Page 22 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Music and emotional well being
 Eighteen months ago, Leicester Preparatory School decided to formulate a curriculum which, in addition to a well-established primary curriculum, valued music and musical education as a catalyst for developing and improving each pupil’s wellbeing at the school. Head Paul Hitchcock tells the story...
It’s a windy morning in the playground as parents and children enter ready to start another school day. Samraaj has just joined Leicester Preparatory School and, as usual, bitterly complains about having to leave Mum so that she can get to work. With great sobs and heartache, Mum passes me
his hand and quickly makes her escape whilst Samraaj is led into the school. Almost miraculously,
as we enter the doorway together, the tears disappear, the smile grows and by the time we have ascended the stairs to his classroom he is a happy, talkative boy ready to start his day. Such is the emotional canvas of a  ve year old and such is the experience of many teachers on early morning duty.
Eighteen months ago, we decided
to formulate a curriculum which,
in addition to a well-established primary curriculum, valued music and musical education as a catalyst for developing and improving each pupil’s wellbeing at the school. We were aware of the dif culties that children appear to face to establish attentive listening, to work together towards a common aim, to value the efforts of others in a group etc. and believed that the practice of learning an instrument and engaging in ensemble performance would be bene cial.
A policy decision was made
that every child in years three to
six would learn an instrument. Currently, we are able to offer violin, cello, guitar, piano and recorder
and, either through individual or group lessons, the pupils make steady improvement. This was not an easy step as the commitment and stamina required within a family to ensure practice, purchase lessons in the hope of a future skill is too easily thwarted. However, with the ‘no exceptions’ rule and an un inching conviction we have weathered the initial concerns and now many of the younger pupils are partaking in lessons both during school time and at the Saturday morning Stoneygate Music Academy.
At this time, the school, through its Musical Director Tamaki Dickenson, lead violinist of the Villiers Quartet, also made a connection with pianist Eleanor Hodgkinson who runs the highly successful BabyGigs and KoolGigs concerts for ‘Mothers and Toddlers’ and ‘Junior Children’. Every four weeks, in term time, our hall is  lled with young mothers, their pre-school children and our own Reception children who enjoy the company of a professional musician. We have had youngsters dancing to the harp, blowing bubbles to a bassoon, having fun with a  autist and also showing a
remarkable ability to be still and listen to tunes ranging from nursery rhymes to Mozart.
Koolgigs, offers something in addition, that is both rare and quite wonderful. Here the music of a violin quartet or piano quintet is carefully deconstructed, discussed and themes are drawn which can then be the focus of workshops
for the children. As an example,
we recently discussed and had evidenced through the playing of the violin, viola, cello and piano, the effects of the minor and major key. The shared emotions aroused by the music were clearly identi ed and related to the day to day experiences of childhood. Later the children joined together to practice and later perform their own ensemble pieces led by a member of the professional consort. In one workshop for years 1 and 2, children were asked to guess how the violinist felt as she played a range of pieces. Of course, it was the music not the musician, but all the children used a variety of terms to consolidate and validate their shared experience. To end the morning we all gathered together to listen to their ensemble performances and  nally listen to the Schumann piano Quintet.
This approach allows the children to directly connect with latent emotions and gain an inner
reference point which is both objective – I am listening to
the music – and subjective – I
am experiencing an emotion
and can link it to my life. This
is not – ‘how would you feel if
‘– but –‘how do you feel’, with
an awareness that this feeling is common both to the players and listeners. Children expressed the feelings of excitement, happiness, gracefulness, miserableness and sadness and, through a show of hands, could communally identify when transitions in that experience took place at the behest of the music. Emotions were expressed and validated.
Time will tell. Emotions can be
both  eeting, as with Samraaj, or can become  xed and troubling. Perhaps, through the intervention and appreciation of music, our children will learn to evaluate the broad range of the emotional world, from the shining light of calmness to the turbulence of the emotional states, all through the framework of attentive listening, with the added practice of full engagement and then objective disengagement that can only strengthen their emotional character.
  Boys embrace the harp
 The soothing sound of the harp can be heard in the corridors of Abingdon School, Oxfordshire, for the  rst time this term. With the help of local harp teacher Jenny Hill the boys have been enthusiastically taking the
 rst steps toward playing this challenging instrument.
Jenny was invited to give the youngest boys at the school a demonstration and this inspired four of them to try an introductory lesson. She said, “I was delighted to meet this group of promising
22 Music, Drama & Dance
young players, all of whom showed enthusiasm and great potential as harpists.”
Reggie Lambert, aged 11, who has signed up for further lessons commented, “I really enjoyed playing and I think it’s great that the school offers the lessons.”
The Director of Music at Abingdon School, Michael Stinton, hopes
that interest in playing this versatile instrument will grow and boys will be able to contribute to school and youth orchestral work.
Reggie Lambert and harp teacher Jenny Hill

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