I have been thinking a lot today about an interesting music scheme running near Stirling called ‘Sistema Scotland’ which was set up four years ago and currently involves 400 children. It is a charity providing instrumental and orchestral coaching for children in deprived areas.
‘Sistema Scotland’ firmly believes that children can gain huge social benefits from playing in a symphony orchestra. So on this basis it aims to provide individual music lessons to those who would not normally have access to them therefore fostering confidence, pride, aspiration and above all, a love of music, in each child. It is hoped that the young orchestral player’s enthusiasm for music will spill out into the wider community having a positive effect all round. The first scheme has been set up in Raploch near Stirling but it is hoped that it will continue developing all over Scotland.
The Sistema orchestra has been given the title ‘Big Noise’ and the orchestral members receive frequent individual instrumental lessons as well as regular orchestral coaching. The scheme even provides the instruments. The performers get to play in some great venues; recent performances include appearances at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall, Stirling’s Albert Halls and community events in Raploch. The children are also taken to see concerts regularly too.
‘Sistema Scotland’ was derived from a similar scheme in Venezuela where the idea was conceived in 1975 by Maestro José Antonio Abreu. It started off as the Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar then became known as ‘El Sistema’. The conductor Gustavo Dudamel is the patron of ‘Sistema Scotland’ and the most famous ‘graduate’ of the Venezuelan Scheme.
The most interesting fact about the whole concept of ‘Sistema Scotland’ is the positive changes it can make to the young instrumentalist’s lives. The Scottish Government commissioned an independent evaluation of Big Noise and the results are amazing. In a survey of parents and carers, 100% thought their children were more confident, 93% thought their children were happier, 79% thought they were more willing to concentrate, and 43% thought they were better behaved.
The report states: “there is evidence that Big Noise is having a positive impact on children’s personal and social development, including increased confidence, self-esteem, a sense of achievement and pride, improved social skills, team working skills and expanded social networks. For those children with special educational needs, behaviour issues or unsettled home lives, particular benefits include a sense of belonging, improved ability to concentrate and focus on a task, a sense of responsibility and positive behaviour change.”
So this beneficial scheme appears to be transforming lives proving that the study of classical music is very important, and should never be taken off the school curriculum. However, why should a scheme like this only be available in Scotland? Shouldn’t all children have the opportunity to have music lessons wherever they happen to live in the country? I believe that learning an instrument is so beneficial that it should be included as part of the school curriculum.
We can only hope that this type of free tuition may one day be available all around the UK. In the meantime, here is a clip of the scheme in action:
For much more information about practising repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece.
If you’re thinking about learning to play the piano, my guide-book, So You Want To Play The Piano? (Alfred) is full of useful help and support.
The Faber Music Piano Anthology (Faber) is also a valuable resource for those who desire a collection of standard repertoire from Grades 2 – 8, featuring 78 pieces in total.
I have written a selection of educational piano music (both solo and duet) and you can hear it and find out much more here: EVC Music Publications.