Orchestra of the Swan have completed a residency with blind and SEND (special educational needs and disability) pupils at Priestley Smith special school in Birmingham, in spite of the restrictions put in place due to Covid-19.

Professional musicians from OOTS have worked with the school since September 2019 and were due to complete their residency in May 2020. When Lockdown came in March, all the planned work had to be scrapped – but OOTS have responded by deciding to work remotely with the school, providing professional standard video recordings of the music composed by the pupils.

Year 13 pupil Vinicius Motta composed and arranged two of the scores that have been recorded by OOTS. Vinicius has gone on to win a place at the prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (beating competition from around the world) and he will now hear his composition ‘The Evening Falls’ turned into a recording that will form part of his professional portfolio.

Vinicius Motta comments: “It was a great experience working on this project with Orchestra of the Swan. I hope that the recording they are giving me may help me to secure the extra funding I need to take up my place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in September.”

John McGonagle, Music teacher at Priestley Smith special school, explains: “Working alongside Orchestra of the Swan has been a wonderful experience. Pupils have had the opportunity to access orchestral instruments with 1:1 professional and bespoke SEND tuition. Pupils tell me that it was great to feel the instruments and enhance their understanding of the instruments within a ‘tactile’, hands-on environment. Here at Priestley Smith we strongly believe in the importance of music in both our pupils’ learning and also in developing their wellbeing. OOTS have been brilliant in responding to the challenges of Covid-19, continuing to work remotely with myself and pupils to achieve some amazing outcomes. Hopefully pupils will continue to benefit in the foreseeable future from our unique partnership.”

Chris Allan, a professional cellist with Orchestra of the Swan spent time in Priestley Smith school to encourage pupils to play instruments and to sing. He comments, “In our group, after a few weeks learning their pieces, all 19 pupils felt confident enough to perform publicly, either through song or playing instruments. This is a remarkable achievement in itself and in particular it’s wonderful to make a contribution to Vinicius’ future career in professional music making.”

Orchestra of the Swan’s residency at Priestley Smith school was supported by The Elizabeth Eagle-Bott Memorial Fund, The Ulverscroft Foundation, The Boshier Hinton Foundation and The Baron Davenport's Charity to complete the.

Watch Orchestra of the Swan record with Priestly Smith School at https://youtu.be/4wZ-b6X6JCo