All the international news from Musical Futures
Schools down under are soon to close for the winter break but there lots of things to squeeze in over the next few weeks. You can find details of all Musical Futures Australia workshops as well as news, articles and more at http://www.musicalfuturesaustralia.org/
Recharge workshops - We are holding two special workshops in Melbourne during late June. Recharge will bring back together around 75 teachers who took part in the early phase of the Musical Futures professional Learning program in Victoria. These workshops give us the opportunity to see how they are going and to update them with the resources released since the were attending workshops and introduce some new resources for the first time.
New resources - The Recharge workshops give us the opportunity to road test two new sets of Australian developed Musical Futures resources. First up is Everyone Can Play, a pre-cursor to Just Play and designed for younger students - Grade 1 and 2’s in particular while MF Styles (it’s working title) are a series of genre based resources that incorporate some existing materials like Play-alongs and Grooves and adds new materials that will allow a complete exploration, including composition, improvisation and songwriting in a range of musical styles. At the Recharge workshops we will be road testing what we hope will be the final versions of Dancehall, Reggae and Funk.
Both the Everyone Can Play and MF Styles should be ready for release on Australia during late July.
Who will be our 500th Victorian School? In August 2015 Musical Futures commenced a Professional Development program for Victorian schools with funding from the Victorian Department of Education and Training. Now approaching the halfway mark Musical Futures has been worked with over 600 teachers from 414 schools. And recruitment has just started for the next cohort of schools to commence the program in August this year. One school, somewhere in Victoria will become our 500th on our way to the targeted 800 schools over 4 years.
Aussie MF teachers hit the US. A group of 12 leading Australian Musical Futures teachers plus our good NZ friend and Champion teacher Hadley Ronayne from Long Bay College in Auckland are heading to the high Rockies in Colorado in July to be part of Little Kids Rockfest. We will learn the latest from Little Kids Rock and share some of our new resources with them in return. In addition to the four days at Rockfest we will have three days in Los Angeles. This part of the tour will be a mix of cultural and music education as we take in and explore latin, urban and hip hop styles from local experts.
Hoseah makes the final 12 in the Australian Voice. The Voice, the TV talent show is about the sole survivor of the genre here in Australia and for the moment at least we are pleased it is. If any readers have seen our video of the kids from Doveton College talking about Musical Futures they would have seen Hoseah Partsch introducing the chords to his song Memory Lane in our featured video.
Now two years later Hoseah is one of 12 finalists in The Voice and is being mentored by Boy George. That has to be one very cool experience. Have a watch of him in action here.
And in NZ. Since our first ever Musical Futures workshop in Auckland in March this year we now have more than 50 New Zealand teachers using the Musical Futures resources and materials.
Scott Mangos is performing Arts KLA Leader and Head of Music, Mount Clear College in Ballarat, Australia.
Musical Futures Australia runs a comprehensive program of PD and resources across Australia, click to find out more.
Be part of our workshops in Dubai, Bangkok and China by clicking here
My Musical Futures story is one where I sort of stumbled into it on various occasions.
A trumpet player by trade, I went to the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne and studied classical trumpet but my true love of playing always sat within the “commercial” area of shows, cover bands, ska, big bands. Unfortunately the uni courses offered only cater for players who improvise and are hardcore on jazz, and those who play western art/classical music.
It was at the University of Melbourne whilst I was completing my Master of Teaching degree that I first came across Musical Futures in 2010 and what an enlightening experience it was! At the time, most of the course was based around listening to “Peter and the Wolf” or maybe some structured prac that was based on singing rounds etc. but then came the trip to see this new exciting program called Musical Futures at a local school.
We walked into this “new” style classroom with drum kits and guitars and a PA set up and instantly I knew I wanted to teach in this way. A giant of a man called Ken was walking us through this concept of doing and playing and it was the start of a beautiful relationship.
