New Creative Project Brings Maths To Life

Derby-based regional orchestra and Grammy-nominated Sinfonia Viva has launched an innovative creative project that will use the power of music to bring Mathematics to life for young people across the city.

The project, entitled ‘Mathematical Advantage’ has been inspired by the age-old link between composers and mathematicians and follows feedback from city school teachers about the need to tackle the subject in a more creative way.

Around 100 students at Firs and Becket primary schools Littleover Community School and Derby College are involved with the project which focuses on prime numbers, times tables and symmetry.

The young people are now attending workshops run by the Viva creative team to learn a repertoire of songs and to create their own music.

They will then come together for two performances at Derby Theatre on Tuesday February 6 – sharing the stage with a Sinfonia Viva chamber orchestra under the baton of Viva’s new Principal Conductor Frank Zielhorst. 

There will be a matinee concert for other schools in the city and then a public concert in the evening.

To launch the project, school and college students recently joined an ‘inspiration day’ at The Voicebox in Forman Street.

Young people worked with Viva musicians Deirdre Bencsik and Tim Gunnell, workshop leader James Redwood, composer Raph Clarkson and maths tutor Katie Smith from Beyond the Pencil with a range of fun activities that explored the link between music and maths.

Raph Clarkson has composed songs for the project with words created by writer Hazel Gould. 

He explained: “Composers and mathematicians have been intrinsically linked over the centuries. Maths is a fundamental part of music and, in turn, music is a powerful medium to bring maths to life for young people.

“I am delighted that the young people have really been inspired by this project and are creating some truly astounding music and songs for the performance.”

Katie Smith from Beyond the Pencil brought the subject to life at the initial workshop with a range of props including pineapples that the young people touched to create a sequence of notes. 

She has also devised a work pack for schools who will be learning the songs with Rachel Wilkes from Derbyshire Music Education Hub and will be attending the matinee performance.

Katie said: “We have shown the young people just how maths is connected with so much in life and particularly when we look at creating music.”

Liz Stewart is lead KS2 teacher at Becket Primary School in Derby. She continued: “We have worked with Sinfonia Viva on a number of amazing creative projects in the past – including last year’s ‘Mechanical Advantage’ performance which focused on science.

“Following the success of that project, we suggested taking this further to inspire teachers to tackle maths in a more creative way and enable the pupils to better understand the subject without even realising that they are learning.”

Sinfonia Viva Education Manager Marianne Barraclough concluded: “As an Orchestra with a national reputation for education work, we pride ourselves on taking truly collaborative approach to our work.

“Education projects such as these not only provide a wonderful creative and learning experience for the young participants – they also enable teachers to further develop their own artistic and leadership skills and to take these beyond the life of the project.”

The February 6 performances will also include a repertoire performed by Sinfonia Viva which are linked to Maths including Webern’s Konzert which involves the same pattern of 12 notes – linked to the 12 times table; three Dance Preludes by Lutoslawski linked to prime numbers and Bach’s Art of Fuge inspired by multiplication.

Tickets for the evening performance cost from £6 and are available at

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