Music Matters at St Thomas’
Music is at the heart of our school life.
Singing and music fill our school each and every day. We put a lot of emphasis on performance, building the children’s confidence and enjoyment through music making in class music lessons, singing during the school day in assemblies and in classrooms, or in the wealth of extra-curricular music opportunities on offer in school and outside with other schools. In these many ways we aim to foster strong musical identities in our children that we hope will lay the foundations for a lifelong love of and engagement with music and all the wider benefits that music can bring.
High Expectations and Music for All
In line with the National Curriculum for Music and best practice, our aim is that the children experience a balance of performance, composition and musical appreciation and understanding. We have high expectations and aim to go further than the National Curriculum in the musical learning opportunities we provide for children across the school. Curriculum music lessons focus on developing the musical skills and understanding so that all children are able to sing or play in the different ensembles, productions and concerts that make up the rich musical life of our school. It is our belief that all children are inherently musical. So all musical learning opportunities in school are available to every child through an inclusive and accessible approach in music lessons and school ensembles; for example, tailoring parts so that even a child just starting to learn an instrument can experience the thrill and enjoyment of making music with their friends.
Singing – our first instrument
Singing is at the heart of all our music making in lessons. It is a child’s first instrument which needs to be nurtured and developed, recognising that it can take children different amounts of time to find their singing voice. We use a Kodaly singing-based approach across all our music curriculum lessons and a ‘sound before symbol’ approach to develop children’s musicianship skills and understanding through fun multi-sensory, action songs, singing games and listening activities. In this way children’s musical learning develops naturally from an active and individual experience of music to a more formal approach as they move through the school. We use the award winning Jolly Music Programme in EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Years 3 and 4 and the National Youth Choirs of Scotland (NYCoS) Going for Bronze Scheme in Years 5 and 6, both of which are centred on the Kodaly approach. Our aim is that all children should have found their Singing Voice by the end of Year 2. This is the foundation for a strong musical identity and strong musical development going forward.
Instruments for all
As children progress through the school, we offer all children the opportunity to learn an instrument in Key Stage 2. Children in Year 3 learn to play the recorder in their class music lessons, using a Kodaly-based recorder programme that naturally progresses from their song-based learning in Key Stage 1. Children move from singing using solfa hand signs to reading rhythmic solfa and then on to reading one, two and three line staves before progressing to the five-line stave in readiness for their whole class instrumental learning in Year 4.
Our Year 4 children all have the opportunity to learn either the violin or cello through the Strings Scheme organised in partnership with the RGS and Southern Pro-Musica. Children can participate in the Scheme’s String Orchestra with children from other participating schools as well as in our own school Concert Band.
In Year 5 children learn to play the ukulele in class music lessons, learning to read tab notation and chord symbols and starting to explore song writing using a simple 4 chord progression. In Year 6, children have opportunities to use all their different musical skills and understanding to start composing and performing their own music. For example, Year 6 wrote their own psalms based on a 4 chord progression learnt in ukulele lessons in Year 5, composing their own melodies and performing on a range of individual instruments and ukuleles.
In normal times the children perform and lead the music in our whole school worship on Monday.
The whole school has been learning to play the spoons with lots of fun and lots of success!
In these many different ways children move from a singing-led curriculum to a more formal musical approach, but where singing is still at the heart of everything we do.
Making links across the curriculum through music
Topic-based musical learning and Supporting speech, language and communication skills through music
Alongside the development of key musicianship skills and understanding through singing, we are always looking to make connections across the curriculum to support and enhance children’s wider learning.
Every term, children learn songs linked to their class topic or wider learning which help to support the retention of key facts and gives them the opportunity to express and explore their learning in a musical context. For example, Year 3 used their understanding of the development of a river from its head waters to the sea as they listened to Ma Vlast by Smetana, a symphonic poem describing the River Vltava and its journey through Hungary. They listened carefully to the sounds Smetana had used to portray the river in its various stages and the communities who live along the river. They described what they could hear using musical vocabulary, annotating maps of the river and writing about how the music made them feel and why. Through such activities we aim to help children to learn and use a musical vocabulary through critical listening and support and enhance their literacy skills in a cultural and musical context.
Supporting speech, language and communication skills through music
Considerable research evidence highlights the role music can play in supporting cognitive and social and emotional development. This is a particular research interest of Dr Mather who has investigated the role music can play in learning support in primary education. With this in mind we have started a weekly musical learning support intervention to support identified speech, language and communication needs for a small group of children in Year 2, led by Dr Mather and Miss Baldock. The children explore through free and structured musical play and singing and rhythm games which have been tailored to support their specific needs.
Visiting Musician Programme and Musical visits and concerts
It is important that children have the opportunity to work alongside professional musicians if they are to see music as a possible career and lifelong activity. We have introduced a Visiting Musician Programme in addition to the visiting peripatetic tutors who teach various musical instruments, organised through Surrey Arts.
The Visiting Musician Programme aims to bring musicians who are experts in their field of music, to work in school with our children, exposing them to new musical genres and widening their musical understanding and appreciation through hands-on music making activities. We have had visits from the Santiago Quartet who specialise in Tango music; Olly Tumner from Beat Goes On leading workshops in Samba, body percussion and rhythm and literacy; and Icosa Choir in collaboration with the Santiago Quartet providing singing workshops in preparation for a joint concert of Tango music with both ensembles in Holy Trinity Church in Guildford. Andy Severyn, a Catholic composer, teacher and broadcaster, led a workshop on liturgical music and composition, which led to Year 6 children writing psalms for use in school. Jo May and Linda Game have become frequent visitors to the school leading learning about Folk Music through spoon playing.
Musical visits and concerts
It is important children have the opportunity to perform in school and outside school with other children. St Thomas has a proud and long tradition of musical and dramatic productions on a termly basis.
We enthusiastically take part in the Godalming Music Festival each year entering our two school choirs and Concert Band. The choirs have also taken part in the Scratch Youth Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall.
Every Autumn the whole school performs for an audience of invited grandparents and older members of our community at our Harvest Tea and this is followed in Advent with a series of performances and service across all phases.
In the spring term Year 5 children perform the Passion with huge maturity and Year 6 end the year with a musical production.
Whenever we can, we perform to parents with termly evening concerts and with our local secondary school, St Peter’s.
Sharing our music in the community
Together with Music
We are a member school of the Together with music initiative which brings together young people and older generations in local care homes through a shared love of music and performance.
Together with Music is a virtual, intergenerational campaign that will build connections between care homes, residents, older people and their local schools and youth groups. Through music and the act of music making, we aim to raise awareness, establish strong networks and in turn, tackle loneliness, isolation and promote sustainable socialising for those most vulnerable especially, during the winter months when so many are feeling isolated, depressed and disconnected. This campaign will encourage community partnerships and empower care staff, teachers and community members to play an active role in their neighbourhoods. Through connection and collaboration, we will build strong, creative and resilient communities, whilst offering both the young and the old opportunities to explore, develop and come together with music. It starts with a song!
Care England is partnering with Intergenerational Music Making in launching ‘Together with Music’, a virtual intergenerational initiative that easily links care homes and older people to young people in the community through music. Music has the ability to connect, to transcend across age, race and background and to empower individuals to raise their voices Together with Music aims to:
• Tackle loneliness and isolation through music
• Create and empower strong, cohesive communities for the future
• Encourage collaboration and partnership working between sectors
• Improve the mental health and wellbeing of both generations
• Build a thriving network built upon musical connection
• Improve lives of those living with dementia through music and connection
• Repositioning care homes as an integral and innovative part of our communities.
• Care homes taking the lead in embedding and establishing cultural community hubs.