Director elated with expansion of string programme in schools
Founder of the Primary School String Programme, Dr Joy Knight, is elated about its revival, and is optimistic about the impact it can have on society.
Knight was responding to the announcement made by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley during the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals 2023 on March 14 that $600 000 annually would be allocated towards the introduction of the National Strings Programme in 68 primary schools.
“I am elated that the primary schools’ strings programme would be revived, and in such a way that involves all of the primary schools and not just a few chosen schools,” Knight said.
“When the programme was initiated in 2001 with the full support of the then Minister of Education Mia Mottley, with a small budget, we were only able to include a pilot of five schools. Even though it was small, just five schools, it was very successful. Now, with a larger budget, many more children would be exposed to music and string playing at an early age.”
Knight believes this improved string programme can have a positive impact on child development which could have a ripple effect on the social and cultural landscape of Barbados.
She said: “It is well known and proven, and I have seen this myself, that early exposure to music has a positive impact on child development and accelerates brain development. Early exposure to music performance develops skills such as memory, motor, social, emotional and literacy skills. It also develops teamwork and discipline.
“On top of that, music can be calming and enjoyable. With so many benefits to learning music and music performance, one can see that this would be an enriching and positive experience for the children of Barbados.”
The programme is seen by the Barbados National Youth Symphony Orchestra (BNYSO) as a key player in the role of developing musicians locally. The BNYSO has developed into a full orchestra with at least 68 per cent string players largely due to the Primary School Strings Programme which was introduced in 2001.
Knight, who has been the Director of the BNYSO since 2002, is hopeful that the exposure of this enhanced programme leads to more children signing up.
“In a full orchestra, there needs to be enough string instruments to create a good balance with the louder winds and brass. Right now we have three orchestras: the Barbados Junior Orchestra, the Barbados National Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Barbados Symphony Orchestra, as a direct result of that string programme.”
She continued: “We are definitely going in the right direction by reinstating this in our primary schools. I would not want to see the orchestra regress due to a lack of strings. So of course, the strings programme is intrinsically linked to the development of orchestral playing in Barbados. “
Knight was keen to stress that the BNYSO does more than just produce talented musicians capable of forming their music career.
“The programme will develop people who are great citizens. Some will become great musicians, and many will choose other careers. But let’s be cognizant of the fact that we are not only creating musicians for a cultural industry or for an orchestra but we are giving our children more exposure and helping them develop important life skills which they can use in whatever direction life takes them and whatever career path they choose.”
The BNYSO recently had their annual Christmas concert in December as well as performing for the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute’s graduation ceremony earlier this year. They also have a concert at Easter (April 9) in the Botanical Gardens. (JC)