I began my teaching career in 2011 at Mount Clear College, a secondary school in the bush surrounding Ballarat, and straight away we implemented a program of playing and doing. Dulcie Holland “Master Your Theory” was chucked out the window, so too were the recorders, and instead, we started whole class pracs where every kid learnt how to play Wild Thing in their first lesson in Music. My colleague at the time was a high class Maths teacher who was a great guitarist and whilst I taught him about how we could learn through playing, he taught me the fundamentals of teaching and dealing with school politics.
We kept jamming and implementing our learning through doing model but were finding that some school leaders weren’t seeing the legitimacy in what we were doing. I saw a Musical Futures PD on offer and we trotted along and once again met the big man Ken who hooked us up with some new ideas, links to gear, and an idea that carried weight in curriculum circles because of the evidence based research behind it.
Since then we’ve had extra classes put on the timetable at Yrs 9 and 10 because more and more kids are continuing with the subject, we’ve introduced VET Music Cert III which is a direct path for MF kids who just love playing, and most importantly, we’ve seen kids who haven’t done the subject in a couple of years come up and tell us that they’ve been playing a guitar they just got and are using the skills learnt in Year 8.
So what is it about Musical Futures that works? What is it that has had a positive effect on the learning of kids? Why are MF schools seeing marked increase in involvement in classroom music whilst “traditional” programs aren’t running classes due to numbers?
I think it all comes back to enjoyment and relevancy.
Musical Futures classes should be, in my opinion, fun, engaging, and relevant to skills later in life. I’m sure that later in life it’s more useful to know how to play an instrument and participate in music than it is to know how Mozart used melismas in his operas. I love when I get invites to former students playing in Pubs and other joints because I can say I was a part of that. They wow the crowds and most of them can’t tell you the structure of a pentatonic scale, but they play it and solo over it like there’s no tomorrow and they’re having the best fun.
Since we’ve been championing Musical Futures at Mount Clear I’ve been asked a common question, but when do you learn the important stuff? This always has me thinking, what is the important stuff? Who decides what the important stuff is? Can playing music not be an end in itself?
We’re always looking at how we develop our programs and make Music Education more relevant and worthwhile for our students and as far as I can see Musical Futures is going to play a big part of that.
A guest blog post by Ian Harvey, Director of Musical Futures Australia who are leading the roll out of Musical Futures into Asia, Dubai and beyond.
Yes every child should have access to music education, to learn an instrument and benefit from the multitude of aesthetic, social, intellectual and personal outcomes that making music brings.
But how are you going to solve the problem? Regular articles give oxygen to the issue but what actually changes? Here in Victoria we have a story to tell that might surprise you.
Our State government this year effectively included music as part of every child’s schooling under its mantra of ‘every child, every opportunity’. Behind the catchy line all students attending our 1,600 state system schools, should by 2018 have access to a quality music education – just like the students do in our private schools where music is a key demonstrable of a school’s depth of educational opportunity.
The Premier, Daniel Andrews, made his commitment back in November 2014. Since then work has started with an initial group of 150 teachers from 100 schools on improving music education provision, the quality of the teaching and the resources they have to work with.
How are they doing this? Through the implementation of Musical Futures, a British music education approach. So, by 2018 at least 800 of the 1,600 Victorian state schools counting a student population of more than 500,000 pupils will have benefited from this innovative British approach.
The principles of Musical Futures were researched by a British academic from a leading London university, it was conceptualised and systemised for use in schools by a British educator (who has since been awarded an OBE for his work in the field) and it is run day-to-day (including assisting the music education provision in far flung Victoria) by a team of expert British music educators. Apart from some modest local tweaks and a good dose of Australian energy Musical Futures is thoroughly British.
And Musical Futures works for all the reasons that many existing programs struggle or fail. Students are placed at the centre of the learning, it is relevant and engaging for students and teachers, it is delivered as a classroom activity, it is affordable and sustainable for schools, it builds musical skills and literacy and provides pathways for any form of musical exploration individual students may choose to take.
