Discovering Early Years

Far away from the concert platform and involving our youngest participants, our early years work with children under 5 and their parents and carers is a side of the LSO’s work you don’t often get to see. Here’s a rare insight into the world of our mini music-makers…

By Natalie Chivers, Community Projects Manager; and Isabel Bedford, Community Projects Coordinator

LSO Discovery runs a series of early years workshops at our Music Education Centre, LSO St Luke’s, and at local children’s centres and nurseries. Led by our early years music specialist, Vanessa King, and supported by LSO players, the workshops are interactive, musically informative, and above all, a lot of fun.

We believe that exposing children to music from a very young age can help them to build in confidence and express themselves. Music is a tool which strengthens relationships between children and

their parents or carers, and our sessions are designed to equip adults with the tools and confidence to use music themselves in the home or the nursery. Vanessa has a very special way with children and they adore her. Whether they are painfully shy or very active, Vanessa manages to draw the children in and takes the time to engage with each one individually. The children are free to express themselves in whichever way the music inspires them and Vanessa subtly guides and focuses their natural reactions. Her natural, tactile and caring nature is also a winner with parents, carers and teachers.

For many children the opportunity to hear and see orchestral instruments in the workshops is a new and exciting experience, particularly the more unusual instruments like the gigantic double bass! LSO players enhance Vanessa’s sessions by providing music accompaniment for games and songs, as well as interacting directly with the children through music.

The sessions at LSO St Luke’s run on Monday mornings during term time and the children are split into age-based groups so Vanessa can tailor each workshop to the right level. One of the wonderful things about the Monday morning sessions is that several of the parents have been attending for a number of years, so Vanessa sees some of the children nearly every week from the age of 12 months right up until they start school, and then the journey begins over again with younger siblings. She almost becomes another member of the family!

Our early years outreach work takes Vanessa and LSO players out to children’s centres and nurseries. In particular we work with settings which do not have much in the way of music provision already. The projects in each setting take place over an extended period of time in order to allow time for Vanessa, players, children and staff to naturally build a relationship. The settings then continue to use the songs and activities they have learnt in Vanessa’s sessions after the projects finish. Vanessa works with the baby and toddler groups up to the nursery and reception classes, as well as the staff involved in each group.

Parents and carers are also invited to later sessions so they can see the fantastic work the children have been doing with Vanessa and the players, and they are urged to join in too! It is lovely to see the parents interacting with their children musically especially as for some it is the first time they have ever done anything like this. We will be working with a new children’s centre in Hackney this summer, as well as continuing our work in settings in Islington. One of our current projects is working with the Inspire young mothers group at Platform in Islington.

Vanessa has been giving the teenage mothers some ideas of how they can use music themselves to interact and have fun with their children, as well as building their confidence to use music in this way. We invite the nurseries and children’s centres we work with to come to our termly Under-5s Concerts, held at LSO St Luke’s. This is lovely opportunity for the children to see Vanessa and LSO players to be involved in a larger-scale musical event in a world-class concert venue, which brings lots of different nursery groups together.

These video clips were commissioned by Youth Music to spotlight the work we do with the early years age group in our local settings. They filmed Vanessa and players in situ, running their usual musical activities. Each video outlines a different area we consider when carrying out the workshops and hopefully they give you an idea how the sessions work. We hope you enjoy watching them!

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