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Brianna teaches music at Warrnambool East PS, Warrnambool (VIC) and was part of the Musical Futures International teacher tour to America in July 2017
I am strongly passionate about music education and in particular Musical Futures. My passion stems from a past of losing interest in my initial music education, only to be reengaged years later through an informal approach to learning music. Musical Futures is the way I know and love to teach music, and the students’ responses and outcomes show that they love it too.
When I was quite young, I began learning the piano and I just wanted to play. I had quite a good ear and memory to match and quite enjoyed learning pieces this way. However, when I began to feel pressure to sight-read and understand theory before practice, I found that this was slowing down my progress of playing and I gave up learning piano. Music was not offered at my primary school, so I did not receive any further instruction, until I reached high school.
My year 7 music teacher was a trained photography teacher who had been employed to teach music. He didn’t have a classical background like the other music teachers. He played guitar in a rock band, had long hair and had a very calm and approachable demeanour about him. We loved him. In his classes, our first session was to all pick up a guitar and begin to learn songs such as ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Wild Thing’. I had quite a difficult cohort of students in my class, but they were always engaged and on best behaviour for this teacher. We soon moved onto rhythm, where he taught us to play a basic rock beat on our bodies. He told us that when we established good rhythm we could try it on the drums. He picked me first, and from that moment I decided I was going to be drummer.
From here, I began drum lessons, but I would spend my recess breaks in the music department practice rooms with my friends. We would each show each other what we were learning and teach one another. We didn’t need pen and paper, just our ears, eyes and desire to play. After a few years I could quite confidently play guitar and bass, even though I had no idea what the notes on the fret board were or what notes made up the chords I was playing.
I was fortunate to be chosen to be a part of a rock band project where a group of 5 girls were put together and taught the skills of playing as a band for one recess break per week. Once again, this was taught informally and I thrived off that. A few years later my curiosity took hold and I decided I wanted to understand theory. I joined the school concert band and the city band as a percussionist and began teaching myself (with the help of my music teachers) piano again with a new acquired understanding and thirst to learn.
Eventually my love of music led me to teaching drum kit at a local drum school, which inspired me to become a teacher. I began my teaching career as a generalist, where in both of the schools I worked in I found cupboards of instruments that hadn’t been used for some time. I began teaching students these instruments through a band program, and the beneficial impact it had on the students was immediately apparent. I continued to integrate music into my program wherever I could and in 2015 came across Musical Futures.
In my very first session I was hooked. MF was delivering a program backed with research on the way I learned music and the way I was trying to teach my students. To say I was excited would be an understatement. We were given physical and digital resources that could be taken away and used immediately with the students, saving an incredible amount of time and presented in such a beautifully scaffolded way that every child could be engaged and supported on multiple instruments simultaneously. I was provided with new ideas and approaches to add to my own repertoire and was inspired to take this approach and entwine it in with my own practice.
Once I began using resources from MF, my students’ progress and engagement skyrocketed. Some students were even taking what we had learned at school and going home looking more detailed parts on Youtube, or creating their own parts to songs. Parents began buying their kids instruments and the kids began to teach each other.
I was seeing the behaviour of my teenage friends, and myself, but in 9 year olds.
I am now in my first year of specialist teaching, due to my passion and persistence in providing musical opportunities to the children at our school. I now proudly have very capable young band of grade 6 students, who have built an unbreakable bond together. They are often in before school and recesses teaching each other their parts and switching between all the instruments they can.
I am fortunate that now I have the opportunity to work with 480 students who all engage in Musical Futures. I believe MF has changed the culture of our school. For many of these students, they would have never received instrumental lessons and now they are full of confidence and have the means to teach themselves. I cannot wait to see my students’ own musical futures flourish in the years to come.
What in my school began with dusting off a few old instruments has flourished into a whole school music program. I aspire to spread my love of Musical Futures and its impact on students, so that more schools get involved, get their students playing and give hope to a future filled with people who have been given the opportunity to allow music to enrich their lives.
My question is, how do we convince teachers, leadership and the wider community to provide students with opportunities to ‘just play’ without them having seen or experienced the benefits first hand?
Further, how do we convince them that music can be integrated across the curriculum for greater engagement in learning and development of 21st century skills, not merely an interruption to the timetable?
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