We sent our new Marketing and Communications Officer, Jasmine O’Hare, to one of our lively ‘Short Breaks’ music sessions. It wasn’t long before she was tapping her toes along with the music…
In my career I wear two hats; marketing and education. As well as promoting the arts in Dorset for organisations and individuals, I also teach children and young people. I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges that face the arts in schools. With this in mind, I was excited to observe a music workshop led by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) at Yewstock School in Sturminster Newton. This workshop is part of ‘Short Breaks,’ a programme that delivers a wide range of activities to children and young people with additional needs and disabilities across Dorset. From sports to farming, social events to personalised support, Dorset County Council bring together specialist organisations from all over the county to encourage and engage children and young people who may otherwise miss out.
Walking into the hall there was sense of anticipation. Several of the young people were visibly nervous. A couple of them hovered by the door and were reluctant to sit down. The parents and carers, although more poker-faced, seemed a little unsure as well. As a teacher I know how daunting and difficult it can be to gain the trust and confidence of young people. However, as soon as the workshop began the level of enthusiasm and energy was infectious. Before long, everyone was getting involved; the children were completely mesmerised by the larger-than-life musicians in front of them. The adults couldn’t help but smile along too.
The session began with several fun warm-up exercises. They were shaking their bodies, high-fiving the rest of the group and introducing themselves through song. On the surface, these are fun little games that get the kids smiling, but at their core they achieve something incredibly important. They created a safe and supportive environment where each young person was valued equally. They have the space to express themselves freely and without fear of judgement.
The main exercise of the day was to create a musical firework in groups. How they delivered this exercise was superb. Explaining a task to a group of young people with mixed abilities is not easy. Especially when they have access to a number of noise-making instruments. The workshop leaders however took it in their stride. They commanded the group with passion and patience. Through examples, drawings and writing, they communicate the task in multiple, engaging ways. It meant no one was left behind and everyone understood the task. It didn’t take long for three imaginative and exciting musical fireworks to fill the room.
I’d like to end this post by sharing the transformation of one particular boy. He was one of the young people who began the session hovering by the exit. It took an enormous amount of encouragement to just get him into the room. He was anxious, he struggled to focus and had sudden bursts of energy that took him whizzing round the hall. Cut to two hours later, he’s playing a melody on the piano to the entire group. With some gentle guidance he calmly played the short melody he’d just learnt with care and focus.
Thank you to Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for all of the time, effort and expertise you put into the session. Thank you also all of the incredible teaching assistants that put so much energy into this Short Breaks workshop.