The children learn to play, to read music, to follow a conductor’s instructions, and to have fun making music with their friends; for many of them it will lay the foundation for appreciating and participating in music throughout their lives.
Why do we have the orchestra project?
There is lots of research now to show that learning to read and play music is a big benefit for children in terms of brain development. We also feel that music is an integral part of most people’s lives and that learning an instrument at a young age gives children the opportunity to take part in music actively and to express themselves through music. Finally, there’s a big social dimension; they have to listen to each other and work as a team.
Do Infants take part?
Junior and Senior Infants don’t participate in the orchestra project as such. However, in the infant classes the teachers deliver a comprehensive programme of songs, rhythms, movement to music, percussion, appreciation and even a little bit of composition. All teachers follow the Dabbledoo music programme. This is a fully interactive programme. You can help by letting your child teach you the songs they have learned, by providing him / her with lots of music to listen to, by letting him / her play and experiment with simple instruments, and maybe by bringing him / her to some music events – for example, a band concert in the local park, or a “Family Day” in the Concert Hall.
What about the Senior Orchestra?
When children reach 5th and 6th Class, they are combined to form the Senior School Orchestra. The orchestra comprises violinists, recorder players, clarinet and flute players and children who have learned other instruments outside school. The orchestra makes a great sound and it is wonderful to hear all the work of the previous four years coming together.
We collaborate with other schools such as Clogher Road Community college and St. Ultan’s.
So when do children start?
We start the orchestra programme in 1st Class; the children already have a strong foundation to build on from their previous musical experience. They are divided into two groups, violin and recorder. We do try to accommodate a preference but to keep the numbers balanced, it’s not always possible to give a child their first choice.
Who teaches the orchestra groups?
Or music teachers are all experienced and have been with us for a few years now, and the class teachers help and support them in their work. Naturally with group teaching there can’t be the same attention to an individual child that there would be in a private music lesson, but the children do gain in motivation by learning with their friends. Our policy is that the violin and recorder groups are taught separately, especially at first, but then combined regularly to play tunes together.
The lessons continue for four years. In 4th Class recorder students are offered the chance to a few children to try out some woodwind instruments – the flute, clarinet or saxophone. These are children who have made good progress with the recorder, are physically strong enough to manage the bigger instruments, and have expressed a genuine interest.
How much does it cost?
As parents can understand, the orchestra is a significant cost to the school. We pay the music teachers and we also buy all the equipment – instruments, stands, music scores etc. All parents in the school are asked to make a yearly donation. This donation covers the orchestra costs along with a number of other services in the school. However no child is denied the chance to learn their instrument and the donation is voluntary.
What can I do to help?
There’s no way out of this: the children must practise if they are to make progress. We suggest 10 minutes per day, Monday to Thursday (and don’t stop him / her doing more!!). We know that many parents don’t know exactly how to help, but even listening to the children having a go at their tunes is hugely encouraging for them. They should have a homework sheet to tell them what to do. this is part of their homework. If your child is totally confused as to what they have to do, please contact the class teacher and we’ll see what we can do to help.
Also, do come to the orchestra concerts and let your children know you are proud of them! And if your child shows a particular interest and aptitude, do consider getting them lessons; the College of Music and the RIAM are reasonably priced, and there is also the Leinster School of Music (based in Griffith College, very handy!) and the Leeson Park School of Music. There are also lots of private music teachers.