It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be part of the Fairbeats! music classes on a Saturday morning in Lewisham. I had no idea there was so much musical fun and learning taking place in my local area.
I’ve been supporting Jenn who teaches fife to children who attend the Action for Refugees in Lewisham’s Rainbow Club. Fife is basically a beginner’s flute and recently I’ve been supporting the children who are picking up the instrument for the very first time to learn how to hold it and how to make a sound.
Fife is not the easiest instrument to get a note out of, not like a recorder that peeps with minimal effort. It demands patience, perseverance and plenty of experimentation from the children as well as from us as teachers. That’s what makes it all the more rewarding when the children progress, be it sounding their first note, mastering moving their fingers in time to play a melody or managing the extremes of the register.
These may seem like teeny tiny steps, but as the children achieve musical challenges they grow in confidence, stand taller and seem to feel more excited by their own musical creativity.
As the children come from varied ethnic backgrounds, some start with little or no English at all. Working with Fairbeats! has shown me the impact of taking a purposefully inclusive approach to music-making. Jenn uses visual prompts, clear action-based instructions and physical movement to support the children to become confident learners and grasp musical principles such as rhythm and pitch. Her approach offers the children who speak less English the opportunity to be part of something special that doesn’t rely on their English language ability. To a certain extent learning a musical instrument may even be equipping the children with an alternative voice.
Bringing music-making opportunities to people who might not otherwise easily access them is at the heart of Fairbeats’ vision. It’s very inspiring work and the sparkle in the children’s’ eyes when they finally get the sound they were aiming for makes for very special Saturday mornings.
Esther Trewinnard is a Trainee Workshop Leader with Fairbeats! in Lewisham. Esther also works as a Communications Officer for International Development Agency Progressio and is studying on the MA Music in Development