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Over the past fifteen to twenty years, there has been a huge growth in the education and community work undertaken by the UK's professional orchestras and opera companies. Much of this work takes place 'off the platform' and beyond the concert hall or opera house. British orchestras' education programmes have grown organically over these years dependent on many factors, including the specific nature of the orchestra for example, whether it is a symphony, chamber or opera orchestra; its artistic policy; geographically where the orchestra is based, and the identity of the community it serves; so that no two programmes of work will be the same. The orchestras' education and community programmes often offer opportunities for research and development, and grow out of collaborations with other artists and organisations.
Using the words education and community in their broadest sense, orchestral music education work incorporates formal and informal learning. In the formal education sector, orchestral musicians find themselves working in nursery, primary, secondary and special schools, with music services and further and higher education institutions. Some of the working relationships are relatively short term; others involve long term developmental partnerships.
Community and outreach work - informal learning - involves orchestral musicians working with people of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of settings including hospitals, community centres, factories, adult day centres, supermarkets, hospices, prisons, and often they will work in partnership with youth services, health care providers, and working with composers and music animateurs as well as artists in other artforms such as dancers, visual artists, writers, puppeteers, choreographers and theatre directors. Orchestras have also taken on the challenge of using new media in both creative and functional ways and many education and community projects embrace music technology in practical and artistic ways.
Starting with the needs of the participants, the range of all this work spans from long and short term creative music-making projects - engaging the participants in composing and performing - to events such as performances and study days, school concerts, family days, 'have-a-go' sessions, instrument demonstrations, talks, lectures, coaching of youth orchestras and mentoring of musicians.
To download a copy of the ABO's publication 'Education Programmes of ABO Orchestras and Organisations' compiled in 2005 click here.
The ABO's role in education and community work
ABO member organisations' Education Managers have been meeting together on a regular basis since the late 1980s. In the early 1990s when music became a core subject in the newly created National Curriculum, the ABO started to take a more developmental role in education, firstly by promoting the work of orchestras in education to the general public, funders and government, and secondly by encouraging orchestras who had not yet started working in this field to do so.
The Turn of the Tide was the ABO's first national education project which culminated in 1993. The ABO commissioned Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to write a piece of music for orchestra and children on the theme of the environment. 16 orchestras throughout the UK participated in the project which was aimed at helping primary school teachers who were not confident in teaching music, to encourage them in their own creativity, backed up with a Teachers' Pack. It also enabled thousands of children to create and perform their own music alongside professional musicians in the numerous performances of The Turn of the Tide. As part of this project the ABO organised a residential training course for orchestral players from all over the UK, orchestra education managers, composers and animateurs. A report of this project was written by writer and researcher, Phyllida Shaw.
In 1997 as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations the ABO ran a National Education Programme which involved 45 orchestras and opera companies. A year long programme of projects, another residential training course, and written materials were produced. The Workbook, volume 1, was a series of lively essays on the various approaches to music education, such as working with composers, working with other art forms, working with people with disabilities. A report of this programme of work, A Year in the Life was written by Pauline Tambling, then Head of Education, Arts Council England.
From 1998 - 2002 the ABO ran Orchestras in Education a programme of work aimed at primary school teachers enabling them to find out more about the work of orchestras in schools and for them to work creatively alongside professional musicians at Teachers Days. These were hosted by orchestras all over the UK and facilitated by the composer Alec Roth. The Workbook, volume 2 was published in 2002.
In 2009 the ABO published 'Live the Experience' a report on the provision of professional orchestral concerts for schoolchildren and young people in England. Following an evaluation research project funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, also in 2009, the ABO published 'Make the Difference: Evaluating Education Projects', written by Evaluation Consultant, Annabel Jackson. This publication formed the basis for a one-day training course on evaluation run by Annabel Jackson which was overwhelmingly positively received by all participants. In 2010 the ABO published 'Unlocking Potential: Education and the Orchestra' a report on the wide range of orchestras' education and community work across the UK.
Click on Publications to view a list of the ABO's Education Publications.