The Education Outreach Project
At RTWSO we are committed to spreading the word about the fabulous classical music we play and we run our very own Education Outreach Project in local schools.
Our first Education Outreach Project was back in October 2015 when we visited Langton Green Primary School for an orchestra workshop based on ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ from ‘The Planets Suite’ by Holst.
That Sunday, 45 children and their parents attended the RTWSO performance of the whole Planets Suite and the response was overwhelmingly positive. One parent wrote:
“Thank you for doing in one morning what I have failed to do in 7 years – that is to get my son interested in classical music’”
That workshop was such a success we decided to expand the project in the 2016 – 17 season.
We believe that if children are exposed to classical music early enough, many of them will realise that listening to great classic pieces is worthwhile and rewarding. They are the audience and players of the future after all.
The philosophy of our Education Outreach project is to catch the children when they are old enough to sit still and take in the music, but before they hit their teens, when what their peers are listening to takes over.
We have devised a programme whereby we pick a concert with a memorable piece which can be made accessible to children. We then produce a workshop suitable for children aged 7 – 11 based on that work.
This workshop comprises 3 parts; firstly children who already learn an instrument can play extracts in their school band or orchestra, arranged by us if necessary. Secondly, older classes are offered a lesson in musical composition based on the work, by team members who are already classroom teachers and who have the skills. Finally, the whole school gets together for an assembly based on the work, where they learn about the composer, the piece, they listen to the compositions of the classes and the school band plays the extract to them.
On the Sunday following the workshop, pupils and their families are offered reduced price tickets to see the concert.
It’s not only the parents who were positive: 15 players volunteered to do the workshop and their feedback was that it was a worthwhile and inspiring thing to do –
“It was a real treat to take part. It’s been really inspiring to see what can be achieved with such young children.”
Second Year 2016 - 17
In 2016 – 17 season we visited Speldhurst Primary School and Bishops Down Primary School. The chosen work was Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in the February concert. Over 70 pupils and their parents came to hear the concert after the workshop and once again, the feedback was unanimously positive. Some of the comments we received are below:
“Thank you so much for this opportunity. L came out of school absolutely buzzing today and totally inspired.”
“We think that the week that is planned, culminating in the concert is a splendid idea and we applaud it.”
“Thank you so much for all of your hard efforts with organising the fantastic RTWSO workshops and assembly performance at school. You have definitely inspired some upcoming orchestral musicians of the future…watch this space!”
“The children really enjoyed hearing members of the Symphony Orchestra playing their instruments and demonstrating how certain instruments are played. The whole event was a real success.”
“I’d just like to pass on a massive thank you for the wonderful event yesterday. C really enjoyed the opportunity to play in a big orchestra like that and it has created a very special memory for her, one which she says she’d like to build on. The whole presentation about Paganini was very inspiring and I’m sure my child’s not
the only one still talking about it all.”
“As a first time experiencer of this event, I was blown away by the fabulous opportunity the children had. Such a diverse range of instruments and abilities all coming together to make music!”
“Many thanks to all involved for making it such a memorable experience for us all.”
“Yesterday was fantastic. My own children all enjoyed it, learned from it and were caught up in that wonderful sound.”
“It was a brilliant idea to bring along the pros from RTWSO, both a support and an example to follow for the children. Who knows where that will lead?”
“It was a great afternoon and all the children I spoke to came away with a real buzz and sense of achievement, very inspiring. We hope to join in the same workshop next year.”
Third Year 2017–18
The chosen concert for outreach this season was November 2017, when the set work was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Schools visited were Claremont Primary, Pembury Primary and Rusthall St Pauls CE Primary, at which some children from Speldhurst C of E Primary and Langton Green Primary took part. In all, over 800 children saw this year’s workshop and were invited to our concert. 65 children and their families attended the concert.
In June 2018, 18 players from the orchestra supported the Tunbridge Wells Primary Schools Orchestra Workshop again. This time the children played ‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius and even more children joined them making a massed band of over 250 to play ‘The Sailor’s Hornpipe’, complete with a whole kitchen sink’s worth of percussion at the end of every line just like the last night of the Proms.
Forth Year 2018–19
“Thanks for organising the trip to Rose Hill today. The girls said it was fun and they really enjoyed playing with the players of the symphony orchestra!”
“Thank you again for such a wonderful afternoon on Friday. It was clear to see how much the children had all got out of it. Such a fantastic experience for them!”
In January 2019 the RTWSO was invited to become a BBC Ten Pieces Champion. BBC Ten Pieces is a hugely successful education initiative by the BBC whereby they promote selected classical music extracts to children using videos presented by children’s TV presenters etc.
In March 2019 I was invited to the BBC Sound Recording Theatre at Broadcasting House to the launch of the latest batch of Ten Pieces. That list has been passed to the programming committee who are deciding which of them the orchestra may be able to incorporate into future concerts.
Again, orchestra members helped out at the annual Tunbridge Wells Primary Schools Orchestra Workshop in June 2019. In an evaluation by the children afterwards, playing alongside the RTWSO or ‘doing it with the professionals’ as one child wrote, was the ‘Best Part’ of the day. Children at this event played some of ‘The Enigma Variations’ by Elgar.
Fifth Year 2019–20
The featured concert was on 1st March 2020 and the set piece was Appalachian Spring Suite by Copland. The schools visited were St James’ CE Junior School and St Mark’s CE Primary School. Pupils from Langton Green Primary School and Speldhurst CE Primary School orchestras visited the 2 host schools and we made combined orchestras of 60 and 45 players respectively. This was the most successful outreach season yet – over 100 tickets sold to children and their families. Comments included:
“My sons attend St James’s school in Tunbridge Wells and they very much enjoyed the orchestra’s visit earlier this week.”
Parent – St James
“Thank you. A and I enjoyed our very first Orchestra concert together, we felt so privileged to have been there today, we just couldn’t believe how amazing you all were.”
“Sunday was brilliant! The concert was such a fabulous experience and we all loved it! P sat on the edge of her seat and lapped it up! I hope you enjoyed it too!”
The RTWSO is so committed to furthering this project that it has appointed its first ever Education Officer to the Committee: Yvonne Smith is a musician in the orchestra (playing viola) and a fully qualified primary school teacher with 20 years’ experience of teaching.
She was Head of Music at Langton Green Primary School for 16 years. During that period Yvonne developed the school from one which had no choir and no concerts to one with 2 choirs, 3 steel pans bands, one orchestra, one guitar group and where over 190 children took part in the end of term concerts. Yvonne now teaches music and steel pans in 4 primary schools in Tunbridge Wells.
She is Chair of the Tunbridge Wells Network Group of Primary School Music Teachers and runs and conducts the annual Tunbridge Wells beginners’ recorder festival and the Tunbridge Wells Primary Schools Orchestra Workshop afternoon. In 2017 over 110 children attended this afternoon which was supported by musicians from RTWSO.
The programming committee now considers how a piece which is suitable for outreach can be incorporated into each new season’s concerts. We hope to continue to do workshops and invite young listeners to our concerts for a long time.
So far, over 2600 children have seen our outreach presentations and we know of children who have taken up instruments they first heard played at a workshop who are now taking ABRSM graded exams. We are already planning outreach for the next season and beyond and have a waiting list of schools who would like a visit.
If you are interested in an outreach visit or would like to support our outreach programme, please contact the Education Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org
RTWSO Education Outreach Project gratefully acknowledges sponsorship from the Savile Turner Holistic Trust to help it continue to take classical music to young people in schools.