Holding a session in a school

Holding a session in a school

I work in a school which has timetabled co-curricular time which can be devoted to almost anything. We are all asked to come up with ideas which might encourage students to step out of their comfort zone or to have a go at something they have always fancied doing. I thought that this might be the ideal opportunity to run a traditional music session. There are lots of reasons why this may not be successful but I want to be positive. Does anyone have any experience or advice to offer?

Re: Holding a session in a school

Depending on how permissive the school is, you might want to go easy on the pints.

More seriously, if you have students who play the music, it’s a great idea. It’s less of a great idea if you’re thinking you’ll be teaching them the tunes in that time, but if there are players with a base of material to work with, it seems reasonable.

Re: Holding a session in a school

Yep ! Go for it,, Around Ireland many competitions, practice,and coarse lesson’s,, I had to do one In Ballymoney Primary School Once, ( Co,Antrim ) with other traditional musician’s, more nerve wracking than any Country Pub on a Friday night ,,, There everywhere and all want to play at the same time..

You in for hard work — But it’s well worth it !


Re: Holding a session in a school

Ment to say — { Around Ireland many competitions, practice,and of coarse lesson’s are done in schools’ }

Sorry,, jim,,,

Re: Holding a session in a school

The Scots Music Group in Edinburgh used to run classes after-hours in a school. They hit a huge problem with one classroom. You can’t teach tunes in a conventional school desk layout, so they moved them. Problem was, the desks were square tables with fake wood grain, and the teacher responsible for that classroom was an obsessive who insisted that not only did the desks have to put back in the same place, the woodgrain of each desk had to be lined up the same way, crossways to the room.

After a few years the SMG gave up and found another school to do it in.

Re: Holding a session in a school

It all depends on the people involved. If you have a music teacher who just wants to do ‘a bit of something different, and/or children who are there because that is where the timetable says they should be, then it won’t work. But if you have a traditional musician who can pass on his enthusiasm for the music, and kid’s who are there because they want to be, then it will work as well as any other session.

My other bit of advice is beware: - as soon as you set up a group like that you’ll start getting requests to perform at school concerts etc. DON’T DO IT! If you start pressurising the kids into learning set pieces and performing to a standard, it becomes just another version of the school orchestra - you’ll knock all the fun out of it and lose them. Let them develop at their own pace, and play out when they feel comfortable in themselves.

Re: Holding a session in a school

The school my son goes to has a weekly session and has has Christy Barry come in to preside over proceedings. Students pay two euro and bring an instrument if they want to take part. Mind you, the school’s population has a rake of lovely young players.

Posted .

Re: Holding a session in a school

The Scots Music Group is still going strong, and teaching loads of classes using school premises. (See http://www.scotsmusic.org for details). As part of this programme, we did also run a short session for a while in one of the rooms. It worked fine.

If you can go for it, and are getting free use of the premises, why not? In our experience, the benifits are huge, and the problems, if there are any, are usually pretty easy to get round


Ros Gasson
Development Worker
Scots Music Group

Posted by .

Re: Holding a session in a school

Hmm. My experience is somewhat different from some of other the advice here. I think this is really a case of suspending our finer sensbilities and going for what might work. It also depends on which country/area you are in.

I have successfully run two school groups over the years, where no pupils had previous experience of traditional music. In fact it was by playing in a school group (encouraged into performing by my secondary-school music teacher), that really got me hooked. Both my groups resulted in one or two individuals going away and following things up of their own volition. So I am not sure that yielding to the ‘normal structure’ is such a bad thing.

What doesn’t work is if the pupils are still beginners on the instruments - they need to be able to play reasonably well.

Two reasons for that:
1) they will want to make reasonably rapid progress in what will probably be to them an unfamiliar genre, and one to which they have not committed.

2) Otherwise, you will end up giving them instrument lessons instead, (and you may come up against ‘official’ music teachers giving lessons in other styles).

Unless you have got loads of time available and some really dedicated kids, you will need to give them the dots, assuming they can already read. What we were about was exposing novice kids to the genre for a while, rather than the niceties.

In the days when I did this, there was no such thing as YouTube etc. - but I reckon that showing them a few clips might be a good idea for whipping up enthusiasm and giving them a sense of the style of the music.

I found that the pupils really did enjoy performing something a little different, and the audience (mostly parents) also responded well to something unusual (from their perspective). It’s rhythmic, engaging and has novelty value for the vast majority.

Performance also lends focus to the activity, which children need - not sure that an ongoing session-type activity would necessarily hold any but the really committed.


Thanks to all for the comments. The advice is very sound and useful - I will let you know how I get on

Re: Holding a session in a school

I used to run an after school club in set dancing (at a primary school in England) which was very popular. I only gave it up because my baby got mobile, became a toddler and was running the risk of being trampled! The school want me back to do it again but I’m waiting until the little one is big enough to join in safely!
I have a friend who is a teacher and she runs a lunchtime club where she teaches tin whistle to the kids, again this is very popular.
It can work, but it all depends upon the attitude of the school and the enthusiasm of the youngsters.

Re: Holding a session in a school

On another note entirely…
For a number of reasons (I’m not a driver and have 2 young kids, a partner with crazy working hours, no local sessions, severe lack of babysitters…) I’ve set up a session in my local Irish club where children are welcome for a Sunday afternoon. If we have beginners turn up they’re very welcome whatever age they are, and if we have players who want to bring their kids along just to experience the session that’s also fine and can only be a positive experience for the kids.