LSO Discovery: Working with musicians

LSO Discovery, the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and music education programme, has a long-standing early years strand and offers a range of opportunities in music for young children and their parents including weekly sessions, workshops and family concerts. This resource was created for the Youth Music Spotlighting module by Dr Susan Young, lecturer at the University of Exeter and Alison Harmer, film maker and editor, with the support of LSO Discovery.

The LSO’s orchestral players work closely with the practitioner to provide a wide range of high-quality musical experiences.

In this video clip you will see how there is also musical give and take between the orchestral player, Vanessa, the parents and the children. 

The instrumental player can provide music for focused listening opportunities or to add to and enhance the ongoing activities of the session.  For many children the opportunity to hear and see live instruments being played is something completely new and exciting.

It can be useful to think of two types of ‘engagement’ for children:  ‘Absorbed engagement’ and ‘interactive engagement’.  Providing a small-scale, high quality performance on the instrument is highly absorbing to children.  In ‘absorbed engagement’ they are often quite still, quiet and highly attentive, watching and listening.  We all know this type of engagement.  Children are taking in an enormous amount of information and actively processing it.  It may seem as if they are passive but their minds are very active.   High quality performance, being able to see the music made, live, in the moment, on an instrument with a distinct timbre, is a rare, but very valuable opportunity for children. 

The LSO obviously has the advantage of a large pool of instrumental players who also work in community projects.  Many regional orchestras have outreach and community programmes and may be able to provide players for one-off visits.

Equally, parents, staff often have instrumental skills.

The players need a certain ‘skill set’ for working in early childhood music.  They need to be able to:

  • Observe the group attentively
  • Improvise to match mood, tempo and dynamic
  • Follow or lead, and know when each are appropriate
  • Pick up the pitch, melody, tempo of songs and activities and join in
  • Perform a memorized repertoire of music suitable for different types of musical experience
  • Talk to young children in age-appropriate language

The players must also have general professional attributes: be reliable, flexible, know how to behave in early childhood settings and abide by safety policies.

Click on the links at the bottom of the page to see more videos and notes on key aspects of the LSO’s early years programme.

Read the full LSO Discovery report