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OPO Outreach schools’ Project: Stringmasters!

OPO Outreach schools’ Project: Stringmasters!
2 years ago   |   Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra   |   Orchestra, Outreach, Education, Primary Education

On 8 March 2022, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra welcomed 80 pupils – of whom 60 were from seven state primary schools in the Oxford area – to another of our annual ‘orchestral’ open days in collaboration with the Dragon School. This year’s workshop day was for string players – the project titled ‘Stringmasters!’ – and was particularly special as it marked the 10th anniversary of the partnership between the OPO and Dragon. In recognition of this milestone, the OPO extended the project by visiting each school in the preceding week, running 90-minute introductory workshops with a total of 270 students. 

Founded in 2013 by the OPO with the Dragon, the annual open days bring together primary school children from across Oxford for a fun, educational day of music-making. Pupils play and work together under the expert leadership of the professional musicians of the OPO, in an aim to encourage a love of music in young people and be accessible to all, with students’ abilities ranging from open strings to ABRSM Grade 6. As a great addition for the 10th anniversary, this year’s open day was preceded by a series of 90-minute introductory sessions at each of the schools, conducted by a small team of OPO musicians. This allowed a bond and familiarity between the professional musicians and children in advance of the main workshop. Leading these visits were OPO Sub-Principal violinist and RPS/ABO Salomon Prize winner Jamie Hutchison, and OPO bassist Dave Ayre. Joining the OPO workshop team at various points on this project were Julian Poole (percussion), Anna Croad (violin), Angus Bain (violin), Charlotte Reid (violin), Guy Button (viola) and Penny Bradshaw (cello).

“The violinists are so excited about next week and absolutely loved their time with Anna. I’ve never seen them so enthusiastic!”  

Teacher during the schools’ visits
Pupils at one of the introductory workshops

During the open day, students from Pegasus, Orchard Meadow, Windmill, St Andrew’s, Phil and Jim’s, Wolvercote, St Barnabas and Dragon schools worked together with the professional musicians from the OPO and Dragon staff to the project theme titled ‘Beethoven Rocks!’. They learned, rehearsed, composed, improvised and performed pieces based on Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony (the Shepherd’s hymn), the ‘Ode to Joy’ from his Ninth Symphony and Walter Murphy’s ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’ – the disco piece based on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The day concluded with a concert for the parents of all the participants, staff from each of the schools and friends of the OPO. 

“Thank you so so much for such a wonderful day. So amazing to hear so many children playing together again… We all loved it so so much!”

Teacher following the open day
Pupils participating in the workshop at the Dragon School

Everyone was particularly excited to be holding an in-person event again, following last year’s ambitious online workshop in the face of the pandemic restrictions. The 2021 OPO/Dragon collaboration involved working with primary schools independently to teach over 200 children to play ‘This is Me’ from the hit musical The Greatest Showman and ‘Sabre Dance’ by Khachaturian in a matter of hours! Each of the individual sessions were recorded and layered together into a dynamic music video, accompanied by a visual montage of photos from the workshops and artwork by the children. The full YouTube video can be seen here.

“After two years of online projects, I found it incredibly emotional hearing all the children play together in perfect harmony and with such joyful exuberance at the end of the day. I was also particularly moved to see all the different schools mingling and chatting excitedly during the break which, for me, is an important aspect of the day.”

Jamie Hutchinson following the open day 

Educating and encouraging the love of music in the younger generations are hallmarks of the OPO’s values. For more OPO content most suitable for primary school children, follow this link to the YouTube playlist of Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra family videos. If you are an educator and interested in the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra working with your students, please contact OPO Education Officer, William Emery, at [email protected].