Caroline Oglethorpe, Head of Pre-Prep, demonstrates how the highly-skilled music teachers in the Pre-Prep and Music School are having an impact on the children’s musical development and confidence to participate.
"Each of us a single note, together we create a masterpiece”
At the close of another amazing Inter-Patrol Music Competition in the Prep School, I felt inspired by the children’s performances, their teamwork and dedication. The enthusiasm and enjoyment of both pupils and parents was a perfect crystallisation of music at Westbourne House.
As I watched, I reflected on the musical journey that pupils take throughout their time at Westbourne, a journey that begins in the Pre-Prep.
You may not be aware that 50% of our Year 2 students have chosen to take lessons during the school day in one or more instruments (75% in the Prep School) and that music is very much a part of the children’s everyday lives in the Pre-Prep.
This is partly due to the rich pool of musical talent among the staff: Jo Lewis, Reception teacher, has a BMus from King’s College, including instrumental training at the Royal Academy; Dominic Bailey, Year 2 teacher, has a BA in Music from Southampton University and plays clarinet, piano and guitar and Jules Burnand, Head of Nursery, is a musician and singer. Together, these musicians bring a vast range of experience, enthusiasm and genres to life in the Pre-Prep. We are also fortunate to have Amanda Enticknap, one of our teaching assistants, who is a qualified dance teacher. For International Week (21-25 Jan), the Reception children were taught three dances: a Spanish flamenco dance, a South African gumboot dance, as well as Russian dancing!
Throughout the school, our musical ethos is about sharing the JOY of music… because we believe in ‘music for all’. We recognise and value its importance, encouraging all children from the Pre-Prep onwards to embrace and participate in music.
In the Early Years, we focus on sharing our love of music. You’ll find children exploring the ‘sounds of colours’, while listening to classical music; experiencing guitar playing outdoors in forest school sessions or feeling the rhythms and expressing themselves through dance.
We are very proud of our weekly Pre-Prep LIVE sessions, when high-calibre young musicians from the Prep school visit and perform.
The Year 1 children really love the opportunity to experience the power of live music and the fact that it is performed by older children at the school makes it inspirational, relatable and attainable.
As you may know, all children in Year 2 start to learn the recorder at the Music school under the tutelage of Alex Dichmont, our Director of Music, and his team. Alex is passionate about music and keen to encourage children to get involved.
In Year 2, they also have trial lessons in a variety of instruments such as flute, clarinet, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone and horn, to give the children a taste of what other instruments sound and feel like. This gentle introduction helps them decide if they might like to embark on learning an additional instrument.
"Music has a power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young." (Aristotle)
Music is a unique form of communication that can change the way children think, feel and behave, providing an alternative way for them to connect with others. It is multidisciplinary, teaching children important life skills such as commitment, creativity, imagination, teamwork, dedication, confidence and responsibility. Our Pre-Prep children thrive in a musical environment – they can take risks with no fear of consequences, as there is no right or wrong. We say: if it makes you feel good, it’s OK!
Music not only has the potential to increase children’s self-esteem, but can also maximise their progress in the broader field of education: its multi-sensory nature makes it the ideal brain training for young children, increasing both the brain’s plasticity and efficiency. Neural systems built now will last a lifetime!
I hope you are as delighted as I am that the Pre-Prep team are helping to encourage a community of music-lovers, many of whom will go on to perform, play, compose, sing, listen and enjoy into old age! And, in the meantime, it won’t be long before they, too, are taking part in the annual Inter-Patrol Music Competition.
If you want to learn more about a celebration of music on a large scale, read about the Prep School’s Inter-Patrol Music Competition which saw 250 performances in one day!