THE Music Pool is a community charity that is passionately dedicated to providing chances for people of all ages and abilities to make all sorts of music together, because it is one of the most powerful ways to improve people's lives and well-being, and the life of their communities.
With access to music tuition in schools being squeezed, Herefordshire is extremely lucky to have The Music
Pool, which complements provision made by Herefordshire Music Service to concentrate on major inclusive work, with 34 schools involves in the most recent singing project and ensures provision to pupil referral units (PRUs) and to pre-schools.
With local authority funding now in jeopardy, it is increasingly hard to fund such services, whether in the mainstream or in Special Schools.
One such Special School, Blackmarston School, sees the regular music activities supplied by the Music Pool as an integral part of their vision to deliver an inclusive, holistic provision that will enable all members of the school community to attain their full potential”.
For children who have difficulty with focusing and concentration, getting them to sit in a circle for a half-hour music session is in itself an achievement, but music provision also helps them with listening and communication, eye contact and gross motor skills development, and generally opening up pathways for learning.
Music specialist Alison Houlbrooke gives the example of a four-year-old little girl who was not talking, but was able to use pitch to hum some of the simple tunes which Alison uses, and who surprised all her teachers one day by not only humming the response, but clearly singing back the words. “It was like something had opened up orally, and although she is still not talking, she can now sing clearly using words” says Alison.
Alison also encourages those children who do not have language to use movement and dance for emotive communication and uses signing and visual aids, as well as rhythm and percussion, to underpin much of her teaching. Many of the multi-sensory aids Alison uses can be used to encourage autistic children, for example, in developing eye-contact and turn-taking, both essential elements that underpin communication and language.
“The children also learn to help each other” says Alison. “The teacher’s role is to support the child’s learning, to enable them to do things which they might not otherwise achieve on their own. And then when they have mastered a skill, they can then support each other’s learning too”, thus encouraging social development, too.
Last year at Barrs Court School, pupils were helped by rap and hip-hop maestro Mark ‘Lofty’ Loughman to form their own “Rubber Band”, which performed to the rest of the school, and in public, to great acclaim. Pupils from the county's special schools have also taken part in the popular Jigsaw integrated dance performances at The Courtyard, thanks to the long-term collaboration between The Music Pool and Dancefest.
But if we want this important work to continue, more needs to be done to generate funding from additional sources – which is why The Music Pool has launched its ‘Splash! Appeal’. If you would like to know more about the important work that the charity does around the county, or to make a donation please visit www.musicpool.org.uk and click on the ‘donate’ button. The charity is aiming to raise £50,000 to mark its 25th anniversary and to ensure that this vital provision can continue into the future – please help to let the music play on!