Dundee youngsters have been inspired to become musicians thanks to a transformative charity providing free tuition.
It has been four years since the Big Noise launched in the city, aiming to help children from some of the most deprived areas.
Starting at nursery age and nurturing kids throughout their childhood, mentors are seeing their hard work pay off as their charges are thriving.
The programme was launched in Douglas in an effort to “transform the lives” of children in the area – with praise coming in from students, parents and Dundee University, it appears to have been a success.
At the charity’s Christmas concert, it was plain to see how children have benefitted from the tuition.
Cathy Letford, 9, has been taking violin lessons at big noise since she was in P2.
Now, she wants to become a professional musician.
“Big Noise helps me think of when I want to be older and become a singer,” she said.
“Now I can learn how to play an instrument myself so I can make my own music.
“Big Noise has inspired me to be a singer.”
Her mum, Dawn-Marie, 48, added: “It makes me really happy to see her doing this because I know how much joy it gives her to be playing an instrument.
“Big Noise has given kids the chance to play instruments.”
What is Big Noise?
Big Noise was launched by charity Sistema Scotland in 2008.
Its first programme was in Raploch, Stirling and it has since expanded to four locations across Scotland.
Big Noise Douglas launched in September 2017.
Since then, hundreds of children have taken lessons in a variety of string instruments including violin, cello and viola.
Big Noise works with pupils at Claypotts Castle and St Pius primary schools and their nurseries.
All lessons and instruments are free.
Ashley Douglas, 36, says her 11-year-old daughter, Amy, is more focused and confident, thanks to Big Noise.
“I think Big Noise provides kids with a lot of good help with their self-esteem and their confidence,” Ashley said.
“When the kids are there they get to concentrate, it helps them concentrate so much and helps with their schooling.
“It does bring the community together as well, we’ve had big concerts and it’s great because all the community gets involved – and it’s going on from nursery up to P7.
“It’s a journey.”
Even coronavirus couldn’t hold back the Big Noise kids, as lessons were held online throughout the pandemic.
Cathy’s mum Dawn-Marie said this helped keep her daughter occupied during lockdown.
“During the pandemic the online lessons really were a godsend,” she said.
“It helps with their mental health and keeps them stimulated.
“It also helps get them into music, which I feel can be put on the backburner sometimes.”
Coronavirus cases being back on the rise meant parents were unable to attend the Christmas concerts earlier this month.
Instead, they were streamed to Facebook for families to enjoy.
Take a look at our photographs of the December 14 concert below:
As well as learning to play instruments, Big Noise staff say the scheme is about more than just music.
Andy Thorn, head of centre at Big Noise Douglas, said: “We’re an orchestral music programme so the children get to play music, but we’re also a social programme.
“The children are picking up other skills like perseverance and working as a team.
“Although we need music, we need music as a way to work with the children and the young people.”
He added: “The oldest children that we’re working with now are in P7 so they’ll be going to high school next year.
“I’ve seen them go from picking up a cello or a violin for the very first time to having their Christmas concert and playing some really quite advanced music.”
— Andy Thorn (@AndyThorn81) December 14, 2021
Dundee University evaluation
An evaluation of Big Noise participants conducted by Dundee University last month showed students gain extra skills from their lessons.
Professor Divya Jindal-Snape, who led the study, said: “We used logic modelling to look at programme elements, outputs, current outcomes and future outcomes.
“Through this we were able to establish the positive impact of Big Noise Douglas over the last three years, as well as its positive trajectory and potential impact for the future.
“It also highlighted areas that require further consideration.
“Our participants reported that the positive impact of Big Noise Douglas was due to children having the opportunity to learn music and express themselves in a fun and safe environment.
“The project gave children access to resources they don’t have at home as well as the chance to be part of a group.
“Children felt a positive impact as they were given nutritious food and built
valuable relationships with the Big Noise Douglas staff.”
Paul Clancy, executive director of children and families services at Dundee City
Council, also praised the scheme.
He said: “The research by the University of Dundee confirms that taking part in Big Noise Douglas helps the children and young people to develop skills that have a positive impact on their lives.
“The support that Big Noise Douglas has provided to local children during the pandemic has been very important for the community.”