My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Virtual tour reaches 200 schools as band pumps up the volume

The North Wales Music Cooperative's popular band, Make Some Noise, with Geraint Davies, Head of Education Services, Denbighshire Council; Cllr Gill German, Denbighshire Council Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Education, Children and Families; Mari Lloyd Pritchard, National Music Service Co-ordinator; North Wales Music Cooperative chair Cllr Mark Young and North Wales Music Cooperative Head of Servoce Heather Powell

A group of talented musicians pumped up the volume to inspire schoolchildren to start taking music lessons.

Pupils in Denbighshire, Wrexham and other parts of Wales were rocking in the aisles as the band, Make Some Noise, played a series of concerts as part of a virtual tour that took in 200 schools.

The band includes nine tutors who work with the North Wales Music Co-operative, a not-for-profit organisation that provides hiqh quality music tuition for children and young people.

The service, which comprises sister co-operatives in Denbighshire and Wrexham, is now expanding thanks to extra funding that’s come via the new National Music Plan for Wales launched by the Welsh Government.

As a result, pupils in Year Three in both counties will be able to try six different instruments during a series of six sessions.

The plan also included the virtual tour of live-streamed concerts of performances staged at the co-operative’s newly-refurbished headquarters on the Spencer Industrial Estate in Denbigh.

Schools from other parts of Wales also tuned in to learn about the ground-breaking technology that made it all happen.

Before Covid-19 struck the band would tour schools introducing themselves and explaining how pupils could take advantage of music lessons via the cooperative music tutors.

But the pandemic forced this annual tour to be called off and the service came up with the idea of a virtual tour.

The two co-operatives revamped the service to keep the service alive with lessons for primary schools and high schools taking place online instead.

Their innovative approach was honoured last year at the prestigious Social Business Wales Awards where they picked up the Tech for Good award.

Although face-to-face lessons have now returned, virtual lessons have added another string to the services bow and will remain as part of a hybrid service in future.

Head of Service Heather Powell said the streamed concerts had been hugely popular and had triggered dozens of new requests for tuition.

She said: “There are nine people, all tutors in the service,  in the band playing a variety of instruments and they performed a varied programme, ranging from popular classical pieces through to rock songs from Queen to ‘Yma o Hyd’, Dafydd Iwan’s song which is fast becoming an anthem at Wales international football matches.

“They also introduce the various instruments during the concert and show the youngsters what can be played on them.”

She added: “Before the pandemic we were looking at ways in which we could use technology to make our music lessons programme more inclusive but when coronavirus struck our plans were fast forwarded in a way we could never have envisaged.

“Music is proven to improve numeracy, literacy, confidence and well-being in children. It should not just be seen as an add-on lesson – it is a core subject beneficial to all.

“All face to face to lessons have restarted and demand is high – the music service is very busy and pleased to be supporting pupils return to normality after the pandemic.”

The Welsh Government have pledged to increase funding for music tuition in schools and present at one of the recent concerts was Mari Lloyd Pritchard, the recently appointed National Music Service Co-ordinator, and senior officials from Denbighshire and Wrexham councils.

Mari Lloyd Pritchard, who conducts a variety of music groups and choirs for youngsters on Anglesey, said: “This is a very exciting time for music education in Wales. Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to them.

“Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”

Launching the National Plan for Music Education earlier this year the Welsh Government Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles MS, confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.

He said the plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs.

Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.

Co-operative chair Cllr Mark Young said: “The band are highly skilled and the way they interact with the children using the advanced technology is extremely impressive.

“We are in a very good place to develop the service further and I’m really proud of the way the service is getting better and better all the time in delivering music to as many youngsters in our schools as possible. The team really are amazing.”

Cllr Gill German, Denbighshire Council Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Education, Children and Families, said she was delighted to see music being made acceptable to all children and young people.

She said: “What a great performance – excellent playing and singing with a nice sense of humour. The children were clearly engaged and even those who for whom playing an instrument is not an interest will have learned something new.”

Wrexham Council’s education officer, Dafydd Ifans, added: “It was fantastic to see the hard work of the tutors. We could see the children watching the concert in their schools and they were clearly enjoying themselves as well.”