The last 15 months have been difficult for musicians, with many losing their usual income streams, unable to perform, unable to engage with others through live music, whether as performer or teacher. 
 
As the live music scene, both in the professional and amateur realms, gradually re-opens, we reflect on our love of live music. 
 
Image: Eric Nopanen, Unsplash 
At the Music Workshop Company, we are big fans and advocates of live music. Maria Thomas, Artistic Director of MWC says: 
 
“As much as I enjoy listening to the radio in the car, or putting on a record or CD at home, for me, the joy of music is in live – whether as a performer, an audience member or a workshop facilitator. This is something, common to many of the MWC musicians: the sentiment most expressed to me by MWC musicians over the last couple of months has been “it’s so good to be back in schools”. 
 
There is something special about playing with others rather than practising alone. I am lucky that my family are musicians so I have been able to play duets over lockdown and have taken part in Zoom concerts, but it’s not the same as rehearsing larger scale pieces with my regular ensembles or performing live. 
 
I am lucky enough to be a regular concert goer, both to amateur and professional performances. Having not been to a live performance since March 2020, I am really missing that experience. Watching pre-recorded and live streams is only a substitute for being in the room as performers." 
Live music is of course not just joyful and enriching for adults, children get enormous enjoyment out of musical activities and research has proven that it aids their development in many ways. Participation in musical activities can help promote positive moods and emotional wellbeing, reduce stress and anxiety, strengthen hand-eye co-ordination, heighten mental processing and problem solving, develop social and teamworking skills, improve memory, enhance language capabilities and improve maths attainment. Read more about this on our guest post by Dr Dawn James. 
 
On top of all of this, music can bring so much fun and enjoyment to children’s lives. Some children go on to play a musical instrument and enjoy the benefits throughout their whole lives. Many make life-long friends through music-making. 
 
At the bottom of the blog we have shared some wonderful quotes from a few of the schools we have worked with recently. Seeing others’ enjoyment of music is one of the things we love most about our job. Our Artistic Director says: 
 
“Being back in schools, working with young people to play instruments, sing and create their own music has been a wonderful experience. Seeing the collaboration between students, hearing the development of a piece and finishing with a performance really re-enforces the value of live music for me.” 
Images by Alireza Attari and Adi Goldstein 
Music tuition is such an important part of a child’s development and today (14 July 2021) that has been recognised by the Scottish Government in their commitment to fund school music and remove school music tuition fees. We are delighted that the Scottish Government has moved to make music more accessible in schools by providing more than £7m for instrumental tuition. Councils will also receive £6m to waive core curriculum charges including trips to the theatre. 
 
“Councils recognise the importance of instrumental music tuition for the learning and development of our children and young people.” 
 
“Where fees were in place for tuition this is due to a range of local pressures on core council budgets. The one year funding package agreed between COSLA Leaders and Scottish Government will allow for the removal of fees in the coming academic year and the maintenance of existing levels of provision, so that fees and charges are not a barrier to learning an instrument.” 
 
Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) Children and Young People spokesperson. 
Scotland’s Education Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, has said that she will continue to work with COSLA and local authorities to develop a sustainable and funded model for future years too. 
We get great feedback from our customers, here are some quotes about our workshops: 
 
“It was a pleasure working with [the workshop leader], the children and young people enjoyed the workshop and could easily join in or leave when they wanted.” 
SENSE 
 
“Pupils engaged and loved the experience ... [It was an] outstanding opportunity for pupils to learn in a new and fun way.” 
Maltings Academy 
 
“[the workshop leader] was brilliant about encouraging them [the participants] and working at their skill level. They each had a really amazing time and were very enthusiastic about the session and wanted to do it again.” 
Elysium Potters Bar Clinic School 
 
“Thank you for coming to teach us about the instruments in an orchestra - we had such a brilliant time! We enjoyed using chopsticks to drum on the floor and making lots of noise! The way the man played the violin was really beautiful and we also enjoyed learning about tempo. We are really grateful to you for coming in and teaching us so much, whilst making it fun at the same time!” 
Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Witney 
 
“All children were included and given an instrument, children told a story and supported this in music. He (the workshop leader) went as far as to say everyone could be a musician especially using percussion instruments as we all have the ability to hit something which put our children at ease and meant one child particularly who is blind felt completely included. A brilliant workshop enjoyed by all, both children and staff.” 
Copperfield Academy, Gravesend 
 
“Well, we have reached the end of our music week and it has been absolutely wonderful. I wondered if you could let all the musicians know, again, how fantastic they all were. The children and staff have thoroughly enjoyed the whole week. We have enjoyed each and every workshop and it was lovely that the children got the opportunity to compose their own songs to.” 
St Joseph's Primary School 
 
How has the absence of live music affected you during the pandemic? Have you been to any live performances as things have opened up? We’d love to hear your experiences of listening to or participating in live music since restrictions have eased. If you work at a school or community group and have any music-making photos you would like to share, tag us on Twitter and use the hashtag #MWCBirthday - to celebrate our 19th birthday, we’ll give you 19% off when you book for one of our workshops in the new academic year. 
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