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Music centre in tune with locals

The stunning new Sage Gateshead building, fashioned by renowned architect Sir Norman Foster, promises to be a major musical resource centre in the North East.

It is host to myriad concerts and interactive sing-alongs, and is committed to supporting schools in the area. All local schools have been invited to take part, and Gateshead Council has agreed to fund local schools to enable them to visit for free.

Since it opened in December last year, the building has given students a chance to work with professional musicians through school visits and the popular Adopt-a-Musician scheme. The latter offers schools six half-day visits a year by a sponsored musician. The visits could include musical coaching or introductions to other players as well as a class visit to the player's orchestra.

Staff at the Sage Gateshead say that diversity is vital. "Adopt a Musician doesn't have to involve classical players," says Sarah Kekus, head of schools. "It depends entirely on what a school wants - folk, classical or jazz."

The range available is clear in the student workshops, in which pupils get involved in a range of musical styles that incorporate the didgeridoo, DJing skills and rapping. The aim is to allow pupils to experience the whole gamut of musical genres.

Secondary pupils are given an extra half-hour on top of the two-hour visit enjoyed by primary pupils, giving the older ones a chance to experience more hands-on guidance. The scheme explores cross-curricular links using the building and its environs. Pupils are given a presentation on the building that showcases its architectural and artistic themes.

The centre also explores history and geography, although the main theme for the start of 2005 is science. Through links with the Newcastle Science Festival in March, Sage Gateshead will run projects based on the interplay of music and science.

School visits co-ordinator Sue Finn says the centre's main aim is to support schools' existing plans.

"We have to introduce young people to music and let them take part," she says. "We must charge them up with a love of music."

For more details, telephone 0191 443 4666;

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