Author Archives: danbrown76

Surrey Arts lessons moved online during lockdown

A new year and another lockdown! Before the end of last term, the Surrey Arts team had been working really hard programming in lessons but the latest lockdown has meant many lessons due to take place in schools will now be changed. Fortunately the online learning platform Surrey Arts introduced in April last year is available and there are many advantages to continuing to learn in this way.

Here are some of the reasons why the Surrey Arts online teaching can be really beneficial:

  • Musical activity and learning is a big boost for well-being, especially during the winter months
  • By moving online, your child’s musical learning won’t be interrupted, so they will continue to progress
  • Our teachers now have a lot of experience teaching online and can help children and parents/ carers with any concerns and we also offer a technical support phone line for parents/carers experiencing technical difficulties
  • Many students and parents/ carers have told us that the online lessons have helped them to become better players and more secure in their own learning
  • Music lessons are a great brain break for children during a day of school work
  • Parents/ carers have told us that they enjoy being able to hear what their children are doing in their music lessons
  • Children enjoy seeing their teacher online. In paired lessons they also get a chance to see their friends.

Surrey Arts have received many positive comments from parents who have seen the benefits of having online lessons during the lockdowns:

‘The online lessons have helped give structure to our weeks and have meant that the children have continued to make progress with their music. Having a weekly lesson has meant that they have continued to practise – it would be too easy for them to just drift away from practising if there had been no lessons.’

‘It has been brilliant to continue lessons during the “lockdown”, and my child has progressed as a result. Practicing without the incentive of lessons was hard so it was great to do zoom lessons.’

There are also many links to Surrey Arts online teaching and introduction to instruments on the Surrey Music Hub website Online Learning – Surrey Music Hub

Join Surrey Arts and the Royal Opera House for Create and Sing 2021

Create and Sing 2021In Spring 2021, Surrey Arts will join forces with the Royal Opera House to bring a two-part twilight CPD training programme exploring the ROH Create and Sing Carmen scheme of work (KS1-KS3). Specialist ROH drama and music practitioners will introduce the programme, pedagogy and resources before guiding teachers through effective approaches to supporting students’ creative learning by exploring opera.

Create and Sing is an innovative drama and singing programme supporting young people’s creative learning and giving voice to their creativity. The nationally and freely available teacher training and resources engage schools in a creative process leading towards creating opera in the classroom. Watch the summary video here.

Teachers are not required to have specialist music training as the free certified training and unique online resources help guide them through the programme every step of the way.

Create and Sing’s Covid-19 adaptations

Create and Sing has adapted this year, with training taking place through virtual twilight sessions in the Spring term and we encourage schools to plan to begin their projects in the summer or beyond.

For schools facing curriculum time pressures, we are recommending the Explorer (5-week lesson plan) schemes of work, with an emphasis on the quality and not quantity of creative work being produced. The practitioners will explore with teachers approaches to singing and drama activity within Covid-guidelines, however, teachers must shape their projects to fit their individual school risk assessments. 

To Register…

Go to the Eventbrite pages below to register your free place. Please note this is a two-part virtual training course delivered across two twilight sessions. Attendees need to register for both the events below. There is more information about the virtual training is given on the Eventbrite pages. We also ask that you nominate a ‘deputy attendee‘ who will stand in for you in case you are unable to make the training.

Part 1: 18th March, 4-6pm: 

Part 2: 22nd April, 4-6pm: 

If you have any questions, please get in touch via and​we look forward to welcoming you to the programme.

Surrey Arts and Stringbabies celebrate 10 year partnership

Surrey Arts and Stringbabies are celebrating 10 years of delivering string music lessons to our youngest musicians within Surrey. From humble beginnings starting with a pilot scheme involving a key stage 1 school class, Stringbabies has grown and evolved and Surrey Arts now has a dedicated team of trained specialist Stringbabies teachers delivering to key stage 1 children within schools across the county.

Stringbabies founder Kay Tucker said ‘Surrey Arts became the first Music Service in the UK to deliver Stringbabies and over the intervening years it has had a major part to play in helping the programme to develop and improve (for which I am very grateful!).’

This holistic approach to string teaching has been a huge success in getting younger pupils to take up all string instruments. With its clear and gentle approach to rhythm, pitch and musicianship it has produced a really firm foundation in all areas of music. It was very clear at the start that students had a better understanding and musical awareness, enabling them to develop and become confident players. Many of the original students are enjoying playing within Surrey Arts ensembles and have become fine players.

