I am in the second row this year and fascinated by the quiet preparations of the assembled 110 year 3 pupils making up the string orchestra. One girl with cello is silently rehearsing a measured pizzicato involving a flowing arc of the arm between imagined sounds. Another is finding the balancing point of her violin bow and a boy sits proud on his double bass stool able to stay in tacit communication with parent.
The concert begins. Each piece has a backing track requiring the children to know their place in the music, to be aurally cued and to faithfully maintain their part.
A year ago I wrote about this annual event here
In that blog I set about justifying this First Access programme in terms of a general music education rather than a special focus on learning to play a string instrument.
Secondary school music teachers sometimes ask:
‘What is the point of First Access?’
Presumably such teachers see First Access as a promise that pupils with instrumental skill will transfer to their school. But of course this is a promise never made and one that in any case could never be kept.
In my case very few pupils continue learning their instruments after their year 3 experience.
However, watching the performance of the year 3 strings I was again convinced that here was an example of a fine foundational musical experience if not yet qualifying as an example of a fulsome musical education. (See https://jfin107.wordpress.com/?s=First+Access)
The question arises:
Could such experience be achieved in other ways, as part of a normal classroom music programme and as part of a broader view of music education?
If the answer is yes then the point of First Access could be sharpened and resources deployed more expeditiously.