Guest blog post by Jeremy D Rowe.
This story starts in a very unlikely way: we went to a symphony concert at Barcelona’s Auditori, with the Orquestra Simfonica de Barcelona, which was to include Brahms’s 3rd Symphony and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Before the concert started, a short video was shown about music teaching in a local school. Suddenly we were listening to (and watching) a headteacher talking about her school’s commitment to the arts, and how this enhances all the children’s learning in all other subjects.
Following the video, the first item of the concert was a co-operation between the school and the symphony orchestra. The school had worked with a guest musician to develop instrumental and vocal music, based on the Firebird, and had added some mime and dance. The piece was called “Gall de Foc”. There were about fifty children on stage: nine playing junior double basses, about a dozen on violins, and at least twenty-five plastic guitars. Through the audience came another fifty or so, dancing and singing, and going up onto the stage to join the full orchestra and their peers. The children appeared to be from years 5 and 6. I counted at least five teachers working amongst them, keeping everything going.
The performance was wonderful, with the children playing alongside the professional orchestra, and singing with Festival of Voices gusto. I cried all the way through.
The concert programme said: “The school was born in 2014 as a unique project based on all artistic languages ….. our principal objective is to create a centre working on all the arts to make a social transformation.” It’s a state school, in a working class neighbourhood near the airport. During the weekend, they did three performances (Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday morning).
Back home afterwards, I looked for the school on the internet, and from its website it’s possible to guess that it has a very mixed population. I discovered a large number of videos of the work going on in the school, not just music, but all the arts, and with all primary ages. ….. how wonderful to find everything we believe in alive and well in an urban school in Barcelona.
The kind of work which is vanishing from schools in the UK, the kind of work which gives children a basis for a fulfilled life, bursts from the screen in the videos you can find on YouTube. Just look up “Escola Pepa Colomer” on YouTube and see what can be done with an enthusiastic staff, and a local authority willing to fund a “radical” approach to primary education. The children are exploding with enthusiasm. These kids will not be turning to knife crime to justify their existence!
Oh, and by the way, the Auditorium gave all parents tickets for the concert for only €15 (most seats cost about €50 or more), so this venture was supported in many and various ways.
Jeremy D Rowe