Eric lives in one of the most deprived wards in the country. He was a shy boy with little confidence. Then In Harmony Newcastle Gateshead came along and changed his life.
Every pupil at his school was given an orchestral instrument of their very own. Eric, who had never picked up an instrument before, chose the bassoon. He progressed quickly on the instrument and was encouraged to audition for the Centre for Advanced Training, which is part of Sage Gateshead’s Young Musicians Programme. He was successful and has been attending every Sunday since. At CAT he was also given the opportunity to play a second instrument. Eric chose the piano. He has travelled all over the country to perform and has passed music and theory exams. Imagine if this talent had gone untapped?!
His mum Piu said: “I am very grateful that Eric was given this opportunity and that he still continues to progress. It has given him confidence and attention to detail in all areas of his life. He notices his mistakes and will always work hard to correct them.”
Hannah Johnson’s journey started in 2012, back when she was 9 years old. She chose to learn the Oboe at Hawthorn Primary School in Elswick, an In Harmony school.
“I liked the sound of it… before I started, I didn’t know how to read music, or what notes were,” she said. Since these early first steps, Hannah has become a confident musician, made new friends and is considering a career in music, as she explains:
“In Harmony has helped me grow in confidence as I never would have got up on a stage before. Being with In Harmony has given me the chance to meet students from other schools and perform at Sage Gateshead.”
After a year of playing, Hannah gained the opportunity to study at Sage Gateshead’s Centre for Advanced Training (part of the Young Musicians Programme) where she continues to attend, with the support of a bursary. She said: “I jumped at the chance to do this. I got to have 1-1 sessions and practice as a group.”
Hannah’s dad Barry credits the bursary scheme with allowing Hannah’s musical aspiration to flourish, saying: “Without the bursary nothing would have happened. We wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”
Hannah’s passion for music has rubbed off on her brother Connor, who is learning the violin as part of the In Harmony project. Barry said: “We often hear Hannah and Connor practice together and it always brings a smile to our faces. We hope that Connor can follow in Hannah’s footsteps.”
Hannah is now going into Year 11 at Excelsior Academy, and also plays with the West Newcastle Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra that grew out of In Harmony. As she explains, a career in music is a definite option. “I am now working towards my grade 5 exam and my aim is to reach grade 8 by the time I’m 18. I would like to give other students the chance to learn all the skills that I’ve learned with In Harmony by maybe becoming a tutor myself,” she said.