All the news from Musical Futures International
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!
3/22/2019 0 Comments
At Peter's Woodlands Grammar School, Glenelg, Michelle Lewis used the Trinity R & P pilot to reflect on how assessment might better engage her grade 7 students in their music learning. Having developed a rubric, Michelle asked students how they felt about the task and the approaches used to help them to improve their work as the project developed.
3/22/2019 0 Comments
At Chaffey Secondary College, Mildura, teacher Luke Peak used Trinity Rock & Pop materials as the basis for an approach using informal learning. Students were given a choice from the Rock & Pop repertoire and used the Play Trinity Rock App to learn the song by listening and copying supported song charts that Luke compiled from resources from Little Kids Rock teacher resources.
3/22/2019 0 Comments
In 2018 Trinity College London and Musical Futures Australia worked together in partnership to develop and test some new resources and approaches for music learning, bringing together teachers from the Musical Futures Australia communities with the aim of engaging more students with music for longer.
The two organisations share a deep commitment to ensuring that musical learning is always a powerful and personal experience for young people. Through Musical Futures’ focus on pupil agency in music teaching and learning, and Trinity’s commitment to nourishing young people’s musical identities through creative and personalised musical assessment opportunities, the project aimed to explore what happens when informal learning and examinations meet in the classroom – and what this can offer young people and their teachers.
The initial pilot focussed on integrating Musical Futures' tried and tested pedagogical practices and approaches to informal learning, with Trinity’s exciting new Rock & Pop 2018 syllabus songs and award-winning practice app, Play Trinity Rock & Pop, with teachers and students immersed in creating live and digital musical experiences.
The partnership aimed to encourage the development of a broad range of musical skills and understanding, which could be celebrated through the assessment of their musical progression against Trinity’s robust assessment framework.
The pilot was evaluated by Emily Wilson and Neryl Jeanneret from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and you can download the full report here:
Teacher Created Resources
One of the outcomes of the pilot came from teachers creating their own approaches to integrating Musical Futures with the Trinity Rock & Pop materials. Michelle Lewis in Adelaide used the project to revisit her approaches to assessment, creating some new rubrics and asking students to take ownership of how their work was assessed and monitored. Luke Peak in Mildura integrated students choice and aural learning that is central to Musical Futures Informal Learning with the Trinity Play Rock & Pop App with his Year 10 group.
And early bird bookings for our 2 day Introduction to Musical Futures International workshops start at just €250 inclusive of all current and futures resources....
We are excited to announce the first 3 workshop dates and locations for our new Musical Futures International European Program.
You can join us in Barcelona in June or Geneva or Cyprus in November.
For more details about our workshops, to read about our in-school consultancy and training program or to register interest in other planned workshop locations, please visit our Workshops in Europe page or contact Anna Gower, European Program Lead - email@example.com. Read more...
2-day Introduction to Musical Futures International - BARCELONA
JUNE 24th and 25th 2019
The Olive Tree School
8, Sant Pere de Ribes 08810,
Early Bird Price: €250 per person
Inclusive of lunch, refreshments and free, unlimited downloads of all current and future Musical Futures International Resources
2-day Introduction to Musical Futures International - GENEVA
NOVEMBER 4th and 5th, 2019
Ecolint International School of Geneva
La Châtaigneraie campus.
2, chemin de la Ferme
Early Bird Price: €320 per person
Inclusive of lunch, refreshments and free, unlimited downloads of all current and future Musical Futures International Resources
2-day Introduction to Musical Futures International - CYPRUS
NOVEMBER 8th and 9th, 2019
University of Nicosia
46 Makedonitissas Avenue
Early Bird Price: €250 per person
Inclusive of lunch, refreshments and free, unlimited downloads of all current and future Musical Futures International Resources
Huge thanks to Musical Futures International Champion Hannah Coates-Jones and the team at The British School Tokyo for hosting our 2 day Introduction to Musical Futures International workshops. We spent the 2 days exploring our core approaches including:
Hannah also led a fantastic lesson and the event concluded with some songwriting sessions to bring all the learning together. Thanks so much to all who came along
Don't forget you can now book or express interest for planned locations for forthcoming workshops in Asia by clicking here
Musical Futures International is seeking schools to host our popular 2 day open workshops in Europe in 2019.
Read on to find out what is involved in hosting and what we offer to host schools in return for use of their space, instruments and some help to promote our events locally and through their networks. You can also read about some our recent events hosted by schools including Harrow Shanghai, Nexus Singapore, Shrewsbury Bangkok, Alice Smith KL, Dubai College, The Bavarian International School and more!