And yes Musical Futures de-mystifies the learning of music. Musical Futures is an approach that takes the best of what has gone on in the past and builds on and repackages those approaches into a 21st century context. And it delivers – greater access to music, greater longevity amongst young players, increased numbers of students opting for additional instrumental lessons, improved job satisfaction amongst teachers and, greater numbers of students continuing on to complete music at year 12 – your A levels.
Sure current government policies in the UK seem not to support music in schools in the way they should. I have seen this first hand. But I also see a music education sector needs to look at itself and recognise that its practices and approaches need to be reformed so that the music education offered is relevant and therefore can’t be ignored by governments. For many years the problem with music education is that ‘we want to do what we have always done, but just do more of it’. But most of the approaches used are approaching their centenary and, that suggests, that nothing has happened in music or in the development of children and adolescents in the last 70 or 80 years.
That clearly is not the case and that thinking it is as stultifying an approach to music as the writer accuses your ‘tightwad, snobby’ government of being. Why? Because the ‘way we had always done things’ is one of the reasons music in schools had become marginalised in the first place – poor levels of student engagement, low retention rates amongst instrumental learners, teacher burn out and apathy and music being a too problematic area of the curriculum relative to its importance for school leaderships to deal with day to day. Music had no real place in the timetable and it was expensive to service relative to student access and involvement.
All this despite the overwhelming parental expectations that music is included as a core part of their child’s learning.
There is a very British solution to your issue, though the solution might require some very un-British behaviour. Stop whinging, start reforming and re-thinking the music education space, toss out some of the traditions along with the ’this is the way we do things around here’ thinking that is the real cause of what is holding you back from the thing you most want to achieve – that every student has access to a quality music education.
You don’t need to look to the US nor do you need to look to Australia because what we learned we learn from you.
It’s called Musical Futures, it doesn’t solve every music education issue in every location but it works and if we can adopt it from 12,000 miles away you can too.
Musical Futures: Just Play has been developed in partnership with Musical Futures Australia and is currently rolling out to 400 schools across the state of Victoria.
Anna Gower is currently working as Acting Head of Academic Governance for Trinity College London and having been involved with Musical Futures since 2004. She is part of the Musical Futures International training team and has delivered workshops in Australia, Canada, America, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Switzerland as well as across the UK.
Musical Futures International are running a series of workshops and consultancies in Dubai, Bangkok and China in 2017-18.
Trinity College London will be releasing Rock and Pop 2018 soon - read more
I was one of the pilot teachers trying informal learning in my classroom at the start of the Paul Hamlyn Herts pathfinder project. I then became part of the Musical Futures UK core team, working for 12 years to establish and grow the online global teacher communities, designing, resourcing and leading the comprehensive teacher training programme and associated development of new approaches and resources for Musical Futures.
Musical Futures has been a massive personal journey for me, first as a practitioner having to completely redesign my identity as a musician and a teacher, then as I travelled and visited schools and worked with teachers to really try to understand what Musical Futures is when it is translated into practice at the chalk face then use this learning to inform the development of new content, training programmes and resources to support the growth of Musical Futures across the world.
I was trying to understand how and why Musical Futures impacts on the lives of thousands of students and teachers across the world and how it can continue to change and adapt to the needs of those who are looking for ways to keep music relevant and meaningful for students in schools.
When I left Monks Walk School after 18 years working in secondary schools in the UK, my line manager asked staff whether they had any idea of Musical Futures actually is.
Nobody could answer.
He had designed a poster that summed up what he thought my interpretation and use of Musical Futures in my classroom was. He described it as ‘a parallel solar system’ where everything is noisy and practical and chaotic and creative and the words he chose really summed up what Musical Futures had become in our school
Fun, Challenging, Inspirational, Groundbreaking, Inclusive, Excitement, New Experiences, International.
Musical Futures can be all those things. But how do you know when you walk into a class that it’s Musical Futures in inspiration or design? Is there a definition, a description or something that remains consistent no matter how and where it’s applied?
