Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Ulster Scots in Schools - Investing in the Future

Back in January 2008 I was persuaded by Mr. Michael McCullough from the Ulster Scots Agency to take part in a pilot fife and lambeg drum class at the Boy’s Model School in Belfast. I had been doing some voluntary work for Michael, working in mostly primary schools holding workshops on the fife and lambeg drum tradition throughout Ulster.

I gave a workshop to 3 x classes of year 8 + 9 boys at the school and then was overwhelmed with the number of students wanting to learn the fife and drum.

Now the fife and lambeg drum tradition had died out in Belfast, except for a couple of enthusiasts. – Now as we know, boy’s being boy’s - I spent a few weeks getting rid of the slackers, those wanting out of class, no music ability etc, eventually I had around 36 students attend 5 x drum classes and 1 fife class.

Part of the project along with the tuition was to equip the school with a drum and fifes – so invest in time and resources, as well as 3 x educational trips to drum maker, drum painter and fife maker! Well to cut a long story short I will single out one pupil for the benefit of this blog entry, there are quite a few of these students springing up all over Ulster as I visit schools but here is one example.

Here is a class of young students year 8 or 9 - starting their tuition.

Simon Menabney – When I began in the school Simon was just a boy with no knowledge of the fife and lambeg drum tradition. As the weeks and months passed Simon was very keen and showed signs of developing a great interest in the lambeg drum, not really interested in playing the fife though!

Simon developed great rhythmic skills very quickly and soon became one of my best students. As well as being taught in the Boys’ Model each Monday, Simon joined the newly formed Shankill drumming club, that had been formed in West Belfast Orange Hall ( I had taught some of the Shankill members at my drumming club) his interest developed further. Simon began to perform at school events and community based concerts and events also. Later in 2009 Simon began to Parade along with me on the ‘Twelfth Day’

This is a brief synopsis of the last 3 ½ years with Simon at the Boys’ Model School and how if you invest time, effort and equipment in young people, it can have a positive impact on their lives.

Simon, along with other exams, took his GCSE music practical in April, I played the fife and Simon played the Lambeg Drum both as a solo and to the accompaniment of the fife!


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