Did you ever receive musical education at school? From the primary school I mainly remember that we were singing. And in the last three classes we had teachers who were luckily interested in music, so we occasionally sang together on Friday afternoons. Music was a required subject in the first three classes of secondary school. Our teacher got stuck with classical music and music from the 1960s I think. What we didn’t have back then was a Queen who was that interested in music.
When Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, then still a princess, turned 40 in 2011 she launched the project “Kinderen maken Muziek” (children make music). The Oranje Fonds, a wedding gift from which she is the patroness, donated money for the project. The goal was to teach more than 3,000 children in the Netherlands to play an instrument together at minimal 25 places in the country. The initiative was a huge success, and the final concert was in June 2015 in presence of Queen Máxima and her family. It seems that was more or less the end of the initiative.
But her wish really triggered other projects. In 2014 Jet Bussemaker, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science ordered the Gehrels Commission to come up with a guide for musical education at primary schools. In the guide action points are given to achieve that all 1,6 Million primary school children in the Netherlands will receive musical education structurally by 2020. The “Stichting Méér Muziek in de Klas” (Foundation More Music in the Classroom) was established to carry out the plans, because music is important for the development of children.
Queen Máximas visit to Groningen
In the city of Groningen in the northeast of the Netherlands, nine parties on Tuesday afternoon, 14 November, signed a covenant to make musical education a part of the primary education in the city. It was the first Dutch region to do so. Therefore Queen Máxima came to Groningen personally to be present for this very special moment. She is the honorary president of the Platform Ambassadors More Music in the Classroom. As a journalist I could be present inside and hear all about it.
Up till hardly half an hour before the Queen would arrive, hundreds of children children, teachers and other companions arrived at De Oosterpoort in Groningen. The children had been looking forward to their meeting with the Queen already for ages. The whole day they had been busy at school with her visit, and they had been practising hard to learn a new song. Some girls wore lovely princessely dresses and I even saw some tiaras. They were all very excited.
But after arrival the Queen first went upstairs for the more serious part of her appointment. In a room a few tens of people from the educational world were gathered. A few people gave a short presentation about how they have or want to establish musical education at their schools and what it can mean for children. They also tell about their mutual cooperation. Their wish? To spread the energy from the north all over the country.
How to reach the goal? Increase the expertise in the team, they should learn how to give musical education, match offers, build a network around the school like parents and organizations. But also one needs to learn how to deal with differences in teachers, talents, how to reach children, what do the schools want? One should learn from one another, and for example learn how to combine music with language, mathematics or technics. To learn, discover, dare, develop, more variety.
And why is Groningen the first? Groningen is a bustling city where a lot happens, but you still have a good overview when you’re there. The lines of communication are rather short. One of the participants also mentioned the Groninger mentality: Don’t talk, but do something, don’t wait, but start. Keep it practical and simple.
But after half an hour of conversation the party really started, not only for the children, but also for Queen Máxima herself. In the big hall the children were waiting patiently and quietly. How to keep hundreds of children silent? Well, get the Queen in! For more than half an hour a wonderful program was presented. The Noord Nederlands Orkest (North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra), fourth-year students of the Prince Claus Conservatoire and a very funny performance by four comical men, who made everybody laugh and clap, including Queen Máxima.
Prof Dr Evert Bisschop Boele, leading professor arts education at the centre of Applied Research Art & Society, seemingly very relaxed sitting in his chair on stage, read a lovely story about a squirrel searching for the answer to the question why music exists and finally comes to the conclusion that it is just there for everybody the whole day long.
Time to sing THE song together. The children had clearly been practising, but I must admit it was easy to sing along as the text appeared on the screen at the back of the stage. It was all about making music together, because it is fun and you get a kick out of it. And then finally it was time to sign the huge covenant. Representatives of the nine parties signed. Present was not only alderman Paul de Rook, who was the happy person to guide the Queen around during her visit, but also the children’s mayor of Groningen Javano Zwiers, who made everybody laugh by clearly stating that musical education is necessary because it has a positive influence on the performance of children.
While the children started singing again Queen Máxima left the hall. A bit too late she finally left for her next appointment. The weather outside was still the same as when she arrived: rainy and now also dark. Hope she will have better weather during her next visit to town on 27 April 2018, King’s Day.