Music teachers who totally revamped their service and went online to keep music lessons alive during the pandemic have been shortlisted for a top gong.
The North Wales Music Cooperative, which comprises sister organisations in Denbighshire and Wrexham, have been nominated in the technology category, ‘tech for good’, of the prestigious Social Business Wales Awards.
The news that they had been shortlisted for the illustrious accolade came through as the cooperative’s popular band, Make Some Noise, was in the middle of a virtual tour, reaching out to more than 200 schools in North Wales and beyond.
Founder and Head of Service Heather Powell said the co-operative members were “over the moon” to be one of three finalists in their awards category.
She said: “It is a resounding endorsement of all the hard work our tutors and admin staff have put in over the last 18 months.
“We had to completely transform the way we operate as we successfully rose to the many challenges we faced to keep music education going during the pandemic.”
The cooperative is shortlisted in the Tech for Good category of the awards, which required them to demonstrate how they have used innovative technology to achieve a high degree of social impact.
Heather added: ““Even before the pandemic we were looking at ways in which we could use technology to make our music lessons programme more inclusive but when coronavirus struck our plans were fast forwarded in a way that we could never have envisaged.
“Music is proven to improve numeracy, literacy, confidence and well-being in children. It should not just be seen as an add-on lesson, it is a core subject beneficial to all.”
After it became impossible to hold music lessons in person, they acted quickly to introduce lessons online, offering them to a wider audience than ever before by producing video tutorials and offering direct online lessons.
They worked relentlessly to maintain the availability of music education at a time when many music learners feared they would lose out completely on the chance to master an instrument or take singing lessons.
In the past at the start of each school year the cooperative musical band, Make Some Noise, would tour more than 200 schools in Denbighshire introducing themselves and explaining how pupils could take advantage of music lessons via the cooperative music tutors.
But in 2020 the tour had to go “virtual” with the band transmitting online from their headquarters at Spencer Industrial Estate, Denbigh. They still communicated with more than 200 schools but did so via online performances streamed directly to several schools at once.
This format was repeated again as the 2021/22 school year and the band performed five concerts a day for four or five schools at a time, linking up with each via online technology.
Cooperative chair Cllr Mark Young said: “To be honest I got quite emotional on seeing the band play and the fantastic reaction of the children on the screens which were displayed around the studio. It was the first time in over a year that I have seen a music performance live, and it was quite overwhelming.
“The band are highly skilled and the way they interacted with the children using the advanced technology was extremely impressive.”
UK Musicians’ Union education officer David Barnard also tuned in to one of the daily sessions.
He said: “What a great performance – excellent playing and singing with a nice sense of humour. The children were clearly engaged and even those who for whom playing an instrument is not an interest will have learned something new. Congratulations to Heather and the team for a wonderful initiative and for bringing so many smiles on the faces of hundreds of children.”
The virtual format has meant that for the first time the cooperative managed to reach out beyond its usual audience, attracting schools further afield including across the Welsh border in Shropshire and even as far away as Cardiff to watch Make Some Noise in action.
Over the last year Heather said the cooperative had been able to take on an apprentice, Lewis Pearson, and a Director and IT specialist Jacob Hamblett, to help organise the new technology behind-the-scenes.
Make Some Noise entertained their young audience with popular musical numbers ranging from hits from the movie “The Greatest Showman”, to the theme tune from TV show “Peppa Pig”.
During each 40 minute show they introduce pupils to each band member and explain about their instruments, including the fact that the harp has 47 strings and seven foot pedals.
The band comprises of energetic singer/percussionist Matty Roberts, harpist Dylan Cernyw, violin/cello player Emily Rowlands, brass and bass guitarist Aled Williams, tuba and cornet player Scott Lloyd, guitarist Wyn Pearson, drummer Ben Neal, and on saxophone, clarinet and flute, Matt Deacon.
In response to seeing the concert performance, Wrexham headteacher Gaynor Purcell, of St Chad’s Primary School, sent an immediate message of thanks to the cooperative.
She said: “Everyone enjoyed the performance which was a credit to the professionalism and dedication of the music tutors in the cooperative.”