The Music Project in Sri Lanka recently held an informal concert at the British School in Colombo at which the children of this project showcased their musical skills to an enthralled audience. The concert featured children from both the north and south of Sri Lanka playing a host of orchestral instruments such as violin, cello, trumpet, flute and clarinet to mention a few, and also showcased recorder and percussion ensembles.
The Music Project is inspired by El Sistema of Venezuela which has over 300,000 children playing in over 400 orchestras. The Music Project in Sri Lanka aims to build orchestral communities between the children of the north and south, thereby providing links, networks and a sense of social cohesion, as the children, teachers and wider school communities, progress through the project. At present the two projects are located in Kurunegala and Thunukkai, and work through after school clubs at five schools for children of grades 6, 7 and 8. The project currently has 330 children enrolled in the programme at Kurunegala and 140 children in Thunukkai learning the rudiments of music through the core instrument of recorder and then on to the violin, melodica (as the foundation for brass and woodwind) and percussion.
According to the founder Trustee of The Music Project in Sri Lanka, Ms. Shalini Wickramasuriya, the methodology of teaching is based on the celebrated Suzuki method of music instruction, often likened to the mother tongue approach to language acquisition which endorses immersion, strong listening skills, and frequent practice, leading to fluency and mastery of the instrument. The children are encouraged to perform, giving them a strong sense of confidence, self-esteem and tremendous pride in their achievements.
Several parents of the participating children commenting on the programme said that they were thrilled that their children were a part of The Music Project as it has greatly helped them to overcome the horrors of the war and mingle with other children from different backgrounds. They praised the efforts of the teachers who have been very supportive and helpful in teaching children not only music but also English language.
In its five years of operation The Music Project has performed at over 18 concerts and venues in Sri Lanka. The project currently has 10 full time teachers and volunteer specialists with assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).