Brass Band Director Sandy Coffin recently enlisted her students to kick off a social media campaign aimed at preserving and promoting free instrumental music tuition for all school children in Scotland. “Musical and cultural exchanges have always been important in promoting better understanding,” Coffin says. “I felt this was one small way we could teach our students the importance of reaching out to help others around the world.”
The Change The Tune! campaign was launched by Scotland’s Music Education Participation Group (MEPG), which is battling funding cuts to that country’s music education programs. MEPG Chairman John Wallace, the renowned Scottish trumpeter, composer, and educator—and Ms. Coffin’s friend and mentor—invited St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s to create the initial video for this campaign. The Parliamentary Petition went online shortly after the video was posted, and aims to gather 50,000 signatures by June 15.
“Scotland has long been held in high esteem for its enlightened approach to a liberal education, with music holding a proportionate place within this curriculum. However, there are warning signs of a change in the mood about music in our country leading to practical steps being taken to diminish opportunities for children, especially in instrumental music,” said Mr. Wallace in a letter to Head of School Virginia Connor. “Although we are a tiny country, we feel that we are not alone. Therefore we would be deeply honoured if St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s would stimulate this campaign by launching it and encouraging schools all over to Scotland to add their own versions of this message ... turn sadness into joy through transforming Chopin’s Funeral March into Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.”
St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s has a long connection with the Brass Band tradition of Scotland—initially through Doug Hedwig, who founded the school's Brass Band in 1995, and continuing with Ms. Coffin’s ongoing work with the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland. In February 2018, Wallace visited St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s and was impressed by the school's rich curriculum and the high participation levels in vocal and instrumental performance in music.
Music is part of the curriculum for every student, from the Beginners (2s) program through eighth grade. Beginning in early childhood, teachers employ the Kodály method, an age-appropriate approach in which children learn as they listen, sing, play games, and dance. As they progress, they learn to read and write music, to compose, and to improvise. In fourth grade, students have the chance to study brass instruments through the band program, or they can study choral singing. By seventh grade, students may join the Instrumental Ensemble, studying percussion, handbells, and other new instruments.
“Music participation helps develop so many important skills—teamwork, creative thinking, resilience, discipline,” says Coffin. “Music also creates well-rounded students. We all gain by improved music education for every student.”