Head of Service Sarah Lee said: ‘It is through strong partnerships that we can expand our delivery to providing opportunities for young people to learn. Stringbabies has provided a strong platform for young musicians and we look forward to continuing our partnership for many years to come.’

Amazing music opportunity for young people (aged 16 – 21)

Big Leaf Foundation have an amazing writing and recording opportunity for young people aged 16 – 21 starting on Saturday 5 December. Big Leaf Foundation (BLF), a partner of Surrey Arts, is a local charity which works to support those displaced young people (refugees, asylum seekers and survivors of trafficking and modern slavery) who have been placed in Surrey to find their feet in resettlement. They do this by running a varied programme of different activities and opportunities, all of which are designed to support education and employability progression and enhance young people’s chances of securing a positive future here. These young people have many barriers to overcome in the UK, and social isolation is one of the biggest. COVID has had a huge impact on these young people, as they have been even more isolated than before, especially in Guildford.

BLF have just received funding for a new music project in partnership with Surrey Arts to bring young people from both displaced and local communities together. 

In brief, thanks to funding from the National Lottery, we are thrilled to announce the opportunity for displaced young people to come together with host community peers to work alongside some well-known professionals in writing and recording a song to be released at the beginning of 2021.  BLF will be working (remotely) with tutors from Surrey Arts , before a final recording session in the studio in December.  We also have Chesney Hawkes on board as our executive producer and the hiphop/drill and grime artist and DJ Chimpo on board to talk about life in the industry and lead a workshop on beats with those who want to do it.  We see this as a pilot project to extend similar cross-cultural musical and performance arts opportunities in Surrey from 2021 and will be welcoming all genres of music in all languages.

Full details can be found on the BLF website, including details of COVID safe arrangements. BLF also have risk assessments and safeguarding policies for this project available on request. 

If you know a young person who would be interested in being involved and would be available on the next three Saturday afternoons (2pm – 4pm) and for a recording day at ACM in January, (COVID rules permitting) please do contact BLF as soon as possible. We only have limited places and it would be a particularly useful opportunity, we think, for anyone with an interest in migration issues, community cohesion and world music styles.


Image to represent Imagine Imagine song release

Imagine:Imagine presents ‘Walk With Me’. A new music video started in Surrey, now international featuring over 120 performers from around the globe singing in solidarity with diverse and displaced communities everywhere.   

Premiering on International Day of Peace, Monday 21st September.

Surrey Arts is partnering with Together Productions and IOM UK (International Organization for Migration), joining the common mission to unite people from different backgrounds, combat xenophobia and showcase new music celebrating the strength and resilience of people from diverse communities.  

During the summer lockdown members of Surrey Arts’ I Speak Music Orchestra wrote a song to say thank you and to recognize the sacrifice and diversity of our front-line services. During UK’s Refugee Week in June 2020, Surrey Arts and Together Productions took that song and launched an online global music video project, with support from IOM UK. “The video holds a strong message of unity – says I Speak Music’s Raghad Haddad – “as it has a combination of lyrics, music, and images of the real people that are behind the project, and their many countries of origin and languages. There is a combination of Middle Eastern and Western tunes that make the artistic results of the project very special”.  

For UK-based Raghad Haddad, the project also offered the opportunity for her to collaborate again with her brother, Bassel Haddad, a musician in Syria who works on singing projects with homeless children through the Sada Choir they founded together back in 2013. Bassel describes that “being able to bring together the homeless children with other children was inspiring, because I witnessed them sharing this experience with joy, regardless of the fact that they were coming from very different walks of life.” 

Over 120 performers from the UK, Egypt, Syria, Iran, South Africa, El Salvador, Mexico, Jordan, Afghanistan, France, Gaza, US, Germany and Belgium sent in their contributions.Dabu (René Edenilson Rivas Aparicio), a rapper from El Salvador who works to use music to empower vulnerable people, says “the opportunity to collaborate on this project has really lifted my spirit up. It made me realise that I had my microphone and I could still use it to communicate and express myself… I love working with people from all over the world and contributing to international projects such as the Imagine:Imagine project.” 

Sue Wills, Acting Assistant Director Culture, Libraries & Registration at Surrey County Council said “Surrey County Council is proud to be part of the Imagine:Imagine project and I am delighted to see the contribution of Surrey’s residents at the heart of a song that has gone on to inspire so many across the globe.  

