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Posted on: 30 January, 2020

West Kent Secondary School Orchestra

On Tuesday 28th January 2020 sixty students from four local West Kent schools came together to experience the first ensemble experience of its kind for secondary schools in Kent.

Hosted in the fantastic modern surroundings of Trinity School (Sevenoaks) and conducted by their own Mrs Pippa Lambourne, the students spent two hours rehearsing  under the tutelage of Simon Hendry and Will Roberts of The Skinners School (Tunbridge Wells), culminating in a celebratory concert for friends and family at the end of the day.

Featuring students of a variety of ages and abilities from 11-18 years old, all sections of the orchestra were covered. From double basses to violins, French horns to saxophones and all manner of percussion, the ensemble worked fantastically together and produced a glorious sound, despite only two hours of rehearsal! All the participants made significant progress throughout the afternoon, and the resulting performance was a credit to each and every one of them.

The afternoon centred around three pieces of music from the BBC10 Pieces Collection; Mambo! From Bernstein’s West Side Story, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and the classic Dr. Who theme tune. While these may be some challenging pieces, the hard work and mix of experienced, intermediate and beginner players in the ensemble allowed all participants to learn and enjoy from their experience.

Along with the tutors, the ensemble was supported by several sixth form tutors as mentors. Music staff from each school also took the opportunity to dust off their instruments and get involved, to the delight of all!

The event was spearheaded and coordinated by Kent Music’s local Area Manager Steph Godwin, and supported by the hard work and dedication of all parties involved from The Skinners School (Tunbridge Wells), Radnor House (Sevenoaks), Knole Academy (Sevenoaks) and Trinity School (Sevenoaks). The most important element, however, was of course the excitement, passion and talent of all the young people who participated.

“It was a brilliant experience for our pupils. As a small school with hardly any musicians above Year 9, it was great for them to have the opportunity to experience meeting others and playing in a large ensemble” – participating school’s Head of Music

So, Why?

Many students do not get the opportunity to experience such a large orchestra, or to play with other students on the same instrument as them, given the tendency of school orchestras to be small. The aim of the day was to bring together students from across the West Kent secondary school community and provide them with the experience of playing and performing as a large ensemble.

Tackling more challenging pieces which they may not be able to access in their own schools can provide a real sense of pride and accomplishment for participants, which we hope will encourage them to continue their musical education. Furthermore by bringing together like minded, passionate players, we hope to encourage a community of young musicians who will continue to support each others’ passions moving forward. One of our participants said it best; “I could be amongst other geeks!”

“Charlie thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the time flew by…[we] were very proud of all the pupils who took part, we were amazed by how good the Orchestra sounded when there was so little time to rehearse. Hanna was inspired by all the senior pupils there today and seeing what’s possible through music on a slightly larger scale.” – Participants’ parent

What’s Next?

With feedback from participants, parents and teachers overwhelmingly supporting another event next year, we hope that the West Kent Secondary School Orchestra can become an annual event. Watch this space!

In the meantime we hope that students will seek out an out of school ensemble having enjoyed this experience. Not only would this give them the opportunity to make like-minded friends from other schools, but also to experience a greater range of instruments, challenging pieces, and musical and performance opportunities.

These may include:

West Kent Youth Orchestra; a weekly orchestra for advanced (Grade 5+) instrumentalists

Tonbridge Young Musicians; a weekly orchestra for junior (Grades 1 – 5) instrumentalists

Lydian Orchestra and Lydian Training Orchestra; School holiday non-residential courses for advanced (Lydian Orchestra, Grade 7+) and intermediate (Lydian Training Orchestra, Grades 3-6) instrumentalists

Kent Music Summer School; a variety of residential holiday courses in July (including swimming and sports!) for players and singers at any level – no auditions required. Courses include Wind Band, Summer Strings, Orchestra Course, Musical Theatre, Song Writing and more.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the day and am so proud of everyone involved!” – Mrs Pippa Lambourne, conductor