Music in Schools: Deptford Park Primary Whole Class Violin Teaching (Lewisham 2024)

Elena Accogli and Inis Oirr Asano joined music volunteer Tim Johns for an eight-session music project at Deptford Park Primary School. Introducing two Year 4 classes to violins, the string family, and ensemble playing, the project was delivered as part of our Music in Schools partnership (Lewisham). Elena tells us more.

“This was a unique project in that the emphasis was on strings. Many music projects focus on introducing primary age children to music through singing or percussion, but thanks to a former music teacher, the school was unusually well equipped with violins.

It’s my third time working with pupils at Deptford Park. I’ve previously delivered projects with Young Artists Helena Svegelj (cello) and Maxence Bretel (violin). While every project comes with its own classroom dynamics, returning each year has helped me become more familiar with the school, strengthen my teaching skills, and become more able to handle unexpected situations. Working with children is always full of surprises!

Our 2024 sessions were held after lunch, often after the rain seemed to cut short their play. Arriving full of energy and enthusiasm, Inis Oirr (pronounced “Aneesha”) and I would use the class management techniques we’d learnt from teachers and Cat McDermit during her Young Artist training sessions to calm the class. This included simple breathing exercises and warm up games such as Pass The Clap and Switch.

The sessions were only 25 minutes for each class, so we needed to quickly settle the children and get them actively engaged. Following the warm-ups, Inis Oirr and I would focus on our activity for that week. This could range from introducing the pupils to ensembles to demonstrations of different string techniques. We’re working towards a group performance that they’ll write themselves having learnt basic rhythm and notation skills.

One of the best things about this type of project is the way it encourages the children to work together and build friendships. Some pupils pick up concepts quickly, others need more time. It was lovely to see the more able pupils at Deptford Park help those that were struggling. Having closely spaced sessions also helped them retain information.

Showing the pupils what Inis Oirr and I can do with our violas also helped them understand the string family. When presented with a viola alongside a violin, the pupils quickly noted their differences: one was larger, one smaller, one had a higher lowest note and so on. We’d also use our instruments to play different music and to get them participating musically in some way. Each session would end with us playing something that we’d worked on together.

Sadly, this is my final year as a Young Artist but I’ve loved sharing my skills at Deptford Park and in other Musicians’ Company Music as Therapy projects at Swiss Cottage and at Bedelsford School. I’ve left every session thinking how invaluable the participation projects are, and how important it is that children are exposed to all sorts of music early on. I’d love to make teaching and education work a part of my musical life.”


Interview by Suzy Willmott

Suzy is freelance copywriter who works with the Musicians’ Company