Special needs and mainstream schools make music together in exciting Open Orchestra initiative


The BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal College of Music and pioneers of assistive music technology, Drake Music, have teamed up with three London boroughs to develop the Open Orchestra project, an innovative new schools music programme bringing together children from special and mainstream schools.

In collaboration with the tri-borough Music Hub of Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, the seven month initiative works with two schools from each borough, one mainstream primary and one special primary school, to give children an exciting introduction to the orchestral world and the opportunity to create new musical material. Working around the theme of ‘flight’ and using creative music technology to assist the composition process, pupils will experience the power of technology allowing them to achieve what was previously only possible in their imagination. ‘Flight’ has long inspired composers resulting in a wealth of orchestral repertoire including one of Sibelius’ most  famous melodies from the third movement of his fifth symphony, which is said to have been inspired by the composer witnessing a flock of swans taking flight.

Workshops led by Drake Music Associate Musicians, BBC Symphony Orchestra musicians and students from the Royal College of Music’s Learning and Participation Programme, RCM Sparks, will take place throughout the 2012/13 academic year.  The project will culminate in a performance of the new work as well as other orchestral repertoire given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at a schools concert on 22 May 2013.

Carien Mejer, CEO at Drake Music hopes the project will have a long-lasting effect on children’s music education in the area: “We aim to inspire both the children and staff, enabling them to fulfil their creative potential and creating a firm foundation on which the teachers can build after the project has finished.”

Jean Carter from the Tri-borough Music Hub says “This project brings together many music partners who have a shared vision. The enthusiasm of all concerned will ensure that the children in the Tri-borough Music Hub schools receive exciting musical opportunities led by outstanding professionals who will support children to explore music in the most creative of environments.”

Paul Hughes, General Manager of the BBC SO says “This is an exciting strand of work in the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s learning programme. We hope that the partnerships and new ways of working forged in this pilot year will lead to exciting developments of this kind of work in the future.”