Wondering how to get more music going at your school? If you’re a school with no established music programme, starting one from scratch can be a bit overwhelming – instruments and specialist teachers are expensive. There are so many options – should you offer instrument lessons and give students the chance to do graded exams? How about a jazz programme? And when most kids are listening to pop, perhaps a rock programme is the way to go? Everyone knows the value of a good choir, but building one up is a slow process and good choir conductors are hard to find.
Establishing a marimba band is an effective way to bring music into your school because it brings all the benefits that a more traditional music programme can offer at a fraction of the price. A set of three or four instruments can be used by multiple students throughout the school week, either as part of the curriculum, or as an after school activity. The instruments are simple to play – gross motor movement rather than fine. Teachers needn’t have formal training, because with a little bit of musical confidence they can get kids playing. Simple patterns played together can sound really vibey. Many pop songs are based on short repeating patterns, and these transfer very easily and effectively onto marimbas. Also, Education Africa and The Marimba Education Foundation offer teacher workshops. AMI has a few books to get you going. If there’s no staff member who feels confident to take on teaching marimba, in South Africa there’s a growing number of freelance marimba teachers and many schools employ them on a part time basis to run their marimba groups.
As the marimba vibe in your school grows, you can grow your band one instrument at a time. There are schools with bands that have raised money by performing and have been able to buy more instruments.