Amati Global Investors has recently become a corporate supporter of Sistema Scotland. Paul Jourdan of Amati, and his wife Kathryn Jourdan, both became Directors of Sistema Scotland during 2011, at a point when the charity's Board was expanded to include some musicians. Two other musician directors who joined at that time were Fergus McWilliam, a Scottish horn player in the Berlin Philharmonic, and the violin soloist Nicola Benedetti.
The Chairman and founder of Sistema Scotland is Dr Richard Holloway. In his 2012 report he introduces the work of the charity as follows:
Sistema Scotland exists to transform the lives of children by placing them in symphony orchestras that inspire them by the joy and discipline of making music. Our work is based on the methods developed in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu, known affectionately as Maestro Abreu. The network of orchestras that he established in many of Venezuela's most needy urban areas continues to grow, currently involving more than 250,000 children. It is often referred to as "El Sistema".Sistema Scotland is an organisation inspired and shaped by Maestro Abreu's vision, dedicated to realising a similar ambition in Scotland.
2012 promised to be an especially exciting one for us as it was to climax in Maestro Abreu's first visit to Raploch, accompanied by Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.Our children were to perform in the launch concert of the London 2012 Festival alongside their Venezuelan heroes before large audiences both in Raploch itself and watching on television. Everyone in our team was focused on helping the children achieve the best possible performance on their biggest stage to date. The year saw a great effort from everyone involved to raise musical standards, increase concentration and promote practice. We did indeed see a great boost to musical standards across the board as the children began to embrace the challenges they were being given, and with this we saw in increase in the poise, confidence and resilience of the children.
The social benefits of Sistema come from the structure, challenge and cooperative nature of a symphony orchestra. Orchestral music is beautiful, and we think beauty is important; but the other beauty of the orchestra is that it provides us with a structure that also fosters life skills, cooperation and confidence, and is a tool to counter exclusion. Aside from purely musical skills, the children learn that the hard work of mastering something difficult pays off and brings admiration. They learn to work together. They gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. This year we saw these achievements reach new heights.
As Richard's report mentions, 2012 has been an extraordinary year for
Sistema Scotland. You can see a programme about the Simón Bolívar
Symphony Orchestra's visit to Raploch in June 2012 on the BBC website at
the following link:
Sistema Scotland operates under the name Big Noise. You can follow the
progress of the charity here:
During 2010 the Scottish government commissioned a research report into the work of Big Noise at Raploch. The report was published in March 2011. The full report can be seen here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/03/11150907/0
Its main findings were as follows:
- Big Noise has been successful in engaging with 80% of the 344 children who attend school or nursery in the Raploch Campus. Those who attend on a voluntary basis after school and during school holidays account for 65% of the 219 children who are eligible to attend (those in Primary 2 to Primary 7).
- There is strong evidence that children involved in Big Noise experience benefits, primarily around personal and social development, for example improving confidence, self esteem, social skills and the ability to concentrate.
- As a result of Big Noise, families report improved relationships at home, wider social networks and more shared activities between parents and children. It has also allowed the parents to see a more positive, aspirational future for their children and has engendered a sense of pride in what they have and will go on to achieve in their lives.
- While the vast majority of any impact has been on the children and families who are involved in Big Noise, many of the parents and professionals interviewed during the evaluation believe that Big Noise is changing perceptions of Raploch. There is also evidence of skills exchange with partners Big Noise works with, such as the nursery and reports that the positivity that surrounds Big Noise can be beneficial for engendering positive relationships between parents and statutory services.
- The evaluation shows that Big Noise is contributing to the achievement of eight National Outcomes; we live our lives free from crime, disorder and danger; we have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others; we are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation; our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens; our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed; we take pride in a strong, fair and inclusive national identity; we live longer, healthier lives; and we have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society. Additional longer term outcomes are expected against five of these National Outcomes, and so evidence will be gathered through longer term tracking of children and families and public data sources.
- The processes used by Big Noise were assessed against 8 factors which have been identified by the Critical Hours: After School Programmes and Critical Success study as being associated with positive outcomes for children and were found to incorporate all of the factors. In addition, Big Noise has a number of unique features that set it apart from other interventions provided to children and families; Intensity and Immersion, Inclusion, Partnership Working and Excellence and Profile.
- Measuring the impact of Big Noise on children's engagement with and achievement in learning has been challenging and evidence is currently limited. The evaluation found that there is potential for Big Noise to have a positive impact on children's learning, and so working more closely with schools to develop ways of measuring this impact is important.
More recently there has been a landmark announcement of support from the Scottish Government, which, in conjunction with support from Glasgow City Council, will allow the charity to open a second centre at Govanhill in Glasgow during 2013. It should also provide a platform for further centres in the future.
If you have an interest in the political debate in Scotland about music
education you might be interested in this transcript of a debate on the
subject which took place in the Scottish Parliament on 28 November
2012. Follow this link and go to page 50.