1 March 2011

Guest Blog: East Ayrshire Instrumental Music Service


Children traditionally learn to play a musical instrument one to one with a teacher – but a new full class method is earning top marks in a local school.

At Greenmill Primary in Cumnock, the whole class learns how to play instruments together as an orchestra – and it’s a beautiful noise!

The Greenmill Strings Project began in March 2010 as a joint venture between East Ayrshire Council, Drake Music and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD)’s Musicworks programme, funded by the Scottish Arts Council.

The programme was designed to try out a full class approach to teaching children how to play stringed instruments – and to see if using special music notation Figurenotes would help speed up the process of learning to play and read music.

Music Leader Christopher Gray focused on working with two P3 classes for two 40-minute lessons per week.

Budding musicians were given violins, violas, cellos and double basses which were kept in school between lessons. This kept project costs down, as one set of instruments was used by both classes.

The pilot proved to be a roaring success. Students not only developed significant skills on their individual instruments, but also a broad knowledge of music. The kids raved about their experience and it was felt that the project positively enhanced the teamwork and behaviour of the whole class.

The project started up again with a new group of young music learners in September 2010. Lessons are provided weekly to the two new P3 classes, as well as continuing with last year’s two P3 classes (now P4).

Christine Wilson, Head Teacher, said: “The approach of the whole class lessons has built a real and meaningful community between class teacher, pupils and music instructor. This community is supportive and encouraging of each other and every challenge becomes everyone’s responsibility, whether it is a challenge faced by the whole class, or by one individual”.

Spokesperson for Lifelong Learning Councillor Jim Roberts said: “This new method of teaching strings to children in larger groups has proved to be very successful. Not only have the young musicians developed music-making skills – they have had the time of their lives playing and performing together”.

Christopher Gray said: “The classes have already been asked to perform at national events showcasing innovative and successful teaching approaches, as well as local events focusing on musical excellence.

“The project continues to be successful and it is hoped that it will eventually become not just a full class, but a full school initiative.”

For further information, contact Elaine Scott on 01563 576013 or email elaine.scott@east-ayrshire.gov.uk

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