YouTube pianist Cole Lam inspires Norfolk children to play music

By Shaun Peel, BBC News, Norfolk

Shaun Whitmore YouTuber and musicianShaun Whitmore

Cole Lam and other students have been helping inspire primary school pupils

A 17-year-old YouTuber whose piano covers of classic hit songs have won him a million followers has been inspiring primary school children to play a musical instrument.

Cole Lam and a group of friends from The Purcell School for Young Musicians in Hertfordshire spent a week with four different primary schools to create the Norfolk Primary Orchestra.

The initiative is part of an outreach project called Impulse led by the Bushey-based independent school.

“Having a social media platform has given me the confidence to pass on my experience,” said Cole.

grey placeholderCole Lam Cole plays Bohemian Rhapsody Cole Lam

Cole Lam was 12 when he played Bohemian Rhapsody on a public piano at St Pancras Station

“Being able to do this is a special thing, and to know that music is safe for years to come is always good.”

Cole is studying to be a composer and jazz pianist.

His natural talent was spotted as a four-year-old when his mum saw him playing a toy piano at nursery school.

He quickly went through the grades and then started playing public pianos at railway stations in London.

“I just did it as a bit of fun, but then one video I did playing Bohemian Rhapsody at St Pancras Station just blew up so I started my YouTube channel,” he said.

“I’m naturally not that great with children, but it’s great to know that we’re inspiring young people because I would have been in their position at that age.”

His take on Queen’s classic anthem, posted when he was 12, has reached nearly 125 million views.

The clip was even re-posted on the official Queen Twitter page.

grey placeholderShaun Whitmore Purcell School of MusicShaun Whitmore

Alison Cox said the project made a real difference to the pupils

grey placeholderShaun Peel Sedgeford Village HallShaun Peel

The project has brought together four sections of the orchestra

The spark for Impulse came from the Purcell School, but was driven by Cole and the other students.

Alison Cox, head of composition at the school, said the students were great teachers.

“They badger me all the time to take them out to work in schools, so we trained them up to work with children,” she said.

The idea is to give each school a section of the orchestra to work on – brass, woodwind, string and percussion – and then bring it all together with rehearsal workshops and a performance to friends and family.

“Primary school children need input from adult teachers… but when they get an injection of energy from young people only a few years older than themselves it really makes a difference,” she said.

“Cole has all of these followers because he does things in a way that young people understand.

“He’s energetic and enthusiastic and he’s also a brilliant musician, and they relate to that.”

grey placeholderShaun Whitmore Norfolk Primary OrchestraShaun Whitmore

Young string players are among those taking part

grey placeholderShaun Whitmore Arts Society of North West NorfolkShaun Whitmore

Jillian Davis said the Purcell students’ involvement took the project to “another level”

The primary schools at Dersingham, Burnham Market, Docking and Wells-next-the-Sea have been working on the project since January alongside the Arts Society of North West Norfolk.

Jillian Davis from the society said the year-five students had 20 lessons with their tutors to get them ready for the Purcell students to come in.

“It brings it to another level,” she said.

“Performing like this can be a life-changing experience for them.

“Seventy five children will benefit from this, and if only one or two take it further one day that would make it worthwhile.

“It’s worthwhile anyway, but that would be the icing on the cake.”

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