Through this film we meet participants who have been displaced as well as those who work relentlessly in their own communities to support those living in difficult circumstances. All of them united in a message of solidarity and gratitude to those who have travelled or stayed to enrich the community in which they call home.”  

The global submissions have been edited into a final music video by Academy and Emmy Award nominated producer Leslie Knott and acclaimed director, writer and producer Ben Gregor. The film shows the power of music to emphasize all we have in common, highlights the beauty of diversity, and honours the extraordinary contributions of displaced and migrant communities to our world. Masoud Danyiali , a percussionist from Iran, says “the fact that artists were joining in the project from different parts of the world, made me feel that we are part of the same community, and that through music we could raise our voices together. This project really shows that music has no borders. I strongly believe that music is the most powerful tool you can use to communicate.” The video will be premiered alongside an amazing line up of international performers in a concert hosted by soprano Nadine Benjamin on Youtube Premiere on the International Day of PeaceMonday 21st September, at 5pm BST (UK time). We’d love you to join us!  

Register for a free concert ticket here

Further Information

About IOM UK

“We welcome the commitment of this network of artists and people from all over the world who are using their talent to build a more peaceful and welcoming society for displaced and migrant communities” says Dipti Pardeshi, IOM UK Chief of Mission. 

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration. We work to support safer, orderly and regular migration, and to provide assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants and communities all around the world.

In the UK we help migrants to better integrate, and we assist receiving communities to recognize and support the positive contributions that migrants can make.

About Together Productions

“Covid 19 forces us to re-evaluate what is important, who the real change makers are, and how they make a difference to our lives”, say Holly Jones and Jeremy Haneman from Together Productions – Imagine: Imagine is providing a platform for a global community to come together and celebrate the talents of displaced people and diverse communities everywhere. In a locked down world making connections across personal, cultural and international divides is more important than ever, and music is the universal language that bonds us all”.

Together Productions is a ground-breaking social change organisation based in the UK. We produce innovative collaborative arts projects that connect people, organisations and audiences across social and cultural divides.

We run community projects including the Mixed Up Chorus and the Sing For Freedom Choir and the large-scale composition and performance project Singing Our Lives.

About I Speak Music

Raghad Haddad, Musical Director, I Speak Music, explains what has inspired the song Walk With Me: “We wrote this song during lock down to express gratitude to everyone, now and before, who have made their new home in foreign lands, to say forever welcome and thank you for enriching the experience and history of this complex, difficult, beautiful and ever evolving world. We feel honoured that people from so many countries have felt a connection with our message, which is ultimately one of unity, solidarity and connection through music”.

I Speak Music is a programme designed to promote empathy and celebrate the diversity of local communities. I Speak Music has three strands of work: training and events to bring together multiple agencies; a songwriting programme for displaced minors, and the I Speak Music Orchestra, bringing together an intergenerational group of people from diverse backgrounds to create new music and share their stories and cultural background.

The programme is managed by Surrey Arts and is currently receiving funding from Arts Council EnglandArts Partnership Surrey and The National Foundation for Youth Music.

I Speak music welcomes people ages 14+ from all backgrounds, but is particularly interested in hearing from refugees, unaccompanied minors, BAME communities and those who sing or play non-western musical instruments. Professional musicians are welcome to join the group as are those with no previous musical experience.

Further Partners

The project has also been supported and promoted by: Musicians Without Borders, The Human Hive, Surrey Arts, Art27 and Refugee Week.

Surrey Arts Virtual Open Day 2020

Surrey Arts are bringing the sound of instruments to you via a Virtual Open Day, on Saturday 12 September. As it is currently difficult to get around the county and demonstrate our amazing range of instruments, Surrey Arts have put together a day full of introductions to instrument families. Featuring Surrey Arts Tutors, these clips will be released throughout the day via the Surrey Arts social media channels and then available on the Surrey Arts YouTube channel. Head of Service, Sarah Lee, said “This is a great chance for people to see and hear a wide range of musical instruments. We hope the day will help them discover the instrument that is right for them and inspire them to learn.”

The Virtual Open Day will feature instruments from strings and percussion, brass and guitar, music tech and woodwind, and much more – including opportunities with the UP! Orchestra (an ensemble designed to be accessible for young people aged 13+ with special educational needs) and I Speak Music.

