CHILDREN from four Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools in Sunderland are taking part in a national music collaboration project with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  

Eight members of the orchestra which boasts some of the finest musicians in the country, visited Sunningdale school and North View Academy today (Thursday) and will visit Columbia Grange and Barbara Priestman schools tomorrow (Friday 6 January).

The professional musicians who annually perform in front of audiences all over the world at venues such as the Royal Festival Hall and Barbican in London, will perform a series of short, interactive concerts of fun orchestral music for pupils to enjoy and get involved in.

The interactive concerts will be led by a professional presenter with years of experience working with young people with a range of special educational needs.

Each concert will include instrument demonstrations, interactive elements for pupils to sing and move along to, and a range of orchestral favourites from film, television and the concert hall which everyone will recognise.

This short schools tour forms the regional launch of ‘Sound Around’ which is part of a new national orchestral project created by ‘Orchestras Live’ and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

It is being delivered across the city by a partnership of Sunderland City Council working through Sunderland Music Hub and the Sunderland Empire.

The aim of the project supported through the Arts Council and Department for Education music education funding, with matched funding from Sunderland City Council’s Music Education Hub and local trusts and foundations, is to create more opportunities for children and young people with additional SEN needs, to engage with live orchestral music as part of their personal, social and educational development.

More than 17 young people from SEN mainstream schools have already been recruited to take part in the project through a series of skills based workshops, with staff from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Sunderland Empire.

This musical culmination of the Sunderland ‘Sound Around’ project will see the young people from SEN and mainstream schools in Sunderland working alongside the professionals to produce, programme and present three concerts at the Sunderland Empire.

The first will be a performance of orchestral chamber music on Sunday 26 March followed by two full school orchestral concerts at the theatre on Tuesday 28 March.

Sunderland City Council Deputy Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Lynda Scanlan said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for children and young people in our city, not only to develop their musical talent but also to display their organisational skills working alongside the professionals to stage concerts at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre.

“We want to provide every pupil in every school in our city with the chance to achieve their full potential, and this music project will help play a great role in this on-going process.

“There are many ways to help a young person’s personal and social development, and music education in schools is one of them.”

Manager of the Sunderland Music Hub which provides school music services on behalf of Sunderland City Council, Rebecca Pedlow added: “We are delighted that Sunderland Council has been able to support bringing this major national project to Sunderland, one of only six areas across the country.

“There are seats available for the schools concerts on 28 March, an opportunity that not supports many curriculum targets in class but will also be a rare opportunity for children to experience a 70 piece London orchestra live at our great local venue, the Sunderland Empire theatre.”

Partnership Manager with Orchestras Live, Stuart Bruce added: “The ‘Sound Around’ project is truly inclusive, putting young people at the heart of producing as well as experiencing live music events with a world class orchestra.

“This is our first collaboration with Sunderland Music Hub and Empire Theatre, and we hope it will be the starting point for further inspirational youth-led orchestral youth-led projects in the area.”

Following this morning’s first two interactive music sessions at Sunningdale School, Stuart said: “The response from children, carers and staff was phenomenal this morning and provides us with the perfect start for what will be a two year national project.

” Sunderland is truly leading the way in becoming the first to host these events, and setting the perfect tone for ‘Sound Around’ before it set off around the country.”

Headteacher at Sunningdale  School in Shaftoe Road, Sunderland, Mrs Celia Wright said: “This morning was truly inspirational, many of our children can often struggle to sit still and concentrate so it was joy to see them all want to become involved in what was going on, and play their part in making music.

“It’s a great way to get children engaged in learning, and I’m hoping this will be the first stage in working more closely with the Sunderland Music Hub to bring more musical activities to our school.”

Talking about this morning’s performances by members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at their school,
Josh, 8, said: “This morning was great, I am really interested in music and now want to find out more about becoming involved.”

Stewart, 10, added: “It was awesome, I really enjoyed it especially the chance to play the percussion instruments.”