Music program with all the strings lets plucky pupils take a bow


Students from Meadows Primary School build their confidence through music-making with the help of MSO viola teacher Danielle Arcaro (left) and in-school co-ordinator Helen Hatzikalis.

Students from Meadows Primary School build their confidence through music-making with the help of MSO viola teacher Danielle Arcaro (left) and in-school co-ordinator Helen Hatzikalis.

FOR half an hour once a week, students at Meadows Primary settle in for an instrumental music class. Taking up their violins, violas and cellos, the children learn their skills from some of Australia’s best musicians: members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

The program, called the Pizzicato Effect, is in its third year with more than 90 students in grades 2, 3 and 4 learning about classical music and playing string instruments.

It is credited with improving the attention spans and fine motor skills of children who otherwise may never have had a chance to pick up a bow.

Today the Broadmeadows school was awarded a $50,000 grant as part of the NAB Schools First scheme, which rewards community and school partnerships for learning innovation.

The grant, says in-school co-ordinator Helen Hatzikalis, will enable Meadows Primary to employ a music teacher so the school’s youngest students can learn the practical theory they need before taking to the strings.

”We’ve always lacked a music teacher to go into the room and prepare prep and [grade] ones so that will give the grounding that we know they need,” she said.

”By the time they hit grade two the [instrumental] music teacher’s job will be so much easier.

Ms Hatzikalis said the money would make ”a huge difference”, allowing the program to extend to all year levels.

”Socially and emotionally, they are improving. They have confidence … they are feeling a great deal of self esteem.”

MSO viola player and instrument teacher Danielle Arcaro said she has seen the children grow in confidence, and that parents were starting to engage more with the program.

”Originally we had very little support. We had our very first concert and there was only about five parents there, but then by the time we had our first concert in the city half way through the year I think we got about 40.”

The MSO’s manager of education and community outreach, Bronwyn Lobb, said the program was very important to the orchestra.

”It is an asset not only to the school and the orchestra, but also to the greater Broadmeadows community. The children have developed a strong relationship with their MSO mentors and a love of music.”

The program is a partnership between the NAB, the Foundation for Young Australians and the Australian Council for Educational Research.

It began in 2009 and, by the end of this year, will have handed out $15 million to 310 schools Australia-wide.

Today’s grants saw a total of $4.25 million awarded to programs like the Pizzicato Effect, where schools and communities work together to improve educational outcomes.

Winning schools then compete for state and national prizes, which have significant cash value – the national winner takes out an extra $500,000.

But none of that matters to Meadow Primary grade 3 student Ron Allen, 9, who is just happy to have a violin in his hands.

”It’s fun, fantastic and brilliant. I like the strings and I like holding the violin. It’s great.”

 

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