Being on the road with our Heartland Classics tour gave us the perfect opportunity to work with children in local communities while en route to our next concert. Giving children the opportunity to experience the joy of live music is vital to us and, for those who already play an instrument, we hope our workshops and performances inspire them to want to play the best they can.
With the assistance of Foundation North, we gave 3 workshops for children in the Auckland region last month. The first of those was at Point View School in Howick, where we played to around 100 children, most of whom learn instruments and play in the school orchestra. Their delighted reactions, probing questions and reluctance to leave after the performance were confirmation of their total engagement in the music.
We also took the opportunity to work again this year with children in the Sistema Aotearoa and Tironui Music Trust programmes in South Auckland. These programmes offer outstanding music education opportunities to children from lower income families and the results of the projects are truly astounding and heartwarming. Catherine Blomfield, manager of the Tironui Music Trust, wrote to us to say:
We were all quite moved by the warmth and sincerity of the exchange between students and Quartet musicians…. At the end of the afternoon, several students hung back to talk to Gillian and Monique, their faces alive with intent and all so eager to learn more. This was a standout experience for our students and one which many will remember for a long time to come.
Catherine asked the students to come up with words that described their reactions to the workshop, and these are some of them:
inspiring, amazing, enthusiastic, impressive, great experience, astonishing, superb, engaging, surprising, exciting, awesome experience, big sound, advanced playing, entertained, influencing, motivated, wonderful, magnificent, cool, fun, together, joy, lovely, inspirational, incredible
In the South Island we gave two performances in Canterbury, the first generously supported by Meadow Mushrooms and the other with the kind support of Ashburton law firm Argyle Welsh Finnigan. Gillian describes the experience and the impact our performance had on one child in particular:
“After heading down SH1 from Christchurch early in the morning in fog and then west into glorious sun, our first stop was Mt Somers Springfield School, where we did our "Scary Music" show, music by Gareth Farr and the story by Joy Cowley, followed by some other segments we do with kids, about conversations in music and a game about moods. The children there were adorable - sweet, innocent and enthusiastic, in their lovely little school nestled under the mountains. In the afternoon we visited a much larger Ashburton school, Netherby, where we repeated the show. Gorgeous, responsive children there too, from many diverse backgrounds and a most heart-warming thing happened, which we only realised afterwards — a severely autistic boy raised his hand to participate in our "moods" game, causing tears in the eyes of his teachers, as he usually hated to put himself forward in any way…”
Afterwards, the principal of the school wrote to us to say:
“[The boy] was totally captivated by the string quartet experience. We have never seen this side of him and could tell that music is definitely a way of connecting to him and for him to experience joy and happiness.”
Back home in Wellington we paid a visit to Arohanui Strings in Taita, Lower Hutt, a Sistema- inspired music education/social development programme founded in 2010 by director Alison Eldridge. These children are as much an inspiration to us as we hope we are to them. The obvious joy they derive from their music-making reminds us to keep that sense of joy and a profound love of music at the heart of all our performances.