As part of the ever-evolving piano donation scheme at Millers, we recently donated two of our cherished pianos to the incredibly welcoming Hatton Park Primary School and Northstowe Secondary College in Longstanton.
Over the past few years, the schools have been placing an incredible emphasis on the power of music and have been increasingly trying to introduce performances, practice opportunities and exposure of instruments from around the world to their pupils. Everything from giving their students the opportunity to demonstrate what they are learning to encouraging their teaching staff to perform in assemblies alongside the children, their aim is to give students as much exposure to music as possible.
Whilst delivering the piano, we spoke to Head Teacher of Hatton Park Primary School, Mr. Aguda and Head of the Music Department at Hatton Park, Mr. Thompson, as well as some of the incredibly talented pupils on why they believe music is so important to the education system.
Mr. Thompson is certainly a passionate performer and as he begins to play the first few tunes on the new piano and the hall fills with sound, he notes the mindset that he and the staff at Hatton Park are trying to shift when it comes to music and confidence.
“Music does so many things and activates so many parts of the brain that other forms of learning might not for some children. You can just see the joy on a child’s face when they are able to play an instrument, even when they are still learning, they’re discovering new steps and slowly getting better, you can literally see the positive effect it has on them.
For some children, school is all about confidence. If a child is not feeling particularly confident in certain lessons or certain parts of the education system, if they can excel at music, sport or something else, that can help give them a real boost of confidence that can then feed back into other areas of their learning. So we want to encourage that as much as possible”
After speaking to a handful of the children at the school and watching some of them play some incredibly intricate pieces, alongside total beginners exploring their first few notes, one pupil who has been learning for around 3 years said why they love playing piano: “I feel like I can express my emotions with it. If I’m feeling a bit sad , I can always go back to the piano and play something.” another then also said: “I mainly like the sound of it and how calming it is, if you’re really stressed out it can really help you.”
Mr. Aguda continues to explain how the other teaching staff are also keen to get involved, a number of the teachers at Hatton Park are also performers and before the pandemic were regularly are known to perform in assembly alongside the children on everything from guitars, drums, euphonium, flutes and recorders.
“We’ve got a lot of plans for our lovely new piano to be used by both new learners and those further along in their journey.the piano, We have plans to make our older piano into essentially be a ‘play piano’ for everybody. We want to put it in a space where the children can access it with a teacher if they want to and make playing music in a completely non threatening environment where they will just be able to come away and make whatever sounds they want.
It’s really interesting actually, you’ll see those in reception have absolutely no fear, go up to a piano and have a go at anything. As they grow though, a sense of self-consciousness begins to creep in where they might feel a little embarrassed or shy to express themselves. Our vision is to make sure that doesn’t happen!”
There is an incredibly strong message here and it’s a vision that we also share at Millers. Many children (and adults) hit a certain age and will say things like “I’m not musical or I’m tone deaf” when that simply isn’t true. The staff at Hatton Park share our vision of making music accessible and are keen to place less emphasis on the ‘final exam’ or ‘the big performance’ and instead create a non judgemental atmosphere where the joy of exploring music and sound is at the heart of it. Over time the plan is to try to make performing a natural part of the school’s day where every child is given the opportunity to perform not only finished pieces but also their works in progress. Mr. Thompson explains how even seeing children in Reception just playing a few notes in front of each other helps make performing a natural thing, it isn’t about the spotlight but more about the journey.
It’s an exciting time for music at Hatton Park Primary School and Northstowe Secondary College. We’re incredibly proud to be a part of it and see how the schools continue to develop and grow their musical expression!