Read on for current & past projects in primary, secondary & SEND schools, in further & higher education. For more information call 01789 267567 or email: education@orchestraoftheswan.org to sign up for termly e-newsletters.

Access to and participation in professional high-quality musical and performance experiences, enhance cross-curriculum study, supporting, enabling and encouraging the holistic development of healthy individuals. OOTS’ workshops in primary, secondary, SEND schools and in Universities can be tailored to your specific requirements, year groups and abilities, fully supporting the National Plan for Music Education.

BBC Ten Pieces
A pilot project with Barrs Hill Secondary School. Funded by Coventry Performing Arts.

During June and July 2016, OOTS musicians led four 2-hour cross-curricular workshops in Barrs Hill School, Coventry relating to Key Stage 3 history, music, english and maths.

Working with thirty Year 7 and 8 pupils, cellist Matthew Forbes, viola player Ruth Woolley and violinist Naomi Rump used themes from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending to inspire young composers to develop their own creative responses through poetry and music. Working with a mixed group of instrumentalists which included cornets, saxophone, steel pans, keyboards, tuned and untuned percussion and voice, OOTS musicians explored the George Meredith poem of the same name, the inspiration behind the work and the political landscape of the time.

Each session began with various ice-breakers and warm ups to get the group working together and were followed with improvisations and composition practise based around the D Major pentatonic scale, as used in “The Lark”.

“What an amazing experience this has been for our students. This has not only provided them the opportunity to work with professional musicians of such high calibre but has also challenged their creativity in so many ways. To produce such a fabulous final performance with the addition of profound poetry and beautiful haikus written completely by the students themselves gives them, their parents, their teachers and the school something to be extremely proud of.” Detta Edwards, Head of Music at Barrs Hills School

“I enjoyed when everyone joined in together with their instruments because it sounded great – as if it was building” year 8 pupil

“All the things we did in our session were incredible and really inspiring”  year 7 pupil

Read more about BBC Ten Pieces project here.

If you would like to know more about how your school can book OOTS to lead a similar project, please contact Sue Pope, Learning & Participation Manager, by email: education@orchestraoftheswan.org

Click here to see a curriculum map for how you could embed a similar project into your curriculum.

SEND Projects
OOTS has also worked in regional SEND Schools in partnership with Talking Birds to deliver 3 successful opera projects since 2013 including ‘Troy Story’ and ‘Ant and Cleo – The Musical’, which have enabled children to reach their full creative potential, supported collaboration between SEND and mainstream schools and helped to break down prejudice.

Orchestra of the Swan and Talking Birds in collaboration with Welcombe Hills, Thomas Jolyffe, Wilmcote, Bray’s, St Edmund’s, and St Patrick’s schools created a unique partnership to produce: Troy Story – An intergalactic opera.

Ant and Cleo is our third collaboration with Talking Birds and with Welcombe Hills – Stratford-upon-Avon; and Brays – Birmingham SEN schools and Bridgetown Primary School, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Ant & Cleo is a re-telling of the classic story using a sweeping orchestral score, stunning design, and even more cheap gags than the epic Troy Story which shook the rafters of the Civic Hall in 2013. Performed with pupils from three schools alongside professional actor/singers and musicians.

The production features 100 extraordinary young people drawn from two schools for children with special needs (Welcombe Hills and Brays) and Bridgetown Primary School, alongsidep Orchestra of the Swan and four brilliant soloists from Talking Birds’; Sam Fox of Kiln Theatre, Jake Oldershaw of Untied Artists, Louise Wayman and Themba Mvula.

Four Shorts
Bringing world class composers and musicians to your school, college or university 

Four Shorts is part of Orchestra of the Swan’s annual commissioning programme allowing OOTS ‘Associate Composers’ Lucia Caruso and Pedro da Silva (funded by the Sorel Organisation from Sept 2016- Sept 2019), to share their expertise with students studying composition at all levels, including BTEC, GCSE, A Level , Graduate and Post Graduate.

