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Premiere of new work by young musicians in special schools

West Sussex Special Schools

More than 100 young musicians from 11 special schools across West Sussex have created a new piece of music, which will be premiered on West Sussex Music’s YouTube channel and social media at 12.30pm on Make Music Day, Monday 21 June.

The piece is inspired by Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, which is part of the BBC’s Ten Pieces schools initiative. The piece was chosen for its interesting use of patterns and rhythm. The young musicians have been working on the ‘Take One Piece’ project since January, through regular weekly workshops with music tutors from West Sussex. At times up to 150 young people and 70 school teachers were involved in the workshops. Project lead, Judith Finlay, leader for school engagement and SEND at West Sussex Music (WSM) explains: 

We’ve been running regular weekly workshops with special schools for a number of years now. We turned to online workshops during the pandemic, and returned to face-to-face for the last few weeks. We’ve found that beginning online was a hugely positive experience for the students, laying foundations for success for the offline workshops.

Each young person has developed their own set of responses in sound to the Reich piece, and it’s a joy to see and hear their creativity unleashed through this process. Initial workshops encouraged students to explore the patterns in their environment, which they then transferred to music using voices and instruments. All of us at West Sussex Music, the students, and their teachers and families are so proud of what they’ve achieved and are looking forward to their premiere.

Teachers have commented:

Children now look forward to music.  They ask for it and anticipate it.

Learners have really enjoyed the workshops.  It has helped with self esteem, confidence and working as a team.  They have been able to listen to one another and communicate well during the layering of patterns. 

These sessions have given us a greater understanding of our children’s ability in music and ideas for what to include when planning.

The 11 schools involved were: Brantridge School, Cornfield School, Fordwater School, Littlegreen Academy, Manor Green Primary School, Manor Green College, Muntham House, Oak Grove College, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School, St Anthony’s School, Woodlands Meed School.

The music tutors involved were: Emily Barden, leader of West Sussex Sings Community Choirs, and WSM Associate; Sarah Forbes, WSM Director for Youth Choirs and co-founder, HurlyBurly Opera; Steve Morley, WSM teacher ; Anna Ryder, WSM associate; Jo Eames, WSM teacher.

The project is part of a Youth Music-funded partnership programme, with a partnership of music education hubs, the Southern Music Hubs Alliance, who are working together to make what they do more inclusive. The next phase of the project will see the development of an inclusive music group for special school students and others.

Find out more about our inclusion work.  

More comments from teachers:

I have a new confidence in teaching music and a realisation that it can be adapted to suit every need.

My students have engaged in these workshops with increasing interest and independence.  A student who initially found the sessions challenging to engage with was gradually able to participate actively thanks to the workshop leader’s sensitive and dynamic facilitation.

The fact that this project was initially online meant that students from across the key stages were able to participate together.  For the duration of the COVID pandemic they have been separated into two bubbles with very little or no contact online or in college.  This project brought students together in a shared and enjoyable experience that I believe impacted their sense of unity within the college community.

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