Dartington FamilyDay

Recently, the TSO visited 3 schools as part of our educational outreach. We have requests from schools on a fairly regular basis and were able to coordinate our day to fit in 3 schools in Torbay: Cockington Primary, Barton Hill Primary and Hayes Primary schools. In total we played to approximately 750 children in Key Stage 2.

Our format is simple but effective. We play as the children walk into the hall and as they settle into their places. Then our conductor Richard Gonski introduces each instrument family and we the musicians give a brief explanation of how the sound is made, playing some music so that the audience can hear the different sounds. A highlight of this is the way that Richard encourages the children to think about the different sound characteristics – tone colours- of each instrument, asking the children for their ideas too and capturing their imagination completely.

As we play each instrument its always interesting to hear the children’s guesses as to what the instruments are called – bassoons are routinely mistaken for saxophones and everyone loves the double bass, its size and powerful vibrating sound. The last element of our presentation is a discussion about what Richard does, with only a ‘stick’ for an instrument. Richard asks for volunteers to come and stand in front of us, the orchestra, to see what happens when they hold the conductors baton. As each pupil experiments with movements of the baton we improvise according to their movements, fast, slow, up, down, even round and round! This always goes down very well with everyone and at TSO its very rewarding to see how this conducting develops as each pupil makes their own discoveries in sound whilst in charge of the orchestra.

Our workshops finish with more music as the children leave the hall, with a greater understanding of the instruments and how the sounds blend together to create the orchestral sound. This year I noticed something new, in all 3 schools. Usually as the children hold the baton they find it easy to wave it about and make the connections between their movements and our resulting music making. This year however they were all very reserved, eager to come and hold the baton but unsure what to do with it. Richard waited for a little while but had to prompt the children to have a go at different movements to prompt us to play. More investigation would be required, but my initial thought is that following the Covid school closures along with the prolonged suspension of almost all of their social interaction opportunities, their confidence to just ‘have a go’ has really suffered. This makes opportunities like our workshops so important for their overall development.

Children need to have the confidence to experiment in many areas, not just in music, and if our TSO workshops can re-ignite this then the recovery of this next generation will be the better for it. We at Torbay Symphony Orchestra are committed to our school workshops for the many benefits to the whole school community and us, the musicians too.

Rosemary Sage
TSO Outreach Co-ordinator