Four Shorts aims to:

  • provide our Associate Composers with the valuable experience of working with and mentoring music students
  • provide composition students with access to world class composers and performers
  • enable students to write a short work for Orchestra of the Swan and to have their own work rehearsed, performed and recorded for submission as part of their exam portfolio
  • present all new works in public at pre-concert events which may be filmed for composer archive and promotional use
  • offer all participants a richer understanding of compositional and performing techniques
  • provide students with information as to progression in studies, the arts and the workplace

To find out how your school, college or university can take part in this or other OOTS projects linked to composition, improvisation and performance skills, or to book a one-off masterclass on any of these topics, please contact our Learning & Participation Manager Sue Pope on: education@orchestraoftheswan.org

For detailed information on the Four Shorts Projects, please click here 

Family Focused
Few arts organisations offer concerts for families; accordingly, children, particularly those on the autistic spectrum, miss out on the opportunity to experience the enjoyment of a live orchestra. Since 2015, OOTS has worked in partnership with Town Hall Birmingham, Autism West Midlands, Chelmsford Theatre and Orchestras Live in partnership with ventriloquist James Rowney to stage ‘Relaxed Concerts’ aimed at those with autism.

Generously supported by:

  • Birmingham Bodenham Trust
  • Boshier-Hinton Foundation
  • D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust
  • Eric W Vincent Trust
  • Edward & Dorothy Cadbury Trust
  • George Fentham Birmingham Charity
  • Grantham Yorke Trust
  • Henry James Sayer Charity
  • Mrs Wingfield’s Charitable Trust
  • Eveson Charitable Trust
  • W E Dunn Trust

“Having an autistic son, I was over the moon to hear you created a relaxed performance of the show.  I am sure you can appreciate it’s extremely difficult finding somewhere to take your child that doesn’t cause them unimaginable stress.  We utterly enjoyed the performance and my son was entertained throughout.  The changes made to the environment lived up to all expectations, and your staff were more than helpful and appreciated the needs of my son.” Audience member

For most young children, a trip to see a show or a concert would be an exciting adventure but for children with Autism it can be sensory overload; many aspects of a production can cause difficulties such as busy foyers, unexpected music, lights going up and down and applause. Even the interval can be confusing because it seems strange to leave the auditorium in the middle of an event.

This means that many parents fear taking their children to see a performance; they worry about the negativity that may be directed at them from the audience or musicians, and they don’t want their children to have a stressful experience.

This performance was presented by James Rowney, a ventriloquist who is himself autistic, and his puppet, Little Jim, who has never been to a concert before and is excited by the prospect of seeing an orchestra perform live music. At the end of the performance, Little Jim led a Q&A session taking questions from the audience and the orchestra joined families for a chat and blow and scrape.

The Family Concert provided:

  • A video guide with introductions to the concert, interviews, and musical excerpts;
  • A story book with information on the concert and musicians with images
  • Video and hard copy venue guides
  • Venue alteration with ‘chill out’ areas including soft bean bags, dimmed lighting, and sensory toys
  • Autism Awareness training to musicians and staff

Project Outcomes

This relaxed family concert:

  • Enabled children and their parents to experience the inspiring and exciting world of live orchestral music;
  • Enabled parents to relax in the knowledge that they were in a supportive and non-judgmental environment
  • Ensured families living with the challenge of Autism could go and see a live performance together, possibly for the first time
  • PBL, participating tour partners, and Orchestra of the Swan developed a better understanding of the Autistic Spectrum
  • Raised awareness of the need for more relaxed concerts across the wider sector

OOTS believes that children with Autism, learning disabilities and sensory and communication disorders, should have access to the same life-enhancing opportunities as their peers and was delighted to partner Performances Birmingham Limited (PBL) and Autism West Midlands in a ‘relaxed performance’ in Town Hall Birmingham.