access other music opportunities, to participate in Orchestras Inc alongside our young musicians from special schools. Our theme for this term is Let It Shine. Jam packed with engaging songs and lots of opportunities to play instruments, this term’s programme has been exploring themes connected to light, including space, Diwali, fireworks, and the light within us that shines on others!
We are aware that encouraging mainstream schools to put aside time and support to facilitate their pupils to participate with Orchestras Inc activities may take time and nurturing, but we do already have a few children from mainstream schools logging into our sessions and are hopeful that they will be able to join us at one of our roadshows towards the end of term. The start of extending our offer further.
Once we have firmly established a wider community of musicians, it will be time to think about moving our sessions to an out of school hours model.
Find out more about Orchestra Inc.