Music "more important than ever" in our time of crisis, urges West Sussex Music

West Sussex Music is urging that music is “more important than ever” as it aims to get its students through the tough times ahead.

James Underwood Chief Executive West Sussex Music
James Underwood Chief Executive West Sussex Music

Earlier this week West Sussex Music announced that its Music Centres in Chichester, Crawley, Haywards Heath, Horsham (including county ensembles) and Worthing were closing from Friday, March 20 until Friday, April 3. It also cancelled or postponed all concerts and events, with immediate effect, until Friday, April 3.

James Underwood, chief executive West Sussex Music, said: “These were difficult decisions to make, particularly as the financial implications for us as a charity are considerable and we are only too aware of the impact this will have on our talented young musicians and our hardworking staff. But, we want everyone to stay healthy and well, and to play our part in stopping the spread of the virus.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

“The announcement that the Government is closing schools means that our in-school lessons and activities are now also on hold, for an indefinite period. Whilst we very much hope that this is a temporary situation and that lost lessons may be made up over the course of the remaining academic year, we have to prepare ourselves for the increasing probability that this may not be the case.

“We are working hard to find ways to survive the financial impact of the current coronavirus crisis. We are looking at the possibility of remote teaching options, so that should school closures continue, we can support children’s learning and interest in music lessons in another way.

“We believe that in difficult times, access to music is more important than ever. Music can help us to better cope with stress and provide relaxation and calm at times of uncertainty and anxiety.

“For children in particular, who are facing what is an unfamiliar and potentially overwhelming situation, the familiarity and escapism of music playing, regular practice and the quiet discipline of developing a sound or technique on their own can have many positive effects on emotional wellbeing.

“For parents who want to help support their child’s music making and practice there is much that can be done from within the home environment:

“Encourage: supporting your child with their music is about encouragement, taking an interest, and making time to help when they get stuck with their new piece or exercise. If they have been taking lessons and have a practice diary, check this regularly and ask them what skills they have been working on and what pieces of music they have been playing. Even if you’re not musical yourself, you can ask them to show you and explain what they are doing. Ask them what they are finding difficult and help them reflect on what they need to do to improve.

“Communicate: as well as communicating with your child, continuing to maintain a strong and open dialogue with their teacher is also important, particularly in the absence of face-to-face lessons. If your child has lessons with West Sussex Music then our music teachers are still available and only too happy to talk to parents about how they can help support their child’s music-making at this time.

“Make practice fun: music is an iterative thing, needing regularity and repetition. Make practice fun by inviting your child to play a concert for you, for example. Ultimately, although a skilled discipline, at its core music should be a fun form of self-expression. In supporting your child, it is essential to maintain this ideal at every point in their musical journey.

“Engagement: we would also encourage parents to engage with West Sussex Music’s social media platforms by searching for @WestSussexMusic for more tips and support, and so that our musical community can remain connected at what is an increasingly isolating time.”