The Art of Listening, the arts education programme developed by the Edinburgh International Festival to increase children’s understanding of music and the role they play as listeners, is being showcased at the inaugural Arts Learning Festival in Melbourne, Australia this week.

The project, which the International Festival has been running in Edinburgh for nearly 20 years aimed at Primary 7 pupils, introduces classical music to them by developing their listening skills and focusing on how music interacts with the personal inner world of each child. A professional singer and accompanist perform for students in a small recital as part of the workshop, giving them a rare opportunity to experience live performance in an intimate setting.

Following an invitation from Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) to showcase the project to teachers, students and other music professionals from ISV in Melbourne last year, the Edinburgh International Festival’s Creative Learning team has been invited back to bring the Art of Listening to a brand new festival of arts learning in the city. From 3-7 May, the Arts Learning Festival will celebrate the central role of the arts in education and is believed to be the most ambitious festival of its type in Australia.

From tomorrow, Edinburgh International Festival’s Creative Learning team presents its two-hour Art of Listening sessions to students, teachers, and their families as part of the festival. The workshops, led by International Festival Head of Creative Learning, Sally Hobson, feature listening exercises and fun practical tasks which aim to help strengthen listening skills, imagination and sense of self. The student and family workshops will take place at the Melbourne Recital Centre whilst the teacher workshops are at the Australian National Academy of Music.

The Art of Listening is now reaching children internationally after a research team from global education specialists Project Zero – based at Harvard University – were commissioned by Independent Schools Victoria in Australia to assess the project. Findings in Project Zero’s report highlighted the programme as having unique and special qualities, and being effective in developing listening skills, encouraging enjoyment of classical music and breaking down pre-conceptions about listening to music. “As a one-time, two-hour program, it seems to have a surprisingly powerful impact on the students”, the Harvard research team reported. “There is also evidence that the programme cultivates a deeper relationship with the imagination through the use of music and art and that it encourages listeners’ personal responses to music.”

The Art of Listening was founded in 2000 with the aim to engage the imagination of primary school children in Edinburgh and develop their listening skills through ‘focused listening’ exercises. The project has worked with thousands of Primary 7 pupils in the Scottish Capital since the project began 17 years ago and in 2017 it is increasing its offer of workshops, working with over 1,500 pupils this year to bring the International Festival one step closer to fulfilling its ambition to engage all primary schools in Edinburgh through its creative learning projects.

Edinburgh International Festival Director, Fergus Linehan said: “This invitation from Independent Schools Victoria to take part in the inaugural Arts Learning Festival recognises the quality and value of the International Festival’s education work and I am incredibly proud of our Creative Learning team who have developed and delivered the programme to thousands of children in Edinburgh. Now their world-class work is reaching a worldwide audience and reinstates the Festival’s firm belief that it has a role to play in stimulating people’s experience of the arts, not only in the local Edinburgh community, but internationally too.”

Chief Executive of Independent Schools Victoria, Michelle Green said: “I am delighted that the Art of Listening is part of the Arts Learning Festival. We had our first taste of the Art of Listening in Melbourne a year ago, and we are delighted that the program is returning as a highlight of our Arts Learning Festival. The Art of Listening is the perfect fit for our festival theme of unlimited imagination.”


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