If you are interested in getting involved then please drop our European Program Lead Anna Gower an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hosts for open workshops are:
Hosts for open workshops get:
Musical Futures International supports open workshops by:
What is Mussila Music School and what has it got to do with Musical Futures?
Mussila Music School is a tool to learn the basics of music theory and link the musical ear to the written language of music. As well as teaching the basics of music in a fun and creative way, the Mussila Music School app and approach reinforces some of the core skills that also appear in Musical Futures: Everyone Can Play, our entry level offer for younger children.
Everyone Can Play incorporates activities that include I play, you play, listen then copy, take your turn, find, hear and keep a pulse and basic instrumental skills all of which are also nurtured in the Mussila Music School games through interactive exploration of the basics of music theory, especially through the use of rhythm, melody and timbres.
We asked Musical Futures International Champion Felicity O'Halloran, teacher at Hamlyn Banks PS in Geelong, Victoria to explore how her students in grades 3-6 responded to being able to use Mussila Musical School and huge thanks to Felicity for providing some useful feedback on how they all got on!
What did the students make of it?
My kids have just loved using this app. We start each lesson with Mussila Music School to help tune in and settle into learning The children have very much enjoyed using Mussila Music School, working through the Islands, gaining enough diamonds to buy extra instruments to use in Mussila DJ and Mussila Jam. The app is challenging but not so much that students lose interest, become discouraged and no longer want to use it. The incentives such as gaining and earning diamonds is a great motivator.
Mussila is a good introduction to basic music theory, recognising different instrument sounds and learning to recognise rhythms and melodies. In the 6 weeks we have been using Mussila I have noticed the growth in their understanding of all these three of these areas.
Students have in particular enjoyed using Mussila DJ; this is pretty much every student’s favourite aspect of the app. They have enjoyed playing with the turntable, creating their own sounds and experimenting with sound, adding the effects and sourcing instruments/sounds that they might need to make the performance more interesting.
How did students feel they benefited from using Mussila Music School?
JOIN US FOR A FREE WEBINAR ON FEB 20, 2019 AT 8:30 PM (AUSTRALIAN EASTERN SUMMER TIME, 9.30am GMT)
(RECORDING ALSO AVAILABLE AFTER THE WEBINAR FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T JOIN LIVE)
MF Studio is a collaboration between Musical Futures International and Soundtrap - an online music studio that through its education site SoundtrapEDU delivers many powerful and creative tools for teachers.
MF Studio integrates Musical Futures unique teaching approaches with Soundtrap EDU’s powerful suite of online music production software.
MF Studio has been designed to enable student creativity and particularly collaboration. The activities and resources initially focus on songwriting, composition, beat making, electronic music production as well as multi media like podcasts or adding music and sound to film projects.
With SoundtrapEDU students can make music, create and collaborate with their friends - wherever they are in or out of class - through Soundtrap’s ‘walled garden’ education platform.
The functionality includes drag and drop options through to more complex programming and arranging meaning that an entry point exists for those new to technology as well as the more experienced.
This webinar will be led by Soundtrap experts Adam and Pontus.
Its a free event you can join on the night or register to receive the recording for later viewing.
All participants will be able to access a FREE 90 day trial of SoundtrapEDU for use in their classrooms following the webinar.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
View System Requirements
We can't get enough of this video of year 9 students at iCAN International School, Cambodia shared by their teacher and Musical Futures International Champion Joaan Foo.
Joaan has been a regular attendee at our Asia Intro, Recharge and Further Into MF workshops and has been able to share some inspiring stories about how embedding Musical Futures into her work at iCAN has had a real impact with students of all ages.
As always it is the individual musical stories of each student that sit behind this performance that show the importance of music in school and the difference that programs like Musical Futures International can make to student engagement and musical and personal development as they progress through school.
We wish this group well with their performance to the whole school in the next few weeks!
Huge thanks to Joaan and her students for sharing this with us.
Our first Musical Futures International workshops took place this week at The Bavarian International School, Munich and marked the launch of our new Musical Futures International European Program which we are excited to be implementing across 2019.
Working with teachers from 3 different schools in the city, our Head of training and Development and new European Program Lead Anna Gower put together 2 days of workshops that explored the pedagogical basis of Musical Futures, some of our fantastic audio/visual resources and how these can be cherry-picked to teach to outcomes devised by both teachers and students themselves.
