Early start in the music business

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Next week a CD album by Glasgow pupils will hit major music stores in the city. Douglas Blane reports on a bold joint school-college enterprise

Lourdes is associated with miracles and at the Glasgow secondary school that bears the same name, an enterprise project is having a miraculous effect on pupils.

"There were a few cynics around the school when we started this project," says depute headteacher George McNally, "but now, whenever it's mentioned you can feel the buzz, the excitement, the feeling of what's going to happen next?"

Enterprise Thru Music began in the mind of Stow College lecturer Gordon Campbell as the germ of an idea to promote enterprise through an activity that appeals to almost every young person: music.

"The business world is a real turn-off for many kids," says Mr Campbell.

"They have this image of pin-stripe suits and a 9am-5pm routine. Music is the magic ingredient that makes the difference.

"I set up Britain's first music management college course 10 years ago but this is the first time I've tried anything like it with schoolkids."

Careers Scotland was approached to find a suitable school. Stuart Rousen confesses that his role was a kind of marriage broker. "I put Stow College and Lourdes Secondary together. I had worked with the school before and knew they had a very positive approach to enterprise."

It was agreed that the school's entire second year would form themselves into 15 companies, which would then audition young hopeful singers. "And some not so young," concedes Mr McNally. "A few teachers auditioned and one got through."

The chosen singers would be recorded on a compilation CD, which a separate company, of fifth-year and sixth-year pupils, would produce, market and sell.

Begun last August, the project is now reaching a critical stage, with the album, Thru With Education, due for release on Monday and going on sale at Virgin Megastore and HMV in Glasgow.

"I always wanted to do this kind of thing," says graphic designer Alan Nicol, displaying his imaginative album cover design, "but not with this much stress. I've hardly been getting any sleep for thinking about it.

"If one thing is delayed, that affects something else,and before you know it you're trying to do a job in a week that needs a fortnight. And the meetings I they go on forever, with everybody having something to say. I just want to get away and get the job done."

It's a familiar refrain from creative people the world over.

Company chairwoman Charlotte Cole explains: "There is an awful lot to do and you have to keep on top of it all. The hardest part is making sure everyone's getting on with their jobs. You need to prepare really well for the meetings and make sure everyone gets their say."

The project is very different from anything the participants have done before, says vice-chair Catherine McShane. "You have to keep thinking all the time. It's our company and we have to actually make something very soon. I had absolutely no idea it took so much work to produce a CD."

Mr McNally says many teachers anticipate problems in implementing the Scottish Executive's target of one enterprise activity a year for every schoolchild in Scotland. "It's a question of sheer numbers," he explains.

"This school has 1,400 pupils, 270 of them in second year, which is why we had to have 15 different companies in the project's first phase.

"The kids have been working under a lot of pressure and it has been great to watch them respond to it. If young people want to learn they will, and they all want to learn about music. So they are picking up all sorts of useful skills and knowledge in the process.

"If every subject was like this our job would be easy."

The project has generated a lot of interest from other schools, says Mr Campbell.

"They can adapt it to suit themselves, while keeping the basic model of kids learning about enterprise through running their own music business.

"It has been so successful at Lourdes that I'd hope this would be the first of many secondary schools to use it. But it will work just as well, I am sure, in primary schools and in special schools.

"Music is the perfect vehicle for young people to learn about enterprise."

An Enterprise Thru Music teachers' pack is being prepared. Contact Gordon Campbell at Stow College, tel 0141 332 1786

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