A Symphony Orchestra in Your School

Image Credit: Martin Ollman
Jim Finn
| July 18, 2018

Imagine, if you will, walking through the corridors of a Canberra primary school, full of laughing, yelling and the chatter of busy students going about their day. You stray further down the hall and the faint sound of violins starts to creep into your ears. As it gets louder you realise this is no recording, and the performance is far too accomplished to be a school ensemble. You round the corner and are greeted with the sight and sound of members of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) performing right there, live in your school.

This may sound like some kind of wonderful dream, but thanks to the CSO’s new Music in MY School program this dream has now become a beautiful reality.

Launched last month, this is the first time the CSO has brought music into the classroom. St Gregory’s Primary School in Queanbeyan received the first taste of the new program. But these are no ordinary performances. Students don’t simply sit in silence as the flute, viola, violin, cello and double bass play. While the CSO’s five instrumentalists perform, a narrator takes the children through the story of The Three Little Pigs with some students up on stage miming along. At different stages of the story the children in the audience vote on which music they think best suits the action or character. “We listen to the piece, we talk about the musical features such as dynamics and tempos and most importantly we’ve been exploring the idea that all classical music or any music of any genre tells a story” says Dee McFaul, the Musical Director at St Gregory’s.

The CSO has worked with Dr Anita Collins from the University of Canberra to develop a meaningful, accessible, and curriculum-aligned program that addressed the current needs of teachers, parents, and students. “Being that close to the instrument and hearing it played is a really unique experience” says Dr Collins. “Too often when a concert comes to a school the kids are very passive… This is something that really engages them in the process of what is music and what is music education”.

So far Music in MY School has visited only a handful of schools in the Canberra area.  It is currently in its pilot year and will run until 2020.

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