Virtual Open Day timetable

9.30 – Introduction from Sarah Lee, Head of Service
10.00 – The Sounds of Brass
10.30 – DJing and Music Tech
11.00 – The Sounds of the Guitar
11.30 – I Speak Music
12.00 – The Sounds of Percussion
12.30 – The Piano
13.00 – Singing
13.30 – The Sounds of Strings
14.00 – UP! Orchestra
14.30 – The Sounds of Woodwind
15.00 – Surrey Arts Ensembles

Times are subject to change and will be available on the Surrey Arts YouTube channel along with other instrument tutorials.

Lessons with Surrey Arts can be booked through

Surrey Music and Arts Summer Holiday Activities 2020

Surrey Arts have put together their largest ever programme of summer holiday activities for art and music. There are fantastic opportunities to see instruments played for the first time, hear and play music from all over the world, join in percussion sessions with materials found around the home, have free taster sessions in piano and singing, join a guitar band, make a DJ mix on your computer, join in with the UP! Orchestra and much much more.

Have a look at the SMASH activities programme 2020

Celebrate the talents and contributions of displaced and diverse communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped everyone in their tracks. As a society, we have been learning to reassess how we connect with one another and the things that are important to us, as well as exploring new ways to be creative at home. Surrey based Community Orchestra, I Speak Music (ISM), normally meet regularly to provide a musical platform for people from diverse backgrounds to come together to make music. During the last few months, they have been unable to rehearse and, like countless arts organisations, have had to cancel events, including their concert as part of World Refugee Week. Thankfully, the ISM team have developed and implemented a digital music project to ensure their members are still able to connect and create music together.

Jim Pinchen, ISM Project Manager said “We met the ISM members online and who told us that they wanted to do something to say thank you and to recognize the hard work and sacrifice to those on the frontline for keeping things running and keeping us safe during the crisis.” 

Over a series of online workshops ISM were supported to contribute musical ideas and lyrics, which Jim, together with ISM music leaders Raghad Haddad and songwriter Liz Ikamba, developed into a new song.  The song places special attention on the dedication and sacrifice of BAME and migrant workers and was also inspired by the theme of this year’s World Refugee Week, IMAGINE.

 “The main thing we wanted to reflect in the music was the diversity of those involved” said Raghad, “it was important that the music showcased many styles, representing many areas and countries and included the different languages of the people performing it and who they were saying thank you to.” Raghad’s brother, who leads a children’s choir in Syria, was keen for their voices to join with his sister’s and the rest of ISM; giving them an opportunity to sing in Arabic alongside friends and family who are living in the UK and other parts of the world.

Participants were invited to join online rehearsals via Zoom where they discussed what they imagined our world would look like in the future and where they could offer lyrical ideas for the song. “We sent out links to the music, some technical parts for the more experienced musicians as well as simpler elements to ensure it was as accessible as possible” says Jim and adds “there was a lot of support given where needed from the ISM team to help guide participants on how to film themselves and upload their footage. We are thrilled that so many people took part; we have 36 clips from Syria alone that I’ve edited into a four-minute video.”

Feedback from ISM members has been incredibly positive, one member when asked what they liked most about being involved  said “Being creative and collaborative. It’s always a great experience working with ISM. There is such a variety of musical influences and camaraderie.”

So, what is next for the song Imagine, Imagine? I Speak Music Orchestra have joined forces with London based company Together Productions to deliver phase two of the project. Creative Producer, Holly Jones said “We’re a community interest company who produce arts projects with a positive social impact  so when Jim mentioned that ISM were doing this project we were keen to help take it to the next level. Working with our international partners, such as Musicians Without Borders and the International Organization for Migration, will help  people access the technology that they need.”

This ambitious next phase for the project has already attracted much interest and award-winning filmmaker and photographer, Leslie Knott, has joined the team along with Ben Gregor, acclaimed TV, Film and Music Video Director. The experienced team aim to create a powerful and engaging music video, unlike any seen during the lockdown, to be released later in the year.

Holly says “We’ve got this brilliant song that’s been composed and the idea is that on World Refugee Day we will send it out into the world and invite people, wherever they are, to film themselves joining in with the song, either singing the chorus or playing some of the percussion parts or dancing. Imagine: Imagine  will encourage audiences to look beyond their neighbourhoods to the global community, to collaborate creatively together and to consider the voices and lives of those forcibly displaced and seeking a home.”

The IMAGINE: IMAGINE project is going live on Saturday 20 June 2020, to get involved visit

I Speak Music Community Orchestra is supported by Surrey Arts and Surrey Music Hub and is funded by Arts Council England.

