Making Music with Dunedin Consort: Helping children access music online

Dunedin Consort is a Baroque ensemble that aim to make early music more relevant to the present day. As well as their involvement in performances, recording and broadcasting, they deliver outreach work including their Schools Workshops Programme; a scheme designed to help children in deprived areas access high-quality music.

Like many organisations, Dunedin Consort have been unable to work on live performances since the virus outbreak but have instead turned their attention to online activity. Lucia Capellaro, Learning and Participation Manager at Dunedin Consort, tells us about Making Music with Dunedin Consort; a new online series designed to help children access music during lockdown.

How did the Making Music with Dunedin Consort series come about?

We decided to create the Making Music with Dunedin Consort series because we realised that it may be very difficult for children to engage with the arts during the pandemic. Home schooling has been an unexpected challenge for parents everywhere, and we wanted to help by creating something that would be fun and informative for their children. The videos focus on three key elements of music making – performing, composing, and listening – and they are also interactive, giving children a chance to run off some steam whilst being at home.

Could you tell us a bit more about the Schools Workshops Programme, and how it inspired this online series?

Just like our Schools Workshop Programme, the video series teaches foundational music, and is designed to be accessible for everyone, including complete beginners.

When I first started working for Dunedin Consort, the Schools Workshops Programme was one of the projects I was most excited about, because it promotes the idea that high quality music education should be accessible to all. So many young people can feel intimidated and constricted by traditional subjects such as English or maths, and they are the children that are in danger of being lost by our education system. I know that when I was at school I felt as if my brain was shutting down if I couldn’t comprehend something, but music gave me a way to engage with learning that was open and inspiring.

Our Schools Workshop Programme, which is generously funded by Baillie Gifford, is specifically designed to target schools where access to music making is limited. We work with schools in areas that rate highly on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, and additionally with schools from more rural areas where travel can act as a barrier. In 2019 we taught 42 workshops in 18 different schools each week, delivered by a group of talented workshop leaders from Dunedin Consort. These workshops then culminated in a concert at each school, where the participating children performed alongside players from Dunedin Consort. Every year, schools are also invited to listen to a children’s concert performed by the ensemble, for which we provide free transport.

Since the country went into lockdown, we haven’t been able to work on live performances and workshops, but our Making Music with Dunedin Consort series was created on the same principle of trying to make music as accessible as possible.

Making Music with Dunedin Consort has been a real success! Tell us a bit more about that.

We’re pleased that not just the schools involved in the Workshop Programme, but also schools throughout the country, have engaged with the series by sharing our videos on social media and on their school learning platforms such as Seesaw and Google Classrooms. Music services and other organisations have helped us spread the word on social media, but engagement with the series has not been limited to Scotland or the UK – we have had people tuning in from all over Europe, the USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Japan, China, India, and the United Arab Emirates, reaching almost 140,000 people overall.

We were also delighted that our first video was spotted by the fantastic home learning channel, Learning Mole, who are based in Northern Ireland. Learning Mole asked us whether we could do a collaboration with them, and the video is now approaching 45,000 views.

The most rewarding part of the Making Music with Dunedin Consort series has definitely been watching the videos that children have shared with us, showing them performing the songs and exercises from different videos. We have heard some fabulous singing, body percussion and compositions over the past few months!

What have you learnt from the experience of creating an online series?

Making the series has been a learning curve for the Dunedin Consort team. Before the pandemic, none of the workshop leaders had any experience of putting together online educational videos, let alone video editing! It really makes you appreciate what a time-consuming business making videos can be.

The virus outbreak and lockdown have been incredibly difficult for many people, but one of the benefits has been that more time has been focused onto improving ways to connect and the resources available online. The issues we currently face are similar to those that people based in rural Scotland deal with on an everyday basis, and therefore we are thrilled that the Making Music with Dunedin Consort series has been able to connect with many young people who live beyond the current capacity of our Schools Workshop Programme.

Are there any other ways for people at home to engage with Dunedin Consort?

During the pandemic we have had a chance to really concentrate on our online output, and other than the Making Music with Dunedin Consort series we have been releasing all sorts of content, from a series of videos about different historical instruments in the orchestra, to live Q&A’s with some of our Directors including John Butt, footage from past concerts and even newly curated podcasts. It has been a nice way to keep in touch with our supporters and to gain some new friends along the way.

You can find the Making Music with Dunedin Consort playlist on the Dunedin Consort YouTube channel.

This article was published on 04 Aug 2020