“It is hoped that over time all these skills will enable pupils to build a high level of musical understanding as they move into Secondary education.”
Norman Bolton, Highland Council Music Development Officer

The Youth Music Initiative in the Highlands


In 2003 the then Scottish Executive established the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) with an award of £17.5 million to put music at the heart of young people’s lives and learning. By March 2008 a significant £37.5 million will have been invested in music programmes so far.

The initiative has been a resounding success and has had a huge impact on the provision of music making activities for children and young people across Scotland.

Amongst its key achievements are that children now have access to one year’s free music tuition by the time they reach Primary 6, as well as increased opportunities for out of school hours participation providing Scotland’s young people with the opportunity to develop musical skills and appreciation and experience the personal, social and educational benefits that accompany these activities.  

The YMI has developed a National Youth Music Strategy providing a framework which can be used by all organisations and individuals working in music with children and young people when planning and implementing programmes of work.  You can download the strategy at: http://www.scottisharts.org.uk/1/information/publications/1003923.aspx

As part of the YMI provision in the Highlands, The Highland Council set up the Music on the Move scheme in 2005 supported by Yamaha and Gigajam, to deliver music lessons to around 80 primary schools.


The purpose of the project is to develop the musical skills of primary school children deliver a programme of music to primary schools in a diverse geographical area covering over half of Scotland fill a gap in the provision of guitar and drums tuition in the Highlands


Two tutors work closely with 77 primary schools across the Highlands using mobile Gigajam units equipped with Yamaha digital guitars, drum modules and Dell laptops to teach pupils to play the guitar and drums.  Each school has 12 sessions with the tutors and has access to kit and software for use between sessions so that pupils have a chance to practice.  Parents can also purchase the software, so that their children can access lessons at home.

The project has been developed by Highland Council’s Music Development Officer, Norman Bolton, who identified that there was a gap in provision for guitar and drums tuition in the Highlands.  Norman has worked closely with Gigajam, who adapted the software specifically for the project, including the provision of audio instructions to ensure that children who experience difficulties with the text can take part in the lessons. 

Gigajam uses the latest interactive software to provide user-friendly lesson instructions, ‘how to’ videos, play along files with full band backing tracks, and a performance assessment facility that provides pupils with feedback on their progress.

Impacts and Outcomes

The structured lessons have provided pupils of all musical abilities with easy to understand tuition Pupils can work at their own pace, set their own targets and see their progress, providing a relaxed learning environment and helping to increase confidence Participating schools have reported a marked improvement in pupils’ performance and confidence levels

Commenting on the project Norman Bolton said: "It is hoped that over time all these skills will enable pupils to build a high level of musical understanding as they move into secondary education, and that staff working in the Council’s Instrumental Tuition Scheme will also reap the benefit of the knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm generated by all these aspects of primary music education.”

Future Developments

Highland Council is now looking to roll the project out to a further 40 schools in the area.


2,000 Primary 6 pupils from 77 schools