Reflecting on a Summer of Music as the second phase of the Music Champions (2023 to 2025) project gets underway
In 2023, The Spark Arts for Children was excited to launch the second phase of our collaborative project with partners across Leicester and Leicestershire. Supported by Youth Music, Leicester-Shire Music Education Hub, and Leicester City Council Early Help Services. Over the next two years the project will allow parent and caregiver voices to play a crucial role in shaping programme design, ensuring it aligns with the diverse needs of families.
Music Champions will enhance practices for musicians and early years practitioners through a collaborative partnership approach. This involves working together on an equal footing, sharing insights, and fostering a vibrant community of practice through network events.
And lastly develop Early Years provision across a range of settings, including Children’s Centres, Nurseries, and Schools. By focusing on continual improvement and collaboration.
Summer Programme 2024
36 early years music sessions were delivered across Leicester in a wide variety of settings – from children’s centres, to libraries, to Victoria Park.
As we move into the second phase of this project, we took a moment to reflect on what was an amazing summer of music and learning.
Child-Centred Music Making
Throughout the summer we witnessed the development of child-centred music-making, providing invaluable high-quality music experiences for children aged 0-5 and their families, reaching over 900 children through our Music Champion summer programme events. This emphasis on creativity not only enriched the musical landscape but also contributed to the social and educational development of our youngest community members.
In a case study from Daisy Chain Nursery, artist Tim Baker reflected on the project’s impact, stating, “It was great to see how much a part of everyday life music has become here.” Revisiting settings from the original project in 2021 was crucial in witnessing firsthand the long-term benefits of the Music Champions project. Another artist noted a shift in their role due to the confidence shown by the early years’ practitioner (previous Music Champion), progressing from “I am not Musical” to confidently bringing out a child’s natural musicality.
Tim noticed a small child in the Music Champions project who was initially shy and hesitant during the first session. With encouragement, the child made a timid sound recorded with staff support. Interestingly, the child’s face lit up with joy when the sounds were played back. As the sessions progressed, the child gained confidence, consistently delighting in their contributions. In the final session, the child independently engaged in a dance and chant, showcasing newfound confidence. This journey from shyness to confident self-expression reflects the impact of the Music Champions project.
An essential aspect of our journey was the active involvement of parents and caregivers in programme design. Their voices were heard and integrated, ensuring a more inclusive and responsive approach to early years music education.
Bejal and her daughter Ava, who were featured in a Spark Arts article in 2022, shared their reflections on The Sparks impact over the last three years. Bejal commented on The Spark’s child-led approach, noting, “It’s about creativity… it’s so important… and they don’t get things like this at nursery.”
These firsthand experiences highlight the meaningful impact of this child-centred approach on both children and their families, fostering a love for music and creativity that extends beyond the sessions themselves.
Our partnership approach to delivery yielded significant improvements in practice. Through equal collaboration, learning was shared, and a vibrant community of practice emerged, enhancing the overall experience. Musicians had the chance to collaborate and perform together at The Big Little Music Jam, showcasing the impact of early years practice on their improvisation skills. Returning a year later, all artists could see the improvement the Music Champions project had on their confidence and observation skills.
Early Years Music Network
As we move into the next phase of the project, we are pleased to have launched a new Early Years Music Network, providing a platform for information exchange and shared learning. We hope this new network will become a hub for collaboration, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among participants.
Enhanced Provision Across Settings
Our commitment to improving early years provision extended across various settings, including Children’s Centres, Nurseries, and Schools. The impact of our efforts was evident in the positive transformations observed in these environments. Reflecting on the progress, a nursery staff member shared, “In the first session, he seemed so unsure and kept saying no, and as the sessions went on, his enjoyment and engagement really thrived.” This testimonial highlights the tangible positive effects of our Music Champions project, fostering increased confidence and enjoyment among the participants across diverse early years settings.
Longer term impact on practice
At its heart, the Music Champions project is about developing the skills and confidence of music and early years practitioners working with young children and families. The artists working with us over the summer reflecting on the impact of the first project in 2020 – 21 and the significant and longer-term impact it had had on their practice “The project has had a profound impact on my practice. Working with young children has started to become a real specialism, with multiple collaborations taking place between myself and early-years settings, theatre makers and charities.”
As we celebrated these achievements, we’d like to say a huge ‘Thank You’ to all partners, participants, and supporters who contributed to the success of this initiative, engaging over 900 children and young people in the summer programme, with their families. And we’re not stopping there, we’ve got plenty more in store for 2024.
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