If you are interested in finding out more about the I Speak Music and related activities email

Making music safely in schools – Updated 8 September

Music is a fantastic way to bring our children together: it builds self-esteem and confidence, and these are now, even more than ever, important when we are in such strange times. We know that school staff are working incredibly hard to keep their schools and classrooms safe for everyone, so we have gathered together Health and Safety advice from Surrey County Council’s public health department and from Music Mark (the organisation that links Music Hubs together) that relates most to music making in schools, so that schools can keep making music safely. 

Surrey Arts have writen Risk Assessments for all areas of their work that follow the guidance of Music Mark and Surrey County Council’s health advisory team. These are being sent to schools who have Surrey Arts teaching.  Should you have not received this, and you would like access to a copy, please do contact us.  

Surrey Public Health team have picked up the following general points as being most relevant to music teaching:

The relevant guidance is “implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings” – updated 1 June – and key points relevant to music lessons are:

Practising self and household isolation for anyone symptomatic/living with someone who is unwell, respectively:

  • Hand hygiene – regular hand-washing for 20 seconds or more with soap and water
  • Respiratory hygiene – catch it, bin it, kill it
  • Regular environment cleaning, especially of frequently touched surfaces
  • Minimising contact and mixing by keeping groups of children together in “bubbles”
  • Maintaining 2m distance between people, wherever possible
  • Ventilating rooms, naturally where possible
  • Limiting the use of shared resources
  • Cleaning equipment between groups using it

Music Mark have given specific advice for singing:

For most singing activity, including class work and assemblies, normal social distancing will suffice. Whilst singing releases potentially hazardous bioaerosols in proportion to volume – the louder the singing, the more aerosols are released (this is also the case when talking loudly or breathing more heavily) – measurements taken with university-level students and professionals suggest that there is minimal air movement much over 0.5m from a singer.

There have been reports of choirs falling ill en masse but it is worth stating that these occurred before social distancing and entailed several hours of singing in close company. Assemblies, singing lessons and even lunchtime choirs do not last anything like as long.

  • Space: A well-ventilated room, large enough to maintain the usual 2m social distancing guideline, will usually suffice. Note that the area of the room is critical here: a higher ceiling does not mean singers are safe to stand closer together. 
  • Consider singing outdoors if you can. The risk of airborne transmission is thought to be significantly lower in the open air but be aware of wind direction for both the singers and the leader.
  • There are no safe face coverings for singing: all fabric masks leak air and bioaerosols around the sides and bottom.
  • The person leading the singing and the accompanist, if any, should be 3-5m from the front row as they will of course be facing the singers. They may want to consider a plexiglass screen.
  • Each singer should have their own music and should ideally keep it between rehearsals. If words or music are projected, that is ideal.

Music Mark have also developed specific guidance for schools:

More detailed responses with regards to singing and the usage and cleaning of instruments can be found in the following documents:

Surrey Arts launch Online Instrumental Lessons!

Surrey Arts is excited to launch a new Online Learning Programme offering high quality instrumental lessons from the comfort of your home! Over the past few weeks we have been busy trialling online teaching, and establishing safeguarding protocols and technical guidance to ensure we are able to offer the same high quality learning experience that our students receive through face-to-face lessons. 

We are pleased that we are also able to support our more vulnerable young people through our inclusion programme, offering free lessons to groups such as looked after children, young carers and unaccompanied refugees.

Sarah Lee, Head of Service, said ‘This has been an amazing effort by the Surrey Arts team. To be able to put together a programme at such an uncertain time and develop a programme that ensures high quality and a safe learning environment for students is fantastic. We all know the power that music can have on our lives, and engaging in creativity during this time can really help with health and well-being. We hope that our online learning programme will be a valuable service for the Surrey community encouraging people to continue making music and engaging in arts activities.’

At present the Surrey Arts Online Learning (SAOL) programme is only available for existing Surrey Artsstudents: however, we hope to grow this further in the coming weeks, providing more ways in which to support musical learning.

Together with our Online Learning Programme we have also created an extensive online resource page with lots of videos, activities, online music performances and much more!

Finally, the visual arts team have worked with Surrey Artists Open Studios and Surrey Hills Arts to provide a range of online art workshops for artists of all abilities and ages. SAOS artists have also provided online tours of their studios and have been part of the Sketchbook Challenge where they have shared their sketchbook works.

These are unique times and it is great to see so many talented people working together to ensure learning and creativity continues in Surrey!

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