Ulster Orchestra’s Learning and Community Engagement department has been working with its community partners, The Greater Shankill Children & Young People Zone, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and The Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University, Belfast, to develop and run Crescendo, a primary school engagement project supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Crescendo is a long-term collaboration with four Belfast primary schools including, Good Shepherd, Malvern, Holy Evangelists’ and Wheatfield, which all lie within areas of marked social deprivation. Currently reaching all children in P1-5, as well as some in P6 & P7, the programme aims to give pupils access to high quality music education throughout their primary school careers. 

Despite the many challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Learning and Community Engagement team at the Ulster Orchestra quickly adapted and provided weekly recorded workshops for all students.  Videos were sent via schools to students during home-learning, with parents encouraged to join the workshops with their children. Keyworker and vulnerable children participated alongside their teachers in school and just last week, one of the Crescendo associates was able to give outdoor lessons at two participating schools, meeting some of her pupils for the very first time.

Jonathan Simmance, Ulster Orchestra Animateur and Crescendo Creative Lead, says;

It is an enormous privilege for all involved in Crescendo to be a key part of the education of so many children, and at no time more so than the present. We are all passionate about the creative arts, and particularly music, and the role that they play in the development of our young people. To have been a constant presence in the lives of the schools, their pupils and their families during the pandemic has been challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

Liam Hannaway, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “Crescendo is an impressive outreach programme that has benefitted hundreds of primary school children, instilling in them a great love of music from a young age.  The Arts Council is committed to making the Arts accessible to everyone and all of our annually funded organisations, like the Ulster Orchestra, have outreach programmes in place designed to reach people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to engage with the Arts.    

It’s crucial that our young people get meaningful opportunities to learn and participate in high quality arts and music making.  Research shows it’s good for their wellbeing and confidence, it improves their mental health and academic performance, and it’s just good fun too.  Congratulations to everyone involved.”

To learn more about the outreach work of the Ulster Orchestra visit www.ulsterorchestra.co.uk