Last Wednesday (9 July 2014) pupils from Windmill Primary School in Belle Isle took part in a concert at Leeds Town Hall with the orchestra and chorus of Opera North and the City of Leeds Youth Orchestra.
This was the second Town Hall concert that the school has held as part of the In Harmony Opera North project. The concert, called ‘I Got Rhythm’, featured a programme of American music including Copland’s ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ and Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’.
In Harmony Opera North sees all pupils at Windmill Primary School, involved in a year-round immersive musical experience. They sing in choirs, play in orchestras, receive instrument tuition, and take part in music workshops and classes specially devised by Opera North, with more than 5 hours of music teaching per child each week. Now in its second year, In Harmony Opera North was recently named ‘Best Classical Music Education Initiative’ at the Music Teacher Awards 2014.
Along with its federated partner Low Road Primary School in Hunslet, which also has a big music programme, they are known as the Music Federation. They have made changes to make the most of this opportunity. Windmill changed its school day, with parental support, to 8:30am – 3:45pm to fit in the music without losing other elements of the curriculum.
As you walk around Windmill you come across trolleys stacked with double basses and special shelving in the cloakrooms for hundreds of violins and violas. It’s not just the children that are learning, teachers are joining in too, giving the children a great example of life long learning.
Headteacher Sally Sumpner said:
“It’s been a fantastic experience. Apart from the music it’s given our children great skills in co-operating, listening, understanding and working together. I’m not sure it has impacted on academic attainment, but it has developed the wider skills that will secure that attainment.”
Rebecca Walsh, Education Director at Opera North, said:
“Over the last year, the In Harmony children have made genuine leaps and bounds in their musical progress. From proudly plucking open strings in the choir stalls last year they are now playing with their bows, seated alongside the professionals of the Orchestra of Opera North, and concentrating not only on playing their instrument but reading the music and following the conductor as well.”
The In Harmony project has also engaged parents with many attending and enjoying the Town Hall concert. The staff also run a community choir for parents and other local residents. It meets every Friday lunchtime in term time at Hunslet Parkside Rugby Club next to the school.