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Mystery donor hits right note with Highbury music pupils

PUBLISHED: 06:52 09 October 2012

Pic of students playing their instruments at Highbury Grove School, Highbury New Park, N5. Must credit Dieter Perry

Pic of students playing their instruments at Highbury Grove School, Highbury New Park, N5. Must credit Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

A mystery donor who has given tens of thousands of pounds to a Highbury school so pupils can learn classical music has revealed his identity.

The patron, whose name had been shrouded in secrecy, has spent the last six years giving the cash to Highbury Grove School in Highbury Grove so all the pupils can get to grips with an instrument.

The benefactor is one Andrew Wolfson, on behalf of the Charles Wolfson charitable trust, who answered the school’s appeal to help bring the joys of classical music to some of the poorest kids in the country.

The latest gift to the school meant that all 210 pupils in Year 7 have their own violin, cello or viola to keep as long as they are at the school.

In total, the school’s music department has an orchestral 630 instruments, from a giant timpani to bassoons costing around £3,000.

The school hopes it will have an instrument for each of the 1,150 pupils by September 2014.

Sarah Jones, head of music at the school, said: “It’s quite incredible. Most music departments have a minimal budget, but the situation here with the support from senior leadership is great. And it’s working – last year we took a some of the choir to perform at Buckingham Palace for the Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday.”

Cherelle King, the school’s music administrator, said: “The kids are really excelling. Some are going from grades one to five in three years.

“We have had all these instruments funded by this lovely gentleman, it’s brilliant. The school wasn’t always the most positive place, but it has really turned around.”

The school have adopted a model pioneered by a school in Venezuela called El Sistema, which tries to get kids of streets and away form substance abuse and into classical music.

One pupil who has already excelled is 18-year-old Cyan Koay, who left the school in the summer to study music at Oxford University.

Rhiannon Hughes, head teacher at the school, said: “It’s tremendous, they have an opportunity of a lifetime, not just for now but for the rest of their lives.”


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