Music project will help disadvantaged children in Scotland

It was a project founded almost a decade ago to help disadvantaged children in the north of Scotland improve their lives through classical music.

A pioneering social change programme is helping to transform the lives of children in an Aberdeen community through music, according to research into Big Noise Torry published today (Monday 19th June 2017). The research reveals that Big Noise Torry has enhanced participants ability to learn in school, as well as improving emotional wellbeing. The independent study, led by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), also identifies improvements in the confidence and esteem in those taking part, as well as the acquisition of a range of social and life skills. Big Noise, which is run by the charity Sistema Scotland and supported by Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government, provides free, immersive, instrumental music tuition, as well as an orchestra programme, to pupils and pre-school children in Torrys Walker Road and Tullos Primaries, during and after school. It currently works with more than 500 local school children aged 3 to 9 years in Torry, which is ranked as one of the most deprived are

Now new research has shown that Big Noise - a pioneering music programme launched for youngsters aged three to nine - has improved academic and behavioural skills and boosted school attendance rates.

A report into the scheme, which looked at the effects of the latest project launched two years ago, Big Noise Torry, as well as the other two centres already established in Glasgow and Stirling, found that taking part in immersive, instrumental music tuition, as well as an orchestra programme, enhanced participants’ ability to learn in school, as well as improving emotional wellbeing.

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The Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), which carried out the research, said that teachers had reported improvements in skills including listening, concentration, creativity, communications, cooperation, emotional intelligence and conceptualising goals.

Chris Harkins, senior public health research specialist at GCPH, said the scheme could have “a central role to play” in the regeneration of Torry in years to come.

He said: “Our research demonstrates that the Big Noise Torry programme is already having positive impacts on the wellbeing, education and learning of participants as well as on the development of important social and life skills.

“We found that the strong partnerships which exist with local schools and the broader community, the intensity and accessibility of Big Noise alongside the teaching methods used by the musicians, are pivotal to the positive impacts observed to date.”

The study observed 130 of the 2,000-plus children participating at the three Big Noise centres in Scotland.

The project follows in the footsteps of Venezuelan scheme El Sistema, which was founded in 1975 by economist and musician Jose Antonio Abreu, who was motivated to change less privileged lives through classical music. Big Noise, the Scottish version of the programme, was first set up in Raploch, Stirling in 2008 and then in Govanhill, Glasgow, 2013. A fourth Scottish centre is due to open in Dundee later this year.

One hundred per cent of the children who were asked to draw a picture of how they felt, expressed consistent feelings of happiness, enjoyment and pride in playing their instrument and being part of Big Noise.

Nicola Killean, chief executive of Sistema Scotland said: “We are now building a convincing body of evidence across all our Big Noise centres which clearly demonstrates that children from the poorest backgrounds can gain significant life-changing skills by learning to play an instrument and being part of a Big Noise programme. Children are growing in confidence, improving their concentration, team working & communications skills.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “By supporting projects such as Big Noise, we aim to focus on pupils living in areas with the highest concentrations of deprivation, to ensure that all of Scotland’s children and young people reach their full potential.”

The researchers are now planning to track school leavers who joined Big Noise ten years ago to establish the long term impact of the project.