StringMasters! The Dragon School and Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra bring together children from eight local primary schools for the 10th anniversary of their annual Music Outreach workshop.
On Tuesday 8th March 2022, the Dragon school in North Oxford welcomed 80 children from eight local primary schools across the city for their 10th annual Music Outreach Workshop, in partnership with Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, Oxford’s professional symphony orchestra.
Founded in 2013 by the Dragon and Oxford Philharmonic, the programme brings together young children for a fun day of playing instruments and working together to enjoy the experience of making music, under the expert leadership of the professional musicians of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dragon music department. It aims to encourage a love of music in young people, and be accessible to all – some of the children involved are already learning instruments, whereas for many others it offers their first ever encounter with live music and their first experience of playing an instrument.
The instrumental family selected for the workshop changes every year, and this year it was all about Strings. Entitled StringMasters! children from Pegasus, Orchard Meadow, Windmill, St Andrews, Phil and Jim’s, Wolvercote, St Barnabas schools, along with Dragon pupils and professional musicians from the Oxford Philharmonic and the Dragon, worked together to learn, rehearse and perform a number of pieces based on Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ (the Shepherd’s hymn), Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony and Walter Murphy’s ‘Fifth of Beethoven’. The day was preceded with 90-minute introductory sessions at each of the schools in the weeks leading up to the workshop, encouraging a bond and familiarity between the professional musicians and the children in advance, and concluded with a formal concert for the parents of all of the participants and staff from each of the schools at the end of the workshop.
The organisers were particularly excited to be able to hold a live in-person event again, following a series of virtual workshops necessitated by the restrictions of the pandemic. In 2021 the team staged an ambitious online workshop, working with each of the schools independently to teach over 200 children to play ‘This is Me’ from the hit musical The Greatest Showman and Sabre Dance by Khachaturian, in a matter of hours! Each of the individual sessions were recorded and then layered together into a wonderful music video, accompanied by a visual montage of photos from the workshops and artwork by the children.
After two years of online projects it was incredibly emotional to hear the children play together in perfect harmony, with such joyful exuberance, and particularly moving to see all the different schools mingling and chatting excitedly during the breaks, which is such an important aspect of the day.