The Big Noise has continued despite Covid-19, lockdowns and school closures
Children in some of Scotland's most challenged communities have continue to benefit from free music tuition.
Music charity Sistema Scotland has delivered over 6,650 free online music lessons, activities and events to children, young people and their families in some of Scotland’s most challenged communities since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, offering 2,830 hours of tuition (equivalent to 118 full days).
The charity operates in areas such as the Raploch in Stirling and Govanhill in Glasgow.
The news comes as the charity launches its new strategy today, setting out where it will target its efforts and resources as Scotland emerges from the coronavirus crisis, and the years ahead, so it can continue to sustain and improve the wellbeing, resilience, and learning of children, young people, families, and communities across Scotland.
Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise programmes use the symphony orchestra to help children from some of Scotland’s most challenged communities gain an invaluable range of life skills and experiences, developing confidence, teamwork, resilience, pride and aspiration.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, delivery of the programme had to be moved online through digital lessons and resources, with a limited number of safe face-to-face sessions.
From April 2020 to January 2021, the programme delivered more than 6,650 online music lessons, activities and events over almost 170,000 minutes or 2,830 hours of tuition, helping the children and young people of Big Noise stay in touch with each other during lockdown.
Music engagement has been proven to improve children’s skills in all key areas: creativity, literacy, and numeracy. These skills augment the mental health benefits of improved emotional resilience and interpersonal skills, and the physical health benefits of improved neurological development and motor skills. (3)
Commenting on the new strategy, the chairman of Sistema Scotland, Benny Higgins, said: “Our children and young people have had their world turned upside down by Covid-19. They're in their second lockdown, trying to do school through a screen if they can access one. They're worried about their families and friends. They don't know what's going to happen or what their future will look like.
“The Big Noise programme is so much more than music. It teaches children to believe in themselves and their ability to keep trying when things don't work first, second or third time. It teaches them to listen to each other and support one another. Our children have never needed that self-belief, teamwork and creativity more than they do right now.
“This year, Scotland has committed to bringing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. Now we must be bold about ending the inequalities that far too many of our children face, and be brave in our support for the organisations who are tackling those inequalities head on.”
Hannah-Mary McEwan (16) is a violinist with Big Noise in Stirling. She said: "There’s a lot of noise about schools at the moment. I know nobody’s got all the answers. I just wish I knew when I can go back and what I’ll be able to do. Will it be safe? It’s not just school though, there’s loads of things I love doing. It’s good that we can still do some stuff online, but I’m desperate to be with my friends properly again. Like playing my violin with the rest of the orchestra, not just in my room.
"When you come in for a Big Noise rehearsal and everyone is there, your instrument in your hands and then the conductor lifts her arms… you get such an adrenaline rush because you know it’s going to sound great.
"Lockdown’s been hard. I miss my friends. I miss my teachers too, I really like my teachers!. I don’t know when I’ll be back or what’s happening with exams. When I leave school I want to be a music teacher, or maybe a primary school teacher, but I don’t know how all that works right now. I worry about my family too. My mum’s a health visitor and she’s out and about a lot. M
"During the first lockdown everything just stopped but Big Noise kept going. It was the only normal thing still happening. I miss going in to learn with the Big Noise musicians, but I still see some of them online. You can have a really good talk with them; they care and they want to know how you’re doing, how you’re coping. They believe in you."
Nicola Killean OBE, chief executive of Sistema Scotland, said: “Sistema Scotland was set up to improve lives and strengthen the amazing communities that we work with. All our work in response to the impact of Covid-19 has been underpinned by that commitment. I’m incredibly proud of everything that our children, young people, families and communities have achieved during what has been a hugely challenging and uncertain time in all of our lives.
“We want to build on the innovations we’ve made to Big Noise over the past year and to share what we have learned over the past 13 years; working with our great local partners, as well as organisations and agencies across Scotland, to support more children and young people.”
Killean added: “We know that a long-term, nurturing approach to music teaching and engagement – from early childhood through to the end of secondary school and beyond – has significant positive benefits for the children and young people of Big Noise. From boosting their language and motor skills in infancy to inspiring positive life choices and ambitious post-school destinations in adolescence, the Big Noise musicians help to educate, mentor and nurture our participants through to a happier, healthier adulthood.”
As the public health crisis continues and regions move between levels of protective measures, Sistema Scotland’s new strategy will aim to continue to adapt and utilise each of these ways of working to provide a continuity of support for children, families and communities across Scotland through music and nurturing relationships with the Big Noise musicians and wider teams.