Music Education – supporting children with special needs in the SCO Connect project ‘Gauche the Cellist’

Maggie Tam
Maggie Tam

A guest blog from one of the most experienced Skoog players in the world! Maggie has been with Skoogmusic for almost 4 years and is a hands on Skoog aficionado.


Maggie Tam – Applications developer, Skoog player, teacher and key member of the Skoogmusic team – writes about her experience working with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Connect project at Saltersgate School in Musselburgh.


Gauche the Cellist is a joint production by Shiori Usui and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

SCO connect fellow
Shiori Usui


For 5 months since November 2013, Skoog had the unique opportunity to participate in a spectacular project – ‘Gauche the Cellist’ by Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Connect with the S1 & S2 pupils at Saltersgate School.The weekly workshop sessions at the school culminated in a truly magical performance in March that combined the original music written by project leader and SCO Connect fellow, Shiori Usui, sound design, and shadow puppetry.


SCO Cellist

The premise of the project is a traditional Japanese tale about Gauche, a cellist struggling in her orchestra, who retreated to the mountains to reconnect with her music. During her stay there, she made friends with the animals who came to listen to her, and reignited her love for playing. Each week at the workshop in the run up to the performance, the Saltersgate pupils were introduced to each of Gauche’s animal friends, with the SCO musicians imitating their sound on their traditional instrument, and the pupils ‘replying’ and exploring these sounds on the Skoog. As the Skoog’s Applications Developer, I had the privilege to go out to the school every week and support the pupils with their use of the Skoog in their progress.



Pupil Playing Skoog

It was an amazing experience to observe just how far the pupils had come along. From the first few weeks of not quite knowing what the Skoog was (but at the same time completely fascinated by it – everyone felt compelled to keep squeezing and poking at it!) to the final performance where all pupils played their Skoog intently under Shiori’s direction with a confidence and professionalism that could out-shine the adults! It was also interesting to see how everyone had developed their own style of playing: one boy always took great care to play and hold every note with perfect precision; while another found it much more interesting and humourous to make the Skoog ‘squeak’ by stabbing it repeatedly with his finger!


The Gauche Ensemble
The stage is set

Every session was filled with laughters, and everyone was endlessly entertained by the countless possibilities of the Skoog.A particular session that springs to my mind is when we loaded in a sample of a long glissando on a cello, and got everyone to scrub through it on their Skoog – such simple concept but so much fun to do! It was touching to see that when asked what they enjoyed the most in each session, nearly all pupils would exclaim ‘Skoog!’.



The Gauche Team
The whole team for SCO connect project – Gauche the Cellist

The final performance in the school hall was a fun afternoon of storytelling and music.Although done in front of a strong audience of around 200 – friends, parents, neighbouring schools and various special guests – and with spotlights on our young performers, who sat in centre stage with their Skoogs in front of all the SCO musicians, they did not seem phased by it all! Behind them stood a screen where the shadow puppets were projected (also done by the Saltersgate pupils as well asVision Mechanics) to act out each scene of the story as told by the orchestra. It was beautiful to see how snippets of what we did in each workshop were arranged and combined through such careful curation, that there was no finer note to end our journey on.


Scottish Chamber Orchestra Conenct
SCO Connect

I am very proud indeed to have been part of the project. It provided the young performers a first taste of performing on stage with a professional orchestra, and it would not have been possible, or at least nearly as much fun, without the Skoog! It is my hope that through this experience, much like Gauche in our story, that the pupils found their love for music making, and would be inspired to even greater musical ventures.


(photos from the performance above courtesy of Euan Robertson)

You can find out more about the project and other SCO connect activities here:

You can find our more about Skoog, the musical instrument for children with special needs here: