Accessibility links


Sign In
  • Home
  • News
  • Teaching music through the Fanfare competition

Teaching music through the Fanfare competition

One teacher tells us how his pupils have been inspired by the project and we look ahead to taster sessions.

By Leigh James (Music teacher)

30 October 2012 at 5.52pm | Comment on this article

Three years ago, I read about the Fanfare Competition in a national newspaper. Budding composers were being encouraged to write orchestral fanfares for the Royal Opera House and the prize was for the winning entries to be recorded by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, under the directorship of Antonio Pappano. Not only that, but the winning fanfares were to be played during the performance intervals over the course of the following Season. I knew that our pupils would be excited by this amazing competition, but I was not fully prepared for their energy and their highly creative musical compositions.

We are a relatively small state middle school, with just under 250 pupils. I encouraged pupils to work in pairs, and the teaching staff also provided workshops in lunchtimes. 

Over the past three years, we've submitted well over a hundred entries, with a few winners along the way. What followed for them was something that few young composers will have ever experienced, with our pupils accorded red carpet treatment from the moment they were chosen. Fantastically, winning doesn't seem to be the sole motivation for pupils entering. Last year we didn't manage a winning entry but this hasn’t put the current students off - I have already had a lot asking me when we are going to start writing them again. A key aspect of education is to motivate and inspire pupils and this is something that Fanfare does brilliantly!

I teach composition, through writing fanfares, to both Year 7 and Year 8 in the term after Christmas. The first three lessons are spent learning about fanfares and experimenting with compositional techniques. In the next few lessons, students come up with as many ideas and motifs as they can, and following lessons are spent refining ideas, working on structure and orchestrating on the whiteboard with the use of Sibelius.

Music is positive in our school – we sing in class and assemblies, provide orchestra, clarinet group, recorder groups, theory classes and instrumental lessons and there are numerous chances for our pupils to perform. And, thanks to Fanfare, some of our pupils can say that their music has been played to thousands of people and that they have worked with an internationally acclaimed orchestra and conductor. How inspiring is that?

Free Teacher Twilight Sessions

Sign up for a taster session to learn more about the competition and gain new approaches for creative composition ideas for the classroom.

The Clore Studio, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD
Tuesday 27 November, 17.30 – 19.30
Book online here.

The Culver Centre, Daiglen Drive, South Ockendon; Essex, RM15 5RR
Wednesday 28 November, 17.00 – 19.00
Booking via email:

The Crucible Theatre, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA
Thursday 6 December, 17.00 – 19.00 followed by a free ticket to attend the Ensemble 360 concert afterwards.
Booking via email:

By Leigh James (Music teacher)

30 October 2012 at 5.52pm

This article has been categorised Learning, Music and tagged composition, Education, fanfare, learning, orchestra, schools, teacher, teaching, young composer

Comment on this article

Your email will not be published

Website URL is optional