Success for nursery music project

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A community project that aims to boost music-making in nurseries and children's centres in London has been found successful in bringing quality musical experiences to children.

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Research was commissioned by the Wigmore Hall in London, a national venue for chamber music, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Chamber Tots. It found that the flagship early years programme 'raises the level of provision in settings so that it is likely to have a longer-time influence on the quantity and range of musical experience for the children'.

Chamber Tots, which has run music workshops in more than 80 early years settings, is led by professional musicians in settings in the boroughs of Hackney, Westminster and Tower Hamlets. It holds an annual series of concerts at the hall with performances from the children.

The programme includes visits from chamber groups playing guitar and violin, wind instruments, percussion and double bass.

The report's author and researcher Dr Susan Young, senior lecturer at Exeter University's Graduate School of Education, said, 'One of the things that makes Chamber Tots distinctive is that it's been able to run for ten years and so has a strong structure with very experienced workshop leaders.'

She said the scheme was unusual in 'the balance between adult-led and child-initiated learning. The first half of the session is more conventional, with songs and activities, but the second is more free-flow, with opportunities for the children to play with the instruments, with the musicians improvising in a child-initiated way.'

Dr Young added, 'There is an over-emphasis these days that music should have a wider impact on children's learning - make children better at reading and maths, for example. Valuing music for music's sake, which is what Chamber Tots does best, tends to get overlooked.'

Julia Roderick, producer at Wigmore Hall Learning, who manages Chamber Tots, said, 'We wanted to assess the children's musical participation and levels of involvement in project activities. The research found the programme offers exceptional musical experiences that engage and excite young children and enhance and enrich their lives in every respect.'

She added, 'There's a huge emphasis on supporting and training early years staff. We want to leave staff equipped with the confidence and skill base to lead music sessions themselves.'

In Hackney the project is part-funded with the Hackney Music Service. The nursery at Woodberry Down children's centre in Hackney shares the Chamber Tots sessions with Lilliput playgroup next door.

Mary Mimpey, lead teacher, said, 'The children, parents and staff love it. It gives practitioners skills in structuring other sessions, like music and dance, and different ways to use instruments and develop children's musicality.'

Further information www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/chambertots

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