On day 2, the group unpicked how parameters applied to composing and improvising can affect the way teachers approach creative music tasks both as learners and as teachers and the implications of such approaches for their students. The final task, to write an original song produced a fantastic outcome and you can watch back the live video in our Musical Futures International teacher group on Facebook to see how we end our workshops-with one big musical experience!
Teachers all took away plenty of resources to get them started with using Musical Futures in the classroom straight away (all delegates at our workshops receive free and unlimited downloads of all our current and futures resources). We hope our new friends in Munich enjoy trying them out with their classes this week! **
If you are interested in finding out more about Musical Futures International in Europe, please contact Anna Gower via email@example.com.
**please note that this does not apply to workshops run by Musical Futures UK
We are just back from our latest round of CPD events in Asia working with over 1000 parents, teachers and students in Changchun, Shanghai and Bangkok. We even survived travelling from temperatures of -16 in China to +33 in Bangkok across the 2 weeks!
We played, sang, rapped and discussed all things music and education with some fantastic people and as always we have returned with plenty of new ideas for our next round of workshops!
These will take place in Tokyo in early March and New Zealand in Early April. We are also looking forward to our first workshop in Europe as we visit The Bavarian International School to work with staff in February and launching our full 2019 Australia workshop schedule very soon!
The best way to keep up to date with our workshop planning, resource development and all things Musical Futures International is to subscribe to our newsletter (and receive a free songwriting e-book as well!)
MusicBaby Arts, Changchun, China - 10 years, growing stronger!
Our first stop on this trip was at MusicBaby Arts in Changchun, a thriving music school celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a series of 'Music Together' workshops and concerts for members of the local community.
Located in the fantastic Bole Music showrooms, full of beautiful Steinway pianos, workshop participants of all ages made music together. The week finished with a huge celebration concert in a stunning venue in the city attended by over 1000 people which raised £1000 + for a local charity.
Musical Futures International was part of an interactive body percussion session which was great fun and it was lovely to experience a musical culture where everyone joins in, regardless of age or experience!
An Introduction to Musical Futures, Harrow International School, Shanghai
Our next workshops were held in the impressive surrounding of Harrow International School in Shanghai. Teachers from across China joined us for a comprehensive introduction to Musical Futures International and we very much enjoyed our workshops and discussions that took us through approaches to aural learning, I play you play, to whole class composing and improvising and then beyond the play along!
Huge thanks to James Pickering and his staff for hosting us and supporting all the logistics which aren't always what they seem in China!
Intro, Recharge and Further Into Musical Futures International - Bangkok
Our final stop was a return to Shrewsbury International School to welcome over 40 delegates, some of whom were new to Musical Futures International, others were old friends returning to recharge and explore what it means to delve 'further into MFI'.
We also managed to catch up with the Bangkok Teacher Network that meets monthly in the city to network and share ideas and to enjoy the famous Thai food and hospitality across the week.
Huge thanks to Steve, David and the Shrewsbury team for having us back and to everyone who travelled to be part of these workshops. We had a fantastic weekend of music making and making new friends!
Join us in 2019
If you would like to host an open or in-house CPD event for us in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Europe or China in 2019, we are organising our schedules now! Find out more about what's involved and do get in touch for a chat via firstname.lastname@example.org
Here at Musical Futures International, we spend lots of time talking about what we do and why we do it. We love working with music educators across the world and we always learn so much from the people we meet along the way!
But instead of us telling you why you should come to one of our workshops, we thought we would share some of what people who came along in 2018 have said about our 2 day international workshops.
So here are our top 5 reasons to join us in 2019 in the words of those who have been before!
1. "This is the answer to what I’ve always said my teaching philosophy is. I just never had the tools. I’m so excited to use all I’ve learned and get my students really engaged"
Musical Futures is a learner-led approach to the teaching and learning of music that promotes innovation, creativity, inclusion, diversity and lots and lots of music-making. We lead the world in the development of accessible, engaging and relevant music programs that can be delivered sustainably to every student, class or school wherever they are in the world. Read more..
2. "This was fantastic as we got to experience what it is like for students being thrown into the deep end. It really challenged some core beliefs about teacher led activity"
Musical Futures International workshops are about experiencing music as a participant and then unpicking how the experience might inform how teachers then deliver music with and for their classes. Read more...
