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Norwegian school orchestras – Skolekorps

School orchestras in Norway- Skolekorps are an important educational institution, educating young musicians who often later continue their careers in this profession. Besides being a great hobby and a source of joy, playing in an orchestra gives children a sense of community, belonging and cooperation. This is where friendships for life are born.

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Orchestra in every school

Almost every Norwegian school has its own orchestra. Some of these ensembles have a tradition dating back as far as decades. A typical skolekoprs consists of percussion instruments and an extensive brass section: apart from the trumpet, trombone and saxophones, almost always there is also a flute, clarinet, French horn, cornet, euphonium, tube, oboe or bassoon. Children and young people aged from 7 to 19 play in them. The orchestras have their own names, logotypes, websites, Facebook profiles, as well as special costumes and flags (Norwegian for fans).

Orchestras under an umbrella
Norway has a system of public support for orchestras through an organisation called Norges Musikkorps Forbund (Association of Norwegian Music Bands). It is one of the largest cultural institutions in Norway, which supports individual skolekorps, but also, among other things, organizes Norwegian Orchestra Championships and holiday courses. Interestingly, one of the elements of the organization’s activity is entrusting musical and organizational responsibility to children.
Beginnings and motivation

Children join skolekorps in the first forms of primary school. During the recruitment concert they have a chance to try different instruments and choose the one they like the most. Teachers and parents have suggestions, but in Norway the child’s opinion is respected.

Most children join the school orchestra thanks to the encouragement of their parents. Many Norwegians continue their youthful hobbies and still like to play instruments as adults. In addition to cultivating family traditions, parents also see many benefits in playing in an orchestra. Children learn to read notes, which helps them to learn math, for example. Playing is also a form of self-expression and a chance to develop creativity, because children compose their own songs.

The life of an orchestra

Children rehearse twice a week: once with the whole orchestra (about 2.5 hours) and once with an individual lesson with a professional musician from the opera or philharmonic hall. The lesson lasts 30 minutes and the children enter in sequence with the already tuned instruments. It is recommended that children practice at home for at least 10 minutes a day.

Young musicians from skolekorps have many opportunities to present their skills in front of the audience. They perform at Christmas, Halloween, various anniversaries and local festivals.

At the end of the school year, as a reward for the year-round work, a trip (sometimes abroad) with a concert is organized. There are many companies specializing in organizing such trips abroad. Children develop their skills by participating in music workshops with professional musicians in their own city or outside it.

Playing for the king

The most important event in which the orchestras take part is the celebration of the Norwegian Constitution Day on 17 May. During this holiday a festive procession of schoolchildren and schoolchildren takes place all over Norway. It is also one of the most interesting aspects of Norwegian tradition, which in the centre of the most important patriotic holiday celebrations placed a parade of children instead of a military parade.

The most numerous and the most festive parade with skolekorps takes place, of course, in Oslo. All schoolchildren go with their classes throughout the city to march under the balcony of the royal palace, from which the royal family greets them. At the head of the march, school orchestras in beautiful gala costumes march. Preparation for this day is the main goal of young musicians.

Funding and the role of parents

Organising and maintaining a well-functioning school orchestra is a great financial and organizational effort. Therefore, the skolekorps could not operate without the active involvement of parents. They pay fixed fees and contribute to foreign trips, as well as being involved in various forms of fundraising. In addition, they themselves take part in trips abroad to support carers in caring for their children. Every week they actively help the orchestras by driving the children to rehearsals and helping them during rehearsals, e.g. by keeping an eye on order and time. They collect unnecessary items from the inhabitants of the commune and sell them during flea markets organized in schools. Of course, they are also the ones who make sure that the children practice at home.

In addition to bi-annual parental contributions, school orchestras have several other sources of funding. They receive subsidies from the Norges Musikkorps Forbund, the school district authority and private sponsors.

Children are also actively involved in raising funds. Young musicians sell, for example, tickets, cakes and waffles during the Norwegian Constitution Day on 17 May and other celebrations. Sometimes children buy more toilet paper cheaply, for example, and then go home and sell it profitably. In this way they learn resourcefulness, entrepreneurship, responsibility and cooperation with their peers.

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