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Musical Futures Asia Champion Steve Jackman introduces our new Musical Futures approach to music technology, developed in partnership with Soundtrap
Steve is Head of Academic Music at Shrewsbury International School Bangkok. With more than 10 years of experience in the classroom, leading successful music departments. He also has experience as a Music and Music Technology examiner for Edexcel and AQA. Since moving to South East Asia Steve has brought Musical Futures to Kuala Lumpur and now to Bangkok working as their Asian Programme Co-ordinator. He also recently became an Apple Distinguished Educator, specialising in the use of mobile technology in music.
Back in 2006, I spent a day exploring the Musical Futures approach to informal learning. I left excited with my resources pack, including a CD-Rom! (remember when Encarta was everything?!)
In the classroom I gave groups of students CDs and CD players and sent them off to listen and copy a song- Cameo’s classic Word Up. The Musical Futures resource CD had each separate part on a different track so they could hear and learn all the different elements that made up the whole song.
This part of the Musical Futures approach had been developed to test whether students demonstrated the same level of engagement with music that had been chosen for them as they had shown when they were given free choice over the content when they and their teachers went ‘in at the deep end’.
The original research task involved listening and copying the material by ear, this time with the music broken down into single melodic lines and some support was given by way of note names to help as needed in contrast to in at the deep end where students chose a song and had a go at copying it, having to pick out the required lines, chords and patterns from within the whole song without help from the teacher by way of differentiated parts.
Fast forward 12 years to the present day: CDs and their High street stores are gone. The classic rock band is no longer king. The explosion of digital music, MP3s, Napster, Spotify and YouTube etc has widened the musical horizons of everyone. This coupled with the emergence of software and hardware that allows people to produce and record music in their bedrooms that until very recently would have required a whole professional studio to produce has created the opportunity for everyone to become creative musicians.
However, despite these changes, young people still find the music they identify with, get together with friends, listen, copy, recreate then innovate. As a teacher this is everything I aim for with my students and my engagement with informal learning and Musical Futures approaches has put this at the heart of how I teach and how my students learn, regardless of the content we are exploring.
Sometimes when you start using computers or mobile devices, students on a device each, headphones on, working in isolation, these approaches, together with the social aspects of music making that involve creating and playing music together can be lost. Worse still, a lack of an underlying pedagogy for music technology can lead to the creative use of technology being reduced to a process of drag and drop, directed by a set of step by step instructions provided by the teacher.
For me this doesn’t feel right, I want my classroom learning environment, digital or analogue to be social and collaborative. Just because students are playing digital 1s and 0s rather than guitars and drums I don’t think this should change the core ethos of the musical learning.
This year I’ve started using Soundtrap with my Year 9 and GCSE music classes. Soundtrap is a web based digital audio workstation, like Cubase or GarageBand but with a unique, killer function - the ability to collaborate. It’s like the difference between using Word and Google docs but for music. Students can make music with their friends wherever they are. For me, this is extending the musical learning of my students beyond the classroom in a meaningful way.
Take a unit on songwriting for example. In a lesson, groups of students are thrashing out ideas in a practice room with a couple of guitars and a keyboard and recording their ideas into Soundtrap on a laptop or iPad. But then when they get home they have the time to perfect their songs, working virtually with their friends using Soundtrap’s video and text chat window. Or just taking the opportunity to record that vocal line quietly and privately in a bedroom and then with one click it’s updated for everyone.
Finally I feel that music technology has caught up with music teaching and learning pedagogy. People are, more than ever before, able to connect with others across the world to create and collaborate through music. In my school it has allowed students to carry on making music outside the classroom, they connect with their friends online from their individual homes, listening, copying and recreating the music that they like,
At Musical Futures’ ‘The Big Gig’ in Melbourne I led workshops on how I use Soundtrap in my classroom to produce Electronic Dance Music. But shhhh! What I was sharing isn’t really anything new. I’m just taking the 5 principles of informal learning I learnt about 12 years ago and applying them to today’s music and technology.
Ollie Tunmer, Director of Beat Goes On reflects on being part of The Big Gig, Melbourne June 2018
My recent trip to Melbourne could have been a little shaky - I’d been working at a school in South Korea the week prior, then headed back to the UK for the launch of www.sambaoke.com (promo video on the way!), before the 26 hour journey down under.
Despite the slight disorientation, I could feel the warm and energy of the conference delegates from the word go.
One of STOMP’s first big bookings was the 1992 Melbourne Comedy Festival, so it was nice to kick things off here with some body percussion, inspired in no small part by my time in that show. I love how body percussion is initially highly accessible, but then as with any art-form, offers scope for more complex material.
The MF conference delegates proved themselves to be a highly rhythmic and up for it bunch, happy to step well outside of their comfort zones, a useful experience for all teachers!
I then led the first of several Afro Brazilian percussion workshops. Although African drumming is common in Australia, Afro-Brazilian percussion, including samba, is yet to become the staple that it is in UK schools. It was great fun exploring a range of styles from Rio-style ‘samba batucada’ to ‘drum’n’bass’, nodding to the Musical Futures ethos of incorporating students’ own musical preferences into lessons. Delegates seemed to enjoy these sessions and I’m looking forward to returning for a school workshop / PD tour - watch this space!
longside a range of fascinating workshops, talks and warm up ideas (Hadley’s ‘Chord Aerobics’ springs to mind!), the conference finished with a fantastic opportunity for teachers to play together. Some seriously impressive performances - Michelle Lewis excelled herself as my mic stand whilst delivering some superb vocals!
Session notes from my body percussion and Afro-Brazilian sessions are on the way and there are free downloadable resources at www.beatgoeson.co.uk
Huge thanks to all involved, I look forward to seeing you again soon!
"Music makes life better" The National Music Education Conference, Bejing
The National Music Education Conference in Bejing ran in partnership with the China Music Instrument Association and was supported by the National Music Education Service Alliance, in collaboration with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and the Confederation of European Music Industries (CAFIM).
As invited guests of the China Music Instrument Association, Anna and Ken led an introductory informal learning workshops with nearly 100 teachers at the conference, followed by workshops with teachers at Roland Digital Education Centre and with children and their parents at Hua Dong Music City.
Highlights of the trip included some fantastic musical performances showcasing exquisite performances of traditional Chinese music as well as a celebration concert from the Make Music Day China 2018 event that involved over 3000 musical events across China.
We are very much looking forward to returning to China in October for another round of 2-day teacher workshops and to as guests at Music China in Shanghai.
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