LSO On Track: from a student's perspective

At the beginning of June, A-level student Paula Bowes had the opportunity to visit two LSO On Track projects to see what goes into running these events. Here she gives us her thoughts on what she saw.

In 2008 LSO On Track was formed as part of LSO Discovery, which has incorporated music education into the orchestra’s schedule since 1990. When LSO On Track was launched, it aimed to offer young musicians of all ages and backgrounds unique musical experiences as well as give them world-class support and training. Now in 2016, the aim is much the same, and LSO musicians regularly team up with music services in East London to provide young musicians of all abilities chance to create music in a fun, creative environment.

As part of my work experience with the LSO I had the opportunity to observe not one, but two separate LSO On Track projects. The first project I got to check out was a half-term project called 'Classical Meets Jazz' at the Bridge Academy in Hackney, and involved collaboration between LSO musicians, teachers from the Hackney Music Service and musicians from jazz and contemporary music producers Serious.

Classical Meets Jazz at the Bridge Academy Hackney

When I first walked into the auditorium, the first thing I noticed was the unique combination of instruments. Woodwind players and string players had turned out in full force, but there were also guitars and African drums involved; definitely not your typical orchestra. LSO musicians in partnership with the music teachers spent two days working with children of all different abilities on well-known classical works such as Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending and Mars from Holst’s Planets Suite. The children learned their parts by ear and there was actually no music in sight. Certain children were even encouraged to stand up and improvise solos, which really boosted their confidence and showcased their natural creativity. At the end of the second day, friends and family of the children were invited to hear what the ensemble had been working on and discover how inclusive projects like LSO On Track are.

The second project I got to observe took place at Sydenham School in Lewisham, where more LSO musicians and workshop leader Fraser Trainer partnered with the Lewisham Music Service to give junior school children in the area the opportunity to make music and have fun doing it. This was part of a much wider set of similar workshops with schools from all over East London, working towards a big performance on the Barbican Centre foyers on Thursday 16 June.

LSO On Track takeover poster

When I arrived, I noticed that the range of instruments was much more typical of an orchestra. However, the ensemble did not play a composed piece of music, and the first part of the afternoon consisted of each section breaking away and coming up with three different chords, two different textures and one rhythm. This gave the young musicians the freedom to express their creativity and experiment with the different sounds that their instruments could produce. The different sections then reassembled and performed what they had come up with from memory. I really enjoyed witnessing such a creative environment, and the tutors were really positive and encouraging towards the young talent.

LSO On Track takeover project at Sydenham School in Lewisham

In this year alone, the LSO has worked with 10 different music services in East London to give around 2000 young people similar opportunities to those I have observed during my time with the LSO. I hope these projects will continue to encourage young people of all musical abilities to carry on playing an instrument and creating music, because being a musician/student myself, I know how hard it is to balance playing an instrument, doing school work and having a social life!

You can see the results of the second of the two projects tonight during the LSO On Track Foyer Takeover at the Barbican Centre. Starting at 6.30pm, the event is free to attend. From 7.30pm the LSO Discovery Showcase takes place in the Barbican Hall, in which several of the LSO's community and student groups will perform. Please join us for this life-affirming event!