Sunday, 31 May 2015

The poster has a poster!

Many thanks to our friend Oliver (haas design in his professional life) for coming up with a promotional poster for our trip.  It looks great...

Our accommodation for the route is pretty much planned out, but we were very sad to hear of the major fire which has put the Gordon Arms Hotel in Ettrick out of action for the time being. Our best wishes go to the owners and staff in their task of restoring the property, and it is encouraging to see they hope to reopen the bar this summer. Maybe we will at least be able to drop in for a hard-earned drink after cycling the beautiful (but hilly!) route from the border with England.

More generous donations have come in, including one from the Royal Bank of Scotland charities fund - very many thanks to all our supporters!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Special, needs

A good training ride on the bike on Sunday morning, snatched between the downpours. I'm not sure it reaches 1 in 5 for more than a few metres, but it is a steady climb from the A9 up to Findo Gask, on the hill crest where Roman soldiers manned the signal stations two thousand years ago.  Poor guys, they didn't have the option of stopping off at the world's best farm cafĂ© at Gloagburn, as we did.

And Sunday afternoon, as usual, brass band rehearsal with Perthshire Youth Brass. A perfect day!

Do you have children (well, if you don't, imagine you do for a moment)? Which of them are special? And which of them have needs? I'm guessing you'd have to be a hard case not to answer “All of them of course!”.

That's something that any educator understands too. Every child is an individual, with their own unique potential, and the same simple needs - to be valued, to belong, to be listened to, to be treated the same as everyone else, to learn how to be themselves.  For some children, there are extra obstacles that make those needs harder to meet - physical or health problems, trouble with language or communication or learning, 'different' behaviour.

Music can help break down those barriers. Sometimes it just takes an inspired individual with a belief in the child. My fantastic tuba teacher Elaine Moffat is that kind of person. Here are some quotes from parents of her pupils.
  • “an exceptional ability to 'see a spark' which is almost totally hidden, and nurture that into something meaningful”
  • “very unusual for someone to have such high expectations for —”
  • “his siblings can be proud of him for the first time”
I seem to keep quoting Nicola Benedetti! Here she is speaking last week:

  “ is not an isolated subject. It gives you life skills that will help you deal with everything else.”

And only today there is this report on the positive impact of the Big Noise project (Sistema Scotland) in Stirling and Govanhill.

Music can change lives. Every bit of support for our bike ride will help Elaine and her many wonderful colleagues to keep doing that, for more children.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thank you (#1)

Thanks to everyone who donated so generously at this evening's Junior Music Camp Concert. We raised the terrific amount of £230.56! We hope you enjoyed the concert as well, we certainly did.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Magic food

I'm raising funds for a charity that helps children to learn music. You might think that is a luxury for the few. Here's what I feel about it.

Learning music has taught me to work hard, over months and years; to concentrate; to improve my memory; to pay attention; to listen to others; to listen to myself; to wait when it is time to wait; to be ready when it is time to be ready; to appreciate quiet and silence; to find ways to overcome problems; to work with others; to take responsibility for my part; to be organised; to practise; to turn up on time; to overcome nerves; to be bold and brave; to be supportive; to discover I can achieve things I never thought I could; to be proud of myself.

I think those are pretty useful things, and not just for playing music. There must be many other ways of learning them, but somehow, music seems like a magic food that is full of all of these wonderful ingredients. And - it is fantastically good fun!

But no need to take my word for it.

Here is Nicola Benedetti on Desert Island Discs:

    “...what El Sistema has demonstrated, is what we all know to be true, and what has been documented so many times, but for some reason is still not listened to, is that if you give children quality experience with great music, and a quality orchestral experience, and creative experience, not only will it allow them an insight into great art and great music, but it will affect every single part of their life, and that's from their communicative skills, [to] their social skills, their ability to work together, their ability to express themselves.

I would say, harking back to El Sistema, ... the discipline involved in learning to play an instrument is really second to none and ...I have a breeze in trying to apply that to anything else, because there are very few things that are going to be quite as challenging, in terms of discipline.

And here are some quotes from parents of musical friends of mine:

    “as his ability in music grows, his confidence.., self-esteem.., social skills improve..”
    we never thought we'd be watching our child perform in public”

Let's give the last word to a very young musician coming off the stage after his first concert:

    That is the best thing I have ever done in my life”