I’ve been visiting MF schools over the past 7 years or so, but back in October 2015 I led a tour of MF Champion schools accompanied by a group of teachers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada that really gave me the opportunity to reflect on this.
What I found is that Musical Futures doesn’t look or sound the same in any of the schools I’ve seen. It feels like Musical Futures, I know Musical Futures is there, but I have struggled to pin down how that actually translates into practice.
Our visitors also seemed to find it hard to define what made the lessons, departments and teachers ‘Musical Futures’ lessons, departments and teachers. Other than that they and I had said they were and that they use the MF approaches and resources in much of what they do, my question remained. What does ‘an approach’ actually look like when it’s applied in practice?
The key principles of MF are pretty clear so should I expect to see all of those in every lesson? Students working with friends, learning aurally, the teacher as facilitator? I saw many of them, but not all of them and not all of the time and as you would expect
I saw things that I thought worked really well and things I was less sure were effective. This was down to the interpretation, personalisation and moulding of the approach rather than the approach itself.
To find the answers to the million questions I had, I started by trying to identify what everything I saw in the schools and lessons had in common and I had some great discussions with the others in the group as we drove from school to school.
The first very impressive observation was the engagement, concentration and focus of the students we saw. More than that though, when we talked to them it became clear that they really care about their music work and the department, their teachers and the value of music in their schools.
Perhaps they feel some ownership over this (MF asks that learning starts from students’ own musical passions and interests) and so it becomes particularly important to them.
But can we or should we accredit this solely to MF?
Good teaching/relationships/structures/content=engaged students.
Perhaps MF helps or allows teachers to think about what they teach, why and how and the result is that compelling engagement I have seen everywhere I’ve visited. I needed to unpick this some more.
The second thing was the amount of music in the lessons. It was everywhere. I’ve made a list of the moments that stood out to me the most:
And throughout the tour itself, we sang on the bus, we played music together and the moment that moved me most of all was in a pub where the teachers got up and played one at a time and together. I thought how unbelievably lucky their students are to have musicians of such quality teaching them. .
Can Musical Futures take credit for any this? Music lessons where the majority of time is spent making music? That “you just feel it” moment in the workshops where we sang and played and bonded through music?
And what about the tour itself? Bringing people together through music, forming friendships through a shared drive to find new and best practice to take back into classrooms underpinned by shared Musical Futures aims?
Musical Futures is more than an approach and it’s not just a downloadable resource. It’s not a 6 week ‘MF inspired’ project or a rock and pop scheme of work for year 9.
The workshops that have been running in the last 2 years in the UK, Australia, Canada and Asia are filled with people who tell us they had been inspired by a great musical experience in the workshops to go back into their classrooms and make something happen.
Musical Futures can be the most inspirational and exciting personal journey that really can change everything.
Why not join us? Make something happen, instigate change? It’s a hell of a ride……
Alan Crawford takes up a position as Head of Academic Music, and Specialist Leader for Practitioner Research at Dubai College from September.
He will be hosting a Musical Futures 2 day training event at Dubai College 10-11th November 2017. You can find out more and register for a place here
I have had a diverse career to date as a Musician, Educator and Researcher– I have taught or led music departments in N Ireland, in England in Singapore and in the UAE. I have performed as a musician in various roles from church organist to pianist in a Big Band, as an accompanist to opera singers to director of a community choir based in North London.
My training encompassed historical and analytical study of canon of western classical music as part of my BMus, conservatoire level study of piano at the RIAM in Dublin and later engagement with Ethnomusicology as a masters degree at SOAS, London. Inspirational teacher training at Cambridge with the legendary John Finney smashed my narrow-minded conceptions of students and learning.
More recently a sabbatical year to study for an MPhil in Arts, Creativity, Education and Culture under the passionate supervision of Professor Pam Burnard at Cambridge got me to reflect upon the multiple creativities in the arts and how our teaching should be relevant to the real-world practices of young people.
