I have recently blogged about Sistema Scotland and the ‘Big Noise’ orchestra – they opened the London 2012 festival last week. I mentioned in this post how fabulous it would be if we had a similar set up here in England; encouraging disadvantaged children to learn various musical instruments and immerse them in the power of community-based orchestral music-making in order to improve their lives.
I was therefore thrilled to learn that there are already established schemes in England devoted to helping such children. In Harmony has been running since 2009 and is making steady progress. It has been built on the traditions of Venezuela’s El Sistema system which aims to inspire and transform lives. Julian Lloyd Webber is the Chairman and so far the projects have been running in Lambeth, Liverpool and Norwich.
One of the fascinating facets of the whole project is how the children are monitored to see if they really are able to improve their abilities in every area of their life. Results are published and they make for compelling reading. One case study observed:
‘After two years with In Harmony • Sistema England, 78% of children exceeded teachers’ expectations in educational attainment. Not only did literacy and numeracy improve dramatically, but the children’s self-confidence, behaviour and social skills were transformed’.
Another case study remarked:
‘In Harmony • Sistema England has had a huge impact on parental involvement in the schools. Many of the parents who did not engage with school in the past are now coming to the school since In Harmony started. When there are events or concerts in the school the hall is overflowing. Parents feel that IHSE is helping to keep their children away from criminal activity’.
It seems to me that schemes like this could potentially transform society. The great news is that the Arts Council England is to launch four new In Harmony projects. The new projects will run from 2012 to 2015 and they will be jointly funded by the Department for Education and Arts Council and the Arts Council England. I have been invited to attend some of the sessions and rehearsals which take place in Lambeth and I am very much looking forward to observing this wonderfully innovative and worthwhile project. I shall. of course, be blogging about my visits too.
For much more information about how to practice piano 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 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.
You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.