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Primary music initiative gets pupils performing

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Pupils at a southern primary school have been learning the guitar in a project that will be extended to other schools.

During the spring term, Mark Whear, Head of Guitars with the Department of Education and Children’s Music Service, taught a class of 25 Year 5 pupils at Arbory Primary School the rudiments of the instrument.

Over 10 weeks, and playing guitars loaned to them by the Music Service, the children learned about the instrument’s parts, the correct posture to adopt to play it, playing techniques, music notation and performance etiquette.

‘Each week I had 50 minutes to work with the class, which included tuning everyone's guitar and ensuring that everyone had made some progress by the end of each session,’ Mr Whear said. ‘Our aim was to perform five pieces of music, in different styles, including rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and classical. The music became more complex to play as children progressed.’

Pupils showed off their new-found prowess, performing at an awards assembly watched by the entire school. ‘The pupils performed brilliantly and they made me, their class teacher, Daphne Snidal, and headteacher, Jonathan Ayres, very proud of them,’ said Mr Whear.

Mr Whear and his Music Service guitar colleague Phil Jennings have held similar courses at Manor Park and Cronk-y-Berry primaries and are now rolling them out to more schools, among them St Thomas’s CofE, where Year 5 and 6 pupils will begin learning the guitar this month. There’s a similar, successful project to introduce whole classes of primary pupils to the violin.

The projects form part of the Primary Music Initiative, launched in 2009 to raise the profile of music in schools and develop teachers’ skills in delivering the subject in the classroom.

Soundstart – whole-class instrumental teaching – was introduced as part of the PMI scheme, initially with short courses on ukuleles and traditional whistles, the latter written, devised and delivered in conjunction with the Manx Heritage Foundation.

A more ambitious programme at Anagh Coar School, initially sponsored by the Malcolm Scott Dickinson Trust, now sees every Year 5 pupil learning a wind band instrument for the whole school year. Soundstart now has two wind bands and two whole class string projects in different schools and more projects (including a whole-year guitar scheme) starts in September 2013.

In all Soundstart projects, the class teacher learns alongside the children, developing their own musical skills.

After their courses, pupils have the option to continue learning their instrument as part of the Music Service's ongoing delivery of high-quality music tuition in schools. Many of the musical skills learned in Soundstart can be easily transferred to other instruments should a child wish to learn one in the future. For more information about the Music Service, visit or ring +44 1624 686555. 

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