First Access Classes (formerly called Wider Opportunities)
First Access is the government Arts Council supported opportunity for whole classes or year groups to "have a go" at playing an instrument in primary schools. The group is taught the basics of playing an instrument which includes reading music, music theory and basic techniques. It is hoped that some of the group will subsequently take up an instrument of their choice not necessarily one that was covered in the lessons, but they will have a basic knowledge to help them to progress rapidly with their choice of instrument. The First Access programme is operated by local Music Education Hubs who usually supply the instruments for this purpose. There are usually 10 weekly sessions per term totaling 30 for the year but extra sessions and concert attendance/performances are options that can be added by request.
Brass instruments are a great way to get children motivated into performing. We usually use cornets, trumpets and baritones in these sessions and in 99% of cases all of the children can perform a simple piece such as Jingle Bells at the end of the first 10 week term.
There is something special in watching 30+ children performing Jingle Bells to a very proud audience of parents after a very short time.
We run Samba drumming workshops and regularly take sessions for First Access / Wider Opportunities in a number of primary schools. We also run Samba classes to private groups which are becoming more popular due to word of mouth referrals.
The pupils often come in with no formal music or rhythmic knowledge and frequently end up performing at a variety of functions including large carnivals and Christmas time at supermarkets after a fairy brief period of learning.
The First Access groups are usually years 3 - 6 and the non school groups include pupils of any age from reception class to OAPs and are of very mixed educational abilities.
Djembe Drums, Cajon Drums & Other Percussion
We offer other drum workshops on top of the Samba groups such as African or native American style drumming where the pupils learn to play Djembe and Cajon drums or other percussion instruments with some that are all home made. We also create “Junk Bands” for the groups where anything is turned into a percussion instrument and played. These can be great fun as well as informative and the pupils who have been to a number of our sessions all want to come back and do more! The sessions are aimed at all ages (in age specific groups) from year 2 primary children to adults.
These sessions can also be aligned to the science of sound aspect of the National Curriculum enabling cross curriculum tuition!
Choral, Singing and Vocal Training
As a part of the First Access sessions we always include a singing section either as part of the lesson such a "Samba song" for the Samba classes or a fun song to close the session.
Singing can also be a separate First Access course and the sessions will include part singing and harmonisation, music reading and general music theory. There are millions of songs that are available for any event or just for fun and these range from Abba hits to classical masterpieces.
Our aim is to teach individual parts to the class and then to build in the musical nuances such as dynamics, diction, breathing, sound production, voice projection and all other aspects relating to creating a full and varied sound for a choral group. These techniques can be applied to all levels of tuition from primary school choirs to orchestral choruses and any other styles when choral singing is required.
Simple singing exercises are also great for special needs tuition and can be started at a very basic level rising to a wonderfully complex sound in a short space of time. All that is required is to keep the interest going which we make a special point of achieving.
Keyboard First Access groups are taught the fundamentals of playing a keyboard with the initial sessions relating to navigating all those black and white keys and gaining an understanding of the relationships between different notes. This includes how the intervals (gaps between notes) sometimes sound good and sometimes bad. Once this level is attained then we start looking at playing one handed melodies and later on add the left hand chords and rhythms.
We off Ukulele as a First Access course and start with basic tuning then the use of open strings and simple chords to accompany songs. Over the weeks we teach further chords and the culmination is that virtually the whole class can accompany their own songs often at an assembly or other school performance with a parent or other audience.
Recorders are a great way to get very young children interested in music and our First Access classes are the way to achieve this. We teach children how to breath, control of volume, notes and music reading and eventually paying in multiple parts as an ensemble. Many young people progress from a recorder to another instrument and the basic musical knowledge gained in these classes prove to be very valuable to their development and not just in music!