teaching whistle to school children

teaching whistle to school children

On Thursday I will be demonstrating whistles and flutes to groups of school children. I was told at one time that all Irish children are taught the whistle and I wanted to speak to that. Can someone help me with a few question?

1…Is it true? assuming that it is true…

2…At what age is the whistle taught?

3…Is the teaching done according to some national or regional curriculum or is it locally controlled?

4…What tunes are taught?

5…Is the skill graded?

6…Is historical context taught?

Any information would really help me…and I’m really curious about this. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Ross

Re: teaching whistle to school children

I know a guy who learned to play whistle in an Irish elementary school. He also learned to dislike whistles. Imagining a room full of kids learning to play the whistle, I can’t say that second fact surprises me.

Re: teaching whistle to school children

The National School System has not always been sympathetic to traditional music in Ireland. However the subject is politically charged and so it is twisted and convoluted. Comhaltas is dedicated to furthering ITM, but it also is politically charged…
How big a bog do you want to get into?

Re: teaching whistle to school children

My son has just started learning tin whistle in school here in Ireland. He is 8.
I would say it is very common for kids to learn whistle in rural/ countyschools here but not as common in schools in city areas.

The kids play d whistles and start off playing nursery rhymes and then progress to simple tunes they also learn seasonal tunes "Rudolph" at Christmas etc..
It is not part of a curriculum. In my sons school the whistle is taught by a music student from the near by music college. Each parent pays 16 euro for a block of classes.
I am very pleased with my son taking whistle. My house is full of instruments and I couldnt get him to try any but now he will play a simple tune on his whistle and Ill play along.

I agree with Al the sound of 26 whistles all going at once must be quite an expierence!

Re: teaching whistle to school children

The historical context is not taught and there is no grading.

Re: teaching whistle to school children

Some of ours did a class after school hours with a teacher brought in from outside the school. Only those who wanted to go or whose parents wanted them to go, attended.

I’d guess it varies a lot from school to school in Ireland both primary and secondary and depends on the teaching staff and their interests / abilities. They’re supposed to do some ‘music’ in the primary curriculum as far as I know but singing would count for that - so learning the national anthem and hymns etc. The younger teachers are probably keener overall I suspect.

Whatever, the culture outside school is what matters most and Irish school children are very much in line with west European and American culture these days. Irish trad music is not exactly part of that to put it mildly so would be very much a minority interest, stronger in some rural parts and I stress some.

Re: teaching whistle to school children

When I say Ireland above, I refer to the Republic - no idea what goes on up in northern schools ;)

Re: teaching whistle to school children

From my own experience as someone who went to primary school in a provinicial town in Ireland (Athlone) starting in the mid-late 1980s:

1…Is it true? assuming that it is true…
Not quite - I only remember having two teachers that dedicated any class time to playing the whistle, once when I was around 7 years old, and again when I was around 10 years old. In both cases I think it was an hour per week or so. Other than those two years my class got no whistle instruction.

2…At what age is the whistle taught?
When I was in school it started in second class (around the age of 7-8). Other schools may have started their kids earlier but I’m not sure.

3…Is the teaching done according to some national or regional curriculum or is it locally controlled?
No curriculum that I am aware of - I think it is up to the individual teacher, or at least was when I was in school. Perhaps things have changed in more recent years.

4…What tunes are taught?
We never learned any jigs/reels/hornpipes etc. It was more tunes like Twinkle Twinkle, Oh When the Saints go Marching in, our national anthem etc. No ornamentation or technique was ever taught, and we were never taught to read music or any other aspect of music theory. Both teachers that I had used the doh-re-mi system. My sister, who went to the girls’ school nearby, had a teacher who taught them more ‘trad’ type tunes and used the ‘proper’ note names.

5…Is the skill graded?
Not when I was in school anyway.

6…Is historical context taught?
No, we never got any historical context. The instruction purely consisted of learning a particular melody by listening to/observing the teacher and then playing it in class.

Since I’m currently going grey, that information is probably somewhat out of date, but that was my experience.

Re: teaching whistle to school children

Thanks for setting me straight. I’m always suspect when someone makes such broad statements as "all children are taught…..". I’m glad to get some real information and won’t be making a fool of myself (at least not this time).

Re: teaching whistle to school children

"When I say Ireland above, I refer to the Republic - no idea what goes on up in northern schools ;)"

From my experience in Northern Ireland learning whistle is very common in Catholic schools only. It seems that most primary schools start teaching Irish music to kids at an early age.

In the state / protestant schools I have not come across this at all; learning music on the recorder is quite common in the state schools. I really regret having missed out on this when I was at school - I might be a lot better by now if I’d been introduced to Irish music as a child rather a few decades later :-)

One of my kids went to an Integrated school and were also taught Whistle.

So there still seems to be a clear cultural / religious / political divide (this may not be true all over Northern Ireland but is based on my own experience and kids / friends - around County Down and Belfast)

Re: teaching whistle to school children

Wouldn’t be surprised at that divide at all, DavidEd. Some great flute players on the Orange side though! :) Maybe it’s whistles for the ‘taigs’ and flutes/ fifes for the ‘prods’?? :)

Re: teaching whistle to school children

I’m in the USA, but many schools around here (myself included) teach recorders in 4th grade.

Re: teaching whistle to school children

Aye, I learned recorder in 4th or 5th grade (early 90s; I’m nearly as old and grey as Colman).

Got reasonably proficient on it as well and even bought a decent wooden recorder, which still resides at my parents’ house. I could not play it worth a toss now.

Re: teaching whistle to school children

Doc SS, if you’re old and grey now it has been too long since we last had a few tunes! :-D

Re: teaching whistle to school children

Kilcash,

Although there is a lot of truth in the cultural divide in N.I.with regards to learning flute if a ‘Prod’ and whistle if a ‘Taig’, I do not find it to be true all of the time. Two excellent whistle players with a high profile from Northern Ireland are ‘Prods’ - Sir James Galway (Classical flautist) & Willie Drennan (Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra).

I like to think that these cultural barriers are lessening as NI society slowly ‘normalises’ and ITM is more fully embraced by all sections of the community. This has been advanced a lot by the universal popularity of Riverdance, for instance, where Irish Dancing is as popular in the local Orange Halls as in the GAA clubs,with the same ITM tunes being danced in both.

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