What methods do you use?
We draw on variety of teaching techniques, exercises and repertoire recognisable from mainstream music education – such as Suzuki, Kodály, Dalcroze and Colourstrings. The teaching however is immersive and focuses on ensemble playing; therefore we have developed a bespoke educational curriculum that incorporates the communal learning, social pedagogy and musical pedagogy through each stage of learning.
Do they get individual/small group lessons?
We try to see every Big Noise child once a week for a 20 to 30 minute individual or small group lesson. The children also work in instrument sections (eg cellos together) and in ensembles of varying sizes right up to the full orchestra.
How does teaching of large groups affect the quality of musicianship?
We believe it improves the children’s musicianship, and they become very good ensemble players from an early age. The children learn in a different way to that which has been the custom in this country before, and they are learning well.
We have also been doing a lot of work to develop our pedagogy specifically for teaching high quality instrumental technique from an early age in a group situation. We hope this will benefit not just us, but will help across the music sector.
How do you support children progressing at different rates?
We operate more than one group during lessons so that everyone can progress in a way that suits them. Ultimately though the children are all brought together to play – and with different musical parts appropriate to them. Everyone, regardless of ability can contribute to the full orchestra. We will also from time to time work individually with children who are struggling to cope in larger groups. This additional support is always given with the aim of giving them the confidence and ability to rejoin the larger group, rather than have them work permanently in isolation.
Is three days per week immersion enough?
We work with some children four afternoons a week after school, but three days is a good start for us. It is certainly enough to start building the orchestra and generating its social benefits. It also helps that we have a Big Noise Base right in the heart of the community so we are never far from sight. We also get to work with the children four days a week during the holiday periods.
How does Big Noise link with the curriculum in schools?
We deliver our programme through a combination of in-school work and after-school, so it’s really important that our work delivers on the key outcomes within the Curriculum for Excellence. In fact all of our nursery, P1 and P2 programmes and classroom sessions are directly mapped out against the CfE outcomes for health and wellbeing, literacy and numeracy.
What happens when they move on to secondary school?
We encourage children to continue to play in the Big Noise orchestra when they move to secondary school and we would like some to be volunteer teachers for younger children in the programme. We also hope that some of the children may be involved in making music with other ensembles at secondary school, in their local authority and Scotland.
The first of our children from Big Noise Raploch went up to secondary school at the end of summer 2011. Many of these children are still members of Big Noise, as well as being involved in other school and community based activities.