Gigajam in the Highlands 2005-2014

The Highland Council have been using Gigajam since 2005.

It has been a great success for the authority and given that it is a project that will soon enter its 10th successive year we asked them if they would tell us their story.

Instrumental Tutors Mike Simpson and Martin Oparka have kindly provided their thoughts as they have run the project since its inception, under the leadership of Highland Council’s Music Development Officer, Norman Bolton.

Highland Council

“We started out in 2005 and are now in our eighth very successful musical year. We use Gigajam across seventy six primary schools within our local authority. It is a large rural authority and we were looking for solutions that enabled greater access to musical instrument tuition.

Working with Primary 7 pupils, we deliver 8 weeks of Rock music tuition to each school which previously had no prior provision in this style, thus making Gigajam a valued and appreciated tool for schools and pupils.  The combination of music and IT makes Gigajam an attractive project for pupils and teachers.

Funding (Youth Music Initiative) is provided to The Highland Council via an annual bid process overseen by Creative Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

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“Gigajam was chosen to fill the void of Rock style based music tuition in Highlands.

We chose to concentrate our program on the most popular instruments, Guitar and Drums, as a way of rhythmic advancement.  Rhythm can be described as the essence of movement in music. The Guitar and Drums are a great foundation to build these qualities with in this popular style of music.

Pupils at the stages taught (upper Primary) will already have some experience of rhythm & pitch through Kodaly vocal skills sessions and an understanding of some traditional music before they encounter Gigajam.  The guitar and drum kit skills taught also provide a good foundation for aspect of these instruments they will encounter in most secondary Music Departments.

Anytime, anywhere

“We work in different ways to deliver Gigajam sessions and lessons.

The computer generated lessons are always the fundamental base of our work. We love the aspect and design of the program which allows pupils to work independently with little or no peer pressure.  We also find it beneficial in some cases to let pupils work in pairs: e.g. we may find we have pupils with less confidence in approaching music, or finding difficulty in a lesson or simply having an off day.

We would encourage a partner (study buddy) to boost confidence and reduce stress. We find that works particularly well and it creates a great opportunity to promote team work and relationship building in the class environment.

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We are extremely proud to say we have access to every primary 7 and 6/7 composite classes in the schools involved with this project.  This includes many children with additional support needs.  We believe that participating in music creativity, benefits everyone involved.

We concentrate on delivering our tuition in schools and classroom environments. However, we have occasionally delivered Gigajam demonstrations for adults/teachers, and students in higher education.

We find our sessions enrich everyone’s education (including students who are already studying under individual or private tutors). I would also very much include our lessons as part transitional too.

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Former pupils have gone onto further education and are very keen guitarists or drummers thanks to the opportunities and experiences they have had with our classroom visits.

‘Conventional’ music tuition on many orchestral/band instruments and bagpipes is provided by The Highland Council’s Instrumental Tuition Service.  Music is an integral part of the Scottish curriculum and covers all aspects of A Curriculum for Excellence.  This also applies to the work covered by Gigajam sessions.

“Each school we visit have been supplied by the Highland council with a Yamaha digital Guitar and Drum kit, along with a copy of the Gigajam program. This way the pupils can continue to build their musical skills between our visits when time allows.

Each year we collect evidence from pupils and teachers conveying messages of gratitude for the fantastic opportunity afforded to them.

Lessons Cycler

We can honestly say each one of our schools welcomes us every year. Our pupils benefit greatly from the tuition we are able to provide.

For us, it’s the most satisfying experience to have pupils and former pupils express themselves musically, playing in bands and / or producing their own material.  It’s all about awakening young minds to creativity, helping to create a musical venture without limits, and giving them an outlet regardless of what level they are at. And most importantly, to try the instruments that they might otherwise have missed out on.


  • We will continue and extend our Gigajam offer to as wide an audience as possible, for as long as possible. The current agreement runs until April 2016.
  • We will carry on extending musical skills in individuals, and to continue building on our excellent relationship with our school network.
  • Most of all we will continue producing happy and creative musicians.


For more information please contact:

Gigajam – Brian Greene:

The Highland Council – Norman Bolton:

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