In Harmony at Hawthorn Primary School

Since 2012 Hawthorn has been part of the In Harmony project, working with Sage Gateshead. Inspired by the principles of Venezuela’s inspirational El Sistema - every child in the school is taught a musical instrument and plays in small or large groups (ensembles), which helps them work towards joining Hawthorn Primary Symphony Orchestra!

The children have one individual lesson a week from one of our music tutors who have become part of the Hawthorn family. These tutors are excellent musicians who love teaching our children. Find out more about them on the tutor page.

Since the beginning of the project the children have had experiences most of us could only dream of. They have often had the chance to play at Sage Gateshead and have developed a special relationship with our friends from Royal Northern Sinfonia. These talented musicians often work alongside our children in school and invite us along to concerts and events at Sage Gateshead. In 2014, an internationally renowned artist, Gina Southgate, spent three days painting pictures of the children while they played. These amazing images are displayed all around school. 

The children really enjoy performing and have shared their music with local primary schools, our local community and across Newcastle. Of course some of our favourite concerts take place in our school hall with our wonderfully supportive parents cheering us on. Our Symphony Orchestra enjoys meeting up with other In Harmony groups especially our friends at In Harmony Opera North, based in Leeds, and In Harmony Liverpool. Both of these groups joined us for our 6th birthday concert at Sage Gateshead in June 2018. We were then lucky enough to go ‘on tour’, playing at Leeds Town Hall later that year and at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool in 2019 as part of In Harmony Liverpool’s 10th birthday weekend. We always enjoy sharing In Harmony with visitors to school. Lee Hall visited when the project first started, just after the first group of children received their instruments. Working with Sting, Lee supported us to fund and develop our music cabin. 

Lars Vogt, a world famous pianist, Alison Balsom, an internationally famous trumpeter, and Kathryn Tickell, a famous folk musician, have all visited school and performed for the children. In December 2014 cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber and was astonished by our school orchestra. He was able to spend time with some of our mini string players. It is incredible to think that these children are still playing now, in year 6 and 7 and with our West Newcastle Symphony Orchestra; giving them the chance to continue to play and develop their skills even when they have left Hawthorn Primary. Having the opportunity to listen to and work with professional musicians lets them see where their music could take them in the future. 

As well as welcoming visitors to school, the children have the chance to visit other venues and El Sistema inspired programmes across the country. In 2015, a group of children and parents visited the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre in London where they had the opportunity to watch and meet the world famous, Simon Bolivar orchestra, from Venezuela and their superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel. More recently, during our weekend visit to Liverpool in 2019, the orchestra were thrilled to be joined on stage by Sheku Kanneh-Mason the cellist who won the 2016 Young Musician of the Year. 

Of course, the real stars are the children themselves; it is always incredibly emotional watching the children progress from when they first receive their instruments in year 1, to the young musicians that they become by the time they move on to secondary school at the end of year 6. As a school we are incredibly proud of all of our young musicians and their hard work to become young musicians. 

Many children are able to keep playing at secondary school and through the Step Up and the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) Programmes at Sage Gateshead. Through these programmes the children are able to receive specialist tuition and support to ensure that they achieve their full potential. We are especially proud of one young musician who has recently joined Young Sinfonia; a high-quality youth orchestra with strong links to Royal Northern Sinfonia. Our older children also have the opportunity to join with other young musicians at the Sistema England Young Leaders residentials, as well as support younger children at our own summer schools each year.