From Schools Programme To Playing For 1,500 – Londonderry Bands Forum

04 October 2019

Jonathan playing with two other musicians | CRC NI

by Michael McGlade


Jonathan Thompson is only 11-years-old. Since taking part in the Schools Programme from the Londonderry Bands Forum he’s now played in front of 1,500 people at the Walled City Tattoo.

At the Tattoo I was nervous but, when I started to play, I enjoyed it,” Jonathan said. “It was good to do something which I hadn’t done before.”

Jonathan believes the Londonderry Bands Forum’s schools programme has helped him try new things.

It has been really fun so far and you get to learn new things. It gives you an opportunity to learn more and practise more while playing with your friends in school.”

The Londonderry Bands Forum is core funded by the Community Relations Council.


More Than Making Music

Playing an instrument isn’t all about making music, it can help in so many other ways.”

Andrew Lynch, Schools Programme, Londonderry Bands Forum


The Londonderry Bands Forum has created a Schools Programme that uses music to bring people together, helping to develop confidence, teamwork, and increased concentration.

I didn’t think I would get the chance to play the flute in school and learn something which I enjoy doing outside school. It has helped me to play in front of others and build my confidence,” Jonathan explained.

The programme aims to teach pupils the basics in music theory and put this into practical learning using the flute. During lessons pupils also study the background of music, as well as other instruments. 

You get to watch pupils grow in confidence through music and playing their instruments,” Andrew said. “Pupils who at the end of the school year are performing music in front of a packed assembly hall filled with teachers, parents and fellow pupils, but at the start of the school year they wouldn’t even stand up to say their name.”

Jonathan came through the Schools Programme to play for 1,500 people at the Walled City Tattoo. And now attends the Londonderry Bands Forum regularly.


Speed Test

Our speed test is designed to allow us to keep an eye on the pupil’s development,” Andrew said. “The goal is for pupils to beat their previous time. It’s done in a relaxed way, so there’s no pressure. And the result tells you how much improvement has been made. We do this several key times throughout the year.”

The speed test consists of 30 music notes. Pupils must write down the correct name for each note. A music teacher should be able to complete the test in 19 seconds. Jonathan, who’s only in P7, completed it correctly in a mere 32 seconds.


Music Theory

Andrew started the Schools Programme in 2014 when a local primary school got in touch. They wanted the Bands Forum to help deliver music lesson to one of their classes.

So I went in to teach them,” Andrew said. “We devised an 8-week programme.”

And from there the programme grew.

Last year, we taught seven classes – that’s 160 pupils. And we’re still growing. Now we’re teaching in four different schools.”

Andrew takes the whole class for a music lesson. They play, read music, and study the background of music and history of the flute, as well as orchestra. Classes last an hour.

Once the children learn music theory, then they can potentially use it to play guitar or piano, because the theory aspect will help them in many different ways – not just with the flute,” Andrew said. “The children are super excited to learn. But the flute is a hard instrument to pick up and needs perseverance. It’s good to see that the children are keen to keep going.”

Andrew has, in turn, seen his own confidence grow. He had also stared out as a member of the band.

When I was in school I wouldn’t have spoken in class. I was quite shy. But since joining the band, my self-confidence has grown. And now I teach music.”


Core Funded Group

The London Derry bands Forum is core funded by the Community Relations Council. Learn more about the Community Relations Council’s core funded groups.

Read more about the Londonderry Bands Forum

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