What is the point of First Access?

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.


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