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Some days are great days and Musical Futures Australia had one of those days at an event held at Doveton College in Melbourne recently.
The focus of the day was Hoseah Partsch who returned to the school to perform, inspire and share with Doveton’s current students after a gap of four years.
Hoseah was runner up in the 2018 edition of The Voice in Australia and many people will remember his performances and work with his Voice mentor Boy George.
Hoseah also happened to be at the school when Doveton College became one of Musical Futures Champion schools and his music education happened only in the classroom where informal learning underpinned the approach. At home he played and sang and learned the music he wanted to play without additional music lessons or formal teaching and Hoseah featured in one or two videos Musical Futures made at the time to promote the approach.
Little did we know…..
His inspiring visit to his old school showed a fabulous young man making the most of his talent and happily sharing his knowledge and experiences with others.
Special thanks to teachers Gene and Malcolm as well as Doveton’s school leaders for helping to bring it altogether.
Our spotlight series explores the musical stories and experiences that first bring people to music and what it is that inspires a lifelong love of music and the drive to share that through teaching music to others.
Jason Holmes is a professional DJ and Creative Technology and Music Teacher at Doveton College, Victoria. For the last year he has led on developing workshops and resources for Musical Futures Studio developed in partnership between Musical Futures International and Soundtrap, designed to support creativity and collaboration through cloud-based and accessible music technology . In this article he shares his musical story and some of the experiences he has had with using Musical Futures in his teaching.
Tell us your musical story
When I was four years old, I used to pretend to play the violin to classical music while my mum would play records. We lived next door to a brilliant piano teacher, so I started getting lessons in violin and piano. I was always terrible at practising, I just wanted to play, not get bogged down with theory. In my teens, I was more attracted to what was cool at the time - so I taught myself to play Nirvana, Metallica and Hendrix on guitar and bass. I learned quickly but was still terrible at practising, the art of slowing things down and learning the rules eluded me.
My brother exposed me to Electronic Music and Hip Hop with the likes of Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Public Enemy. The floodgates were opened and soon after we bought some turntables, with the intent to become famous DJs! The problem was, at that time there was no YouTube, nor the abundance of information available online like there is today, so we had to practice. We made mistakes and we slowly learned from them, but it took a lot of time. This led to collecting equipment for making our own music, and from there recording equipment and software.
What do you do in music outside the classroom?
I’ve been DJing for more than twenty years now, holding residencies around Melbourne and travelling interstate to perform live shows. For the past 7 years, I’ve performed with Seth Sentry, one of Australia’s most highly regarded names in Hip Hop. We’ve toured extensively internationally and nationally, performing at festivals and sell out shows, most notably appearing on The Jimmy Kimmel Show live to more than 3 million viewers. Producing and remixing Hip Hop and Electronic Music is an ongoing fascination.
What do you love about music?
Music is a puzzle, music is beautiful maths. Music challenges you to find harmony as well as discord. The process of expression can take you down all sorts of rabbit holes. For me, learning to practice meant learning to accept repetition. With repetition comes a sort of meditation, and I find that meditation in the music I make - which can be satisfying or the most frustrating thing at times. It also fascinates me that you can express an emotion or a message, or perhaps experiment with a scientific idea or concept. It’s very powerful, I’ve discovered an appreciation of science, language and maths I’d never expected through music.
How has Musical Futures influenced what you do in the classroom?
One important and consistent element of my classroom is that I like to show something that inspires, the students usually in the form of a video or recording, then have every student say something about it. The rule is that you don’t have to like it, but everyone has to say something. This has created the most amazing result and after a few lessons beginning like this, the students fall naturally into a conversation with each other. It encourages them to think critically and be able to communicate ideas, which transfers to their work and collaborations.
Using a lot of modern technology in my classes, informal learning is something of a must. When you are creating music with modern tools and software, you can approach it from so many angles, so the idea to do what works for you really is the only way forward. Something that struck me early on with Musical Futures was the concept of “just play,” it reminded me of where I came from as a musician. Even if you are banging a tin can with a stick, the feeling of being involved in the music is so important. That feeling of inclusion is what will lead you to the next stage as a musician.
What impact has Musical Futures had for the students you work with?
The first time seeing a group of students with virtually zero musical literacy put together a chord progression, then tentatively add a melody and some percussion, slowly piecing it all together until they had written a whole song blew me away. The look on their faces was almost disbelief at what they were hearing, as though someone else must have created it! They had experimented their way through and polished it with the tools available to them. I proudly play that song to teachers in every PD I run.
Musical Futures is focussed on maximum engagement with students, which can’t happen unless you have maximum engagement from the people leading the students. I was a musician before I was a teacher, and I find it essential to tap into that passion and share it with the class. Passion for music is always where the best results originate.
Music Teacher Emma Saxton from NSW, Australia shares her Musical Futures Story
As a classroom music teacher, I have always taught instruments en masse, and I would run these classroom music sessions like instrumental music sessions. At the next school I worked at I was employed as both the classroom music teacher, as well as the instrumental teacher. During this time, I attended some Musical Futures workshops and the Big Gig.
I was in a situation where the students were not enjoying their musical experiences, music was not supported by the school management and it was difficult to attract enough students to maintain my full-time employment. Implementing Musical Futures approaches into my teaching turned the program around, and it only needed the tiniest tweak.
Students were able to choose their repertoire, they really enjoyed the play-alongs and with that they were able to change their perception of themselves from someone unable to play an instrument, to someone who was able to play, succeed and be musical. This in turn resulted in more students being interested in wanting to play an instrument and therefore take up instrumental lessons.
The next problem was that the way instrumental lessons are typically conducted didn’t align with they way these students were being instructed in the classroom and therefore I needed to change the way the instrumental lessons were delivered to maintain their interest and keep them engaged.
Fast forward to today and I am the owner and operator of a private music school where instrumental teaching and learning is based around the same ideas that I experienced within my own Musical Futures training. I teach group guitar lessons where the students learn simple chords and some tunes, and there is a little bit of notation. The older students spend their time searching YouTube videos or tablature websites finding tunes that they would like to learn. They are welcome to bring their choice of music to the lesson then they work on them with assistance.
My role as the instrumental teacher is to teach the students the skills required to play their instrument, but it's the way in which this is done that differs from more traditional approaches to instrumental teaching. The brass and woodwind instruments are also taught differently, in that the focus is not on notation as the first access point to playing, but more about the development of all the musical skills and confidence needed to play the instrument.
It is important that the students feel that they are successful and this is best done through playing music they like and engage with and that they choose for themselves and then learn through playing. The outcomes of taking these approaches are in line with the initial experience I had when I first implemented the Musical Futures program in the classroom.
The more the students play their instrument the more relaxed and confident they are with it and that's the perfect time to start to build in the teaching of technique, musical understanding, familiarity with notations where relevant. My aim is to build a lifelong love of playing, creating and hearing music and of course to keep them coming back for their lesson next week!
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