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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

New Emirati national orchestra will help tackle schools' 'apathy' towards music

The chance to perform will give musicians a goal to strive towards, educators said

Woodwinds of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Simon Jay Price
Woodwinds of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Simon Jay Price

The introduction of a national orchestra will inspire the musicians of tomorrow, educators have said.

It was announced last week that the country will launch a new national orchestra for Emiratis and non-Emiratis by the end of the year.

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said the UAE plans to attract talent from at home and abroad.

"Imagine our life without music?" she said. "We want people to participate and help raise the name of the country.”

It is a move that has been welcomed by many working in education who say it will encourage participation in the arts.

Jo Lee, director of performing arts at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, said the national orchestra could be a catalyst for an awakened interest in music at schools in the region.

"There is great hope for performing arts within the UAE,” she said.

“Music and the performing arts have the opportunity to unite a community. When you work together, rehearse together and share a passion you are connected with your community. It really paves the way for the future of the UAE."

She also said that, as music is not a part of everyday life here, the orchestra could inspire young people and show them how fun music can be.

This year, a report from Dubai's education regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, found that just 20 per cent of private school pupils play a musical instrument three times a week. And a broader decline in music studies is being seen in developed nations around the world. This year, barely one in 20 pupils in the UK took music at GCSE level.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 04, 2018. Rosamund Marshall, CEO of Taaleem. (Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National) Reporter: ANAM RIZVI Section: NA
Ros Marshall, head of Taaleem, hopes to see a youth orchestra alongside the new national orchestra. Reem Mohammed / The National

Ros Marshall, chief executive at Taaleem, which runs 10 schools in Dubai, believes the national orchestra has been a long time coming and suggested that the introduction of a youth or children's orchestra would be even more of a boost to music in the country.

“In countries that have a national youth orchestra, children have a goal and they can take pride in being part of a team … it would really encourage children from an early age," said Ms Marshall, who previously served on the board of the national children’s orchestra in the UK.

"At the moment, there is an apathy in private schools because there is no opportunity, no vehicle, no platform for pupils to take [their music] further.

“When children access instruments at a young age, it’s amazing how accomplished they can become."

She said the new orchestra would encourage parents to "nurture their children’s interests by taking them to concerts".

Ms Marshall's youngest daughter started playing the concert harp after a musician came to her school to show pupils various instruments.

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Read more:

Emiratis and expats alike to showcase cultural talent in UAE's new round-the-world campaign

Curators of next UAE National Pavilion say they want to ‘do something that hasn’t been explored’

Music studies not striking a chord with Dubai pupils

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Rob Hall, director of music at The British School Al Khubairat, said the national orchestra would promote creativity while giving musicians something to strive towards.

“We are always looking at collaborating with other schools. We want to find more opportunities for young musicians and bring people together from different walks of life.

"We have a young musician who plays at the national youth orchestra in Ireland in the holidays. He comes back absolutely buzzing and it has a knock-on effect on all the musicians," said Mr Hall, who was a member of a youth orchestra in the UK when he was a teenager.

“Those memories are still with me and they will stay with these children, too. Music has such important mental and educational benefits."