Cambridgeshire Octave and the Orchestra is a violin based project which provides young children with an understanding of basic musical elements in a fun, social environment. Linking with the health aspect it incorporates Kodaly song and Dalcroze movement, and develops transferable skills such as social, creative, co-ordination and motor skills.
Planned as a follow-on project for children who have outgrown Sing Chat & Rhyme.
Aims: To enhance their chances of success on starting school.
Working in specific areas of disadvantage, being guided by all available data on disadvantaged schools and those requiring deep partnership from county support teams, this was placed into 3 nursery schools for 12 week initial intervention, working with ages 2, 3 and 4 and also their setting staff, in order to build confidence for continuing music delivery.
The overall Early Years music and language strategy being developed is to cover pre-birth to school foundation stage. Its objective is to promote and develop early communication, language and literacy skills through pre-school music projects.
Octave and the Orchestra is an ideal introduction to music making and understanding music that will benefit children throughout their musical and general education through the development of a variety of transferable skills. By introducing children to singing, creative music and instrumental music making in pre-school, we have seen increased confidence, co-ordination, communication and social skills such as team work and turn taking, as well as developing their musical skills, Embracing the educational concepts of Zoltan Kodaly (based on unaccompanied song, relative sol-fa and rhythm sol-fa) and Emile Jacques Dalcroze (based on physical movement) and the more recent work of the Colourstrings movement, games and movement, and basic violin playing introduces them to new concepts, language, and spatial awareness. Fitting with our overall objective of creating a music and literacy scheme from pre-birth to school, this is developing literacy and numeracy skills alongside social interaction and involves working with setting staff and the county literacy team to evaluate.
To date, the Cambridgeshire Octave and the Orchestra project has been successful in 2 venues in North Cambridge; the second setting was so impressed with the prospect that they secured it by paying a fair contribution. Having a children from a wider selection of backgrounds, this provided a valued comparison between the two projects, which were delivered by the same tutor.
The third, Cambridgeshire Octave and the Orchestra project was delayed and is running currently in March, Fenland. After training, another tutor is delivering this alongside setting staff.
Some children were initially quite cautious and others boisterous and wanted to touch the violins. They were very sure of which tunes and nursery rhymes they recognised and preferred Ba Baa Black Sheep to Twinkle Twinkle. The tutor introduced them to a 1/32 violin and then played them music to dance to followed by calming music to which they responded. The first few sessions impressed upon them the fragility of the violins and taught them how to handle them.
All developed musical skills, knowledge and understanding. Development was tracked from first to last session. Three year olds and above were singing in tune and in time, marching and plucking individual strings accurately with increased motor control. All recognised high and low pitch. The two year old in this group fell asleep once, but loved the sessions. She could not pluck individual strings in time, or sing reliably in tune.
Learning: Age two may be too young to get the best from Octave.
By the last session, all the children were making choices about joining in individual activities and none opted out of anything completely.
Learning: children used this musical activity to develop their personal agency. When they realised their tutor had driven up they rushed eagerly to the mat to sit properly and wait. They learned that violins were only given out when children sat still and listened to instructions. Setting staff were amazed at the concentration and application of the children.
At the beginning children lacked confidence to join in singing the hello and goodbye songs. By the end they were all able to sing the register and to join in with all the singing. They were able to interact with each other when tasks were given, or when asked to play or sing individually, listening to each other. A (3) would often help V (2)
This development was noticed during the rest of the week:
‘C demonstrates actions and words from the violin session when involved in role play.’
‘F uses words and action through her play’. ‘In the sessions she helps others when they are struggling to hold a violin and will repeat instructions.’ ‘During role play F will again repeat instructions to others.’
The Assistant Manager of Setting came in to watch; children all standing plucking violins, behaving well – “I don’t believe it, x, y and z, all standing still, not running around, that does not happen!”
Manager of Setting – “It covers so much of what we do in the early years’ curriculum, basic skills such as quietly sitting still, waiting their turn for the activities, as well as allowing them to have fun and the opportunity to play a musical instrument.”
A 3 years 10 months participant
A was eager to hold a violin, but reluctant to listen to any instructions at first. She struggled to listen to instructions and several times she asked to leave the group because she didn’t want to wait for others to have their turn. A was easily distracted by the other children when waiting for her turn and showed little understanding of turn taking. She gradually became aware of the rules and boundaries around playing the violin.
By the end of the sessions A was confident enough to follow instructions and likes the sound of the music being played. She can follow the colour code for playing and is proud of her achievements.
She realises that she must wait her turn or else miss the opportunity to play and she really enjoys her time playing her violin. A now waits for others patiently, will spontaneously sing the hello song and sings confidently in her group.
We are told ‘she cannot wait for Anne to arrive and set up’.