Deepening our link with Southampton’s
Special schools through music

“SÓN have a wonderful way of moving our young people with complex needs, through the power of beautiful music”
Jonathan Howells, Headteacher, The Cedar School

Just before Easter, SÓN made another visit to Cedar School in Southampton, a community Special School for young people with complex physical, health and learning needs. We’ve enjoyed a number of performances and mini-workshops at Cedar since 2016 and always love our time there. They offer their pupils a diverse and enriching curriculum of events, including an annual Spring Festival that we were asked to bring a little musical magic to this year. We were delighted to oblige!

Headteacher Jonathan Howells understands the power that music can bring to these students: “Our school community has truly gained from our partnership with the SÓN Orchestra. Their ability to work with integrity and with genuine instinct for our young people’s complex needs has resulted in us sharing some memorable musical moments together where adults and children alike have genuinely been moved”

With perfect timing, just as we were planning our Cedar visit, the SÓN office welcomed a student from Romsey’s Mountbatten School on board for a short dose of work-experience. 15 year-old Cristeena spent a few days shadowing our conductor Robin, and Manikka – our general manager – on a number of projects including Cedar’s Spring Festival.

We persuaded Cristeena to say a few words about the day, as well as to take a few snaps. So without further ado, let’s hand the SÓN Blog over to her.

SÓN Education plays for Spring Festival

Up until Thursday 29th March, I had no idea that there was a school in Southampton that specialises in education for children with complex educational needs and those who are physically or mentally challenged. I can bet that a lot of people my age don’t know, or it might just be me! I know it makes me sound bad but that’s the truth. I live in my small world where everything is perfect but attending this event brought me crashing back to reality.  It was a fantastic festival where the parents of the students could see the efforts their son/daughter had put in during this term. The students also took part in games and special activities as an end-of-term treat.

SÓN musicians including Robin Browning and Manikka Marchant entertained the students with works for violin, cello and piano from right across the repertoire. The event was brought alive and I was able to witness extraordinary things. For example, one child would repeatedly come up to the piano and place his hand on it and although he was unable to see or hear, he could feel the vibrations.  As a pianist myself, I can say that it’s not my natural urge to feel the vibrations of my piano but if this child can enjoy music just by placing his hand on an instrument, I’m sure that anyone can.

Another was intrigued by the violin and when he was given a chance to hold one, his smile only grew wider. Once again I realized that everyone should get the opportunity to try what they wish for, and that playing an instrument and making sound shouldn’t be restricted to anyone.

The positivity and happiness emitted by each and every one at the school amazed me. How were they able to put on such a smile when I would be grumpy if I didn’t have enough breakfast?!

Well, I figured it’s all down to attitude.

If you can change your attitude and perspective of a situation, you can smile all day. That way, in everything you encounter, you will be able to find the positivity. If I didn’t have enough breakfast, instead of being grumpy, I should be grateful that I had some food and that my stomach was full enough for me to begin my day.

I’d like to thank Robin and Manikka for letting me come and watch them spread a little joy through music, and I’d also like to thank The Cedar School for opening up my eyes and changing my perspective on the importance of attitude towards mine and others lives.

“Thank you SÓN for your wonderful support of the school. Your beautiful music and your belief that music has the power to move our young people with complex needs is undeniable and we are so much the richer for it”
Jonathan Howells