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Meet Abi-lei and Layton

Abi-lei and Layton play the violin and double bass

Brother and sister Abi-lei and Layton enjoy the benefits of music-making through the In Harmony programme.

“The best thing about In Harmony at Hawthorne Primary is the friendships you build,” says Abi-lei. “I’ve got friends in the music group and orchestra. If didn’t do In Harmony, I wouldn’t be able to see them.”

Their mother Dani noticed a change in her children as their confidence improved.

“Both of my children are autistic, and Layton has a few more additional needs,” she says “He can get anxious that he’s going to get things wrong. but he’s a completely different boy when he starts playing his instrument.”

“Abi-lei is now outgoing and talkative, “she says. “The music has helped her as she was a solitary girl when she was younger.”

Dani feels In Harmony is like a supportive family.

“If one of them is having a bad day, they pick each other up. It’s been lovely to watch them over the last ten years.”

Opportunities to play large-scale events created special memories for the family.

“I played big concerts in Liverpool and Leeds,” says Abi-lei. “We played with so many people and I liked working with different composers.”

“Travelling down on the bus to the Leeds concert was very special,” Dani says. “I walked into the hall and thought, ‘My little girl’s playing here.’”

“It was mind-blowing,” she adds. “You see the passion, and you know how much these children put into it,”

Layton shares his lasting memory.

“My favourite time was the In Harmony Together concert at Sage Gateshead. It was amazing how we played with each other,” he says.

He also composes music at home.

“Sometimes I go off by myself, and I play random notes that end up as real songs.”

When Abi-lei left Hawthorn Primary, she joined the West Newcastle Symphony Orchestra [WNSO].

“It’s not too different, but the pieces are more difficult,” she says. “A year 1 pupil wouldn’t be able to play, but I’ve had around six years of experience, so I’ve had the practice.”

Dani adds,

“She feels so comfortable at WNSO. The support is unbelievable.”

Both Layton and Abi-lei want to continue with music in the future.

“When I was little, I wanted to be a singer,” Abi-lei says. “I think music will be a hobby that I will always do. I will always keep my passion.”

Layton is keen to follow his sister into the West Newcastle Symphony Orchestra.

“I will keep playing music in high school. I would feel very weird stopping since I have done it for a long time.”

Dani is very pleased that he wants to take the next step in music.

“Layton struggles with talking, but when he stands in front of the music stand with his double bass, he’s happy and free,” she says. “He forgets about his problems and is comfortable.”