Outside of formal education, I have engaged young people in cultural, outdoors and charity trips from India and Nepal to South Africa, Russia and Lebanon. In this, it is very interesting to experience how young people learn (often better) outside the formal structures of the classroom and the curriculum.
Whilst my involvement in Musical Futures has been quite late in comparison with others, I champion its philosophy, its scope and its approach. Music Education should be inclusive of all young people, shaped their interests, their ways of working and with them as drivers. Musical Futures is centred on this all-important student voice. It does not revolve around teaching-to-the-test, or judging students progress through arbitrary level-descriptors, but enables them to self-organise, collaborate, experiment, jam and play, making their own music their own way. The key is in the title:
I have found that the Musical Futures approach encourages these active learning strategies and embraces both technology and social media. This approach liberates the teacher from taking on the role of expert, or deliverer of knowledge to that of facilitator and of making music together with students.
In the short time that I have trialled Musical Futures in my classroom, I observed students taking much more initiative and ownership in their music-making. It has made ensemble performance more accessible to students of all abilities.
Join Alan and members of the Musical Futures International training team at Dubai College for 2 days of Musical Futures workshops in November!
A guest blog by Musical Futures Asia Co-Ordinator Steve Jackman who will be hosting 2 days of Musical Futures workshops at Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok in November
In our school we’ve been working hard to increase the uptake of Music at GCSE and beyond. So one of the things we’ve looked at is what we want our students to be able to do by the end of year 9,8 and 7. We decided that by the end of Y7 they should have an understanding of simple chord progressions including roman numerals and be able to play these chord progressions on the keyboard and/or guitar. So we’ve completely changed everything and put Musical Futures approaches at the heart of the curriculum.
Term 1 started with Just Play, a great whole class keyboard and guitar approach using popular songs. We let the students choose keyboard or guitar to start with, then after a couple of lessons they swapped over so they all had a chance to experience both, then let them choose which instrument to stick with for the rest of the term. We worked our way through the materials as class, the students really enjoyed it, we jumped around alot! By the end of term most students could play a variety of chords and chord sequences and they also developed a good understanding of chord progressions and song structures.
In term 2 we moved on to a Find Your Voice style approach, starting with 3 chord songs. After making sure everyone could play the three chords on the keyboard or guitar we introduced Roman numerals and the idea that songs can have the same chord sequence but be in different keys. We taught them a couple of songs and then how to combine them to create a “mashup” then asked them to do the same independently in small groups.
After that we took a break from instruments and started to look at recreating songs vocally using 4 chord songs with I-V-VI-IV progressions. This really helped to develop their understanding of melody, bass lines and harmony. We introduced them to Garageband on iPads and taught them how to use the touch instruments and how to multi-track record their own voices to create their own 4 chord arrangements. This also gave them a good understanding of how to structure their mashups when they went back to groups to produce live performances.
Finally we moved onto what Musical Futures calls ‘In at the Deep End’. Students have complete choice over a song that they choose to learn and who they work with. They learn to copy the songs aurally and find the chords online. This is a very informal, student led, independent process, we try and avoid giving specific feedback all the time (Dylan William said “Feedback that comes too quickly scaffolds the learning too tightly, so that, students do not have to think for themselves.”), we remind them of the knowledge learnt in the previous two terms and encourage them to record themselves and then listen back to work out what they need to do to improve.
I’ve really enjoyed teaching this new curriculum, I think the students have made amazing progress and I am really excited about what more they will be able to achieve in Year 8 & 9 because of it. Looking back at what we aimed for and evaluating, I'd like to try interleaving some of the approaches more, so instead of doing Just Play for one term, perhaps spread it out more over the year to ensure students don't lose those instrumental skills they learnt in term 1.
If you happen to be in Asia in November why not come and join us at Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok for two days of amazing Musical Futures learning, you’ll leave with some amazing approaches and resources and hopefully some new friends. For more information visit our registration page here.
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