Primary school pupils who picked up a musical instrument for the first time just seven months ago are planning a concert for an audience of proud parents.
Nine and 10-year-olds at Anagh Coar Primary School have, since September, been taking part in a pilot for Soundstart – a scheme it’s hoped more pupils will benefit from eventually.
The 20 Year 5 pupils have used classroom music time to learn an instrument together as a band, under the tuition of staff from the Department of Education and Children’s Music Service.
The scheme was made possible thanks to a donation from The Malcolm Scott Dickinson Charitable Trust, the legacy from a gifted musician from the Island who died several years ago. The trust is administered by local trust service provider Appleby and its generosity has allowed the purchase of 30 instruments worth £7,100.
Even Year 4/5 teacher Helen Mellon has learned to play an instrument from scratch along with her pupils.
Now the fledgling Anagh Coar School Wind Band, featuring all 20 children, is ready to perform a 30-minute concert on the afternoon of Thursday 26th April.
Mrs Mellon said: ‘When you think that the children started from nothing in September and we are about to do our first public performance, it’s fantastic. The progress they have made is a tribute to the skills and dedication of the Music Service team.
‘Teachers John Kinley, Tony Barnsley, Paul Hamilton and Jennifer Cook have been amazing. I can't praise them highly enough. I can honestly say that the children have loved every second of it and are always keen and enthusiastic. I have learned an awful lot, too, and hope I can use this in future lessons.’
James Crellin, nine, has had so much fun on percussion he is already playing outside of school. He said: ‘Soundstart is fantastic. I have learned lots from it such as what minims, crochets, quavers and semi-breves are. I have even joined the Manx Youth Band, playing percussion outside of school, because it’s so inspiring.’
Carly Skillen, also nine, said: ‘Being part of the orchestra has helped us improve our singing too and makes us work as a team.’ Tyler Dunsmore, 10, added: ‘Soundstart helps us in class, too, with remembering, resilience and relationships – three of the 6Rs. It is a lot of fun and our music teachers are very nice. I play the clarinet, which is complicated, but I have learned notes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.’
Helen concluded: ‘I have seen a fantastic improvement in the children’s teamwork and their support for each other as a result of their participation in Soundstart.’
John Kinley, Manager of the Primary Schools’ Music Initiative, said: ‘My colleagues and I from the Music Service have been so impressed with the commitment, dedication and enthusiasm that the children in Year 5 at Anagh Coar have shown in learning an instrument and they should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved in such a short time. It is also a delight to see the children supporting each other to learn and working as team to perform music.
‘Many of the musical skills the children have learned during Soundstart are transferrable and could be used if they want to learn a different instrument. I hope some of the pupils will take the opportunity to carry on learning via lessons the Music Service provides.
‘We are hoping to roll out this project to more schools next year to give even more children the chance to learn an instrument as part of a class band/orchestra.’