Blog of Julian West

Czigány Quartet School Visits

Julian West - Posted on 27.06.2018

Words by Eliza Millett

Student led, Czigány Quartet, visited four primary schools in the Camden Borough and presented an interactive performance exploring the repertoire and instruments of the string quartet.

Over the course of two full days we visited Rhyl, Argyle, Netley and St Mary and St Pancras primary schools, hoping to bring chamber music to life for young children. As two of us had taken the Open Academy Pathway, we were able to draw on the teaching methods of some inspirational educators we had worked with, Pete Letanka and James Redwood to name a few.

Maintaining the engagement of the children was initially a challenge, but as the days continued, we gained more experience from watching each other interact with the children, observing what was and was not successful. Our main objective was to give the children from each primary school an overall understanding of how the string quartet works. The calm environment and willingness of the children made it easier for us to converse with them and meant that we could maintain a certain level of energy in the room throughout each session. 

These school visits was a huge learning curve for us as a quartet, and the more exposure we had to the classroom environment the easier it became to assess the musical ability of each group. Engaging directly with the children through rhythmic clapping games reflected their enthusiasm and their desire for learning. The general good behaviour of the children also made it easy for all four of us to be creative, developing our teaching skills as we went along. A key aspect of communication with young children we learnt was the importance of repetition. In each session, we slowly introduced some of the main parameters of music; rhythm, harmony, texture and timbre giving musical examples alongside, and returned to them at the end of the sessions. 

One particular highlight was explaining the form of a minuet and trio, exampled in a Haydn string quartet. To demonstrate the features of this musical form, we asked the children to stand up and dance a minuet. We participated too, showing the identifiable features of a strong down beat followed by two lighter beats. This sort of interaction enlivened the children, and induced much visionary creativity, particularly when we asked how the music of the minuet differed from that of the trio. 

Ultimately, these school visits impacted our identities as musicians, as it gave us faith in the future of music. We were able to gain perspective on the music we were playing for the children in an environment that hugely differed from that of the Academy. These experiences also gave us all insight into how we communicate not only with children but with each other. Communicating with young children came more naturally to us than we had imagined, perhaps because communication is at the heart of what we do as chamber musicians. 

'Just wanted to say a big thank you for organising the string quartet performance yesterday.  The girls were fantastic with the kids and of course, played brilliantly.  I especially enjoyed seeing them get the children up and dancing in time with the music.  It was great for the children to see the instruments in an up close, informal setting.' - Deirdre Box 

'I would like to thank yourself and Emily, Aliayta, Clara and Eliza for their fantastic workshop yesterday. The children thoroughly enjoyed listening to their playing and I was really impressed with how the quartet used the inter-related dimensions of music to embed music knowledge. We are really appreciative and fortunate to have been offered this visit. Many thanks! Please pass our appreciation on to the members of the Quartet.' - Annette Pryce 

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