3. "Happy to be able to work with passionate musicians – teachers! Good balance between learning by song and discussions, supported with research articles"
Our workshops are also a fantastic opportunity to meet other international teachers, exchange ideas and experiences and spend a weekend making music, making new friends and learning together. Read more...
4. "Really appreciated the whole course, the valuable resources provided that we can use and the reinforcement of the ‘approach” as opposed to a curriculum"
We provide all the resources needed to get started and unlimited downloads of new resources as they are released via our website.
5. And finally....
"We had an unreal morning today when my band visited and her students at Hamlyn Banks PS. We workshopped “We’re Going Home” and “Shotgun” together before breaking off into groups and working on it. One of my favourite parts was when the primary students were teaching my big yr12s how to play the marimbas" Scott Mangos, Mount Clear College Ballarat
We think that fun and musical opportunities for students and teachers to work together are really important. Our Musical Futures International online teacher communities are a great way for teachers like Felicity O'Halloran from Hamlyn Banks PS and Performing Arts KLA Leader and Head of Music, Mount Clear College Scott Mangos to bring their students together through music.
Musical Futures International Champions Felicity and Scott first connected through Musical Futures Australia and were both part of our Musical Futures International teacher study tour to America in 2017.
We really enjoyed hearing about the visit of a student band from Mount Clear to Hamlyn Banks Primary School today to work with younger students and play some music together and we hope you enjoy the photos and video from the day!
11/21/2018 0 Comments
Musical Futures is a student-centred approach to music learning and teaching which originally developed from and is most commonly found in music classrooms in schools across the world.
However in addition to our recent work with instrumental teachers in China, where we have been exploring the relevance of Musical Futures in instrumental learning, in the UK the Disquiet project has also looked outside the classroom. Disquiet explores whether accessible teaching methods, such as Musical Futures: Just Play and instructional YouTube videos, could be adapted to effectively support music sessions for 13-15 year olds.
The Disquiet pilot project worked with six trainee music leaders aged 16-19 at both Strood Youth Centre and Ideas Test in Sittingbourne in the UK and the two focus areas explored firstly what training might be required for young people to lead workshops with younger peers and whether the current Musical Futures resources originally designed for use by teachers in classrooms would be appropriate in these new settings.
Disquiet was supported by funding from Youth Music. Kent Music kindly continued to facilitate the project at Ideas Test, Sittingbourne, beyond the funding period. The pilot was managed by SparkedEcho on behalf of Musical Futures UK
A reflective piece written by SparkedEcho Director Kevin Grist can be found here and the full write up is well worth a read for anyone interested in learning more about keeping student choice and voice at the heart of their music program.
Here at Musical Futures International, we are keen to keep learners/students/young people at the very heart of their music education. The mix of formal and non formal/informal approaches that Musical Futures advocates should always be driven by the needs, wants and existing passions for music of those at the receiving end of their own music education.
We were particularly interested in what the young people had to say about the Musical Futures: Just Play resources and how young people used these in combination other openly-available resources such as those found on Youtube or similar to teach themselves and others. We love the idea of how these were blended to create what Kevin describes as "a youth-led adaptation" of Musical Futures.
There are also some interesting implications for teachers allowing students to incorporate open-source resources into informal learning in terms of the support they might need to find the most useful content to achieve the musical outcomes they set for themselves. Kevin identifies issues with quality, usefulness, licensing and more as potential issues for students to navigate through.
The young people were then able to create their own resources and the videos below are a great example of what they produced themselves in response to some of the challenges they faced.
It would be great to see the kinds of resources students in our Musical Futures International communities might produce if they were given similar ownership over their learning and invited to pass that learning on through peer to peer music activities both in school or in other settings.
We would also love to know what students make of the video resources produced by the young people involved in the pilots which can be found below.
Please do read the full write up of the project on the Musical Futures UK website by clicking here and you can leave any comments or feedback at the bottom of this post.
We are just back from our latest trip to Asia. Thanks so much to everyone who came along and to our host teachers Peter, Vindy, Elise, Luke, Nicki and Sam. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and meet new ones and we can't wait to return in January!
Workshops at The Education University, Hong Kong
We spent a great few days working with Masters and Undergraduate students and meeting and reconnecting with the faculty at the Education University, Hong Kong. We particularly enjoyed filling the lecture hall with music as we made use of ukuleles, ipads, phones and laptops to play and create music as a way to understand Musical Futures approaches and their relevance to both classroom and instrumental teaching and learning.
2 day workshops at The Australian International School, Hong Kong
Our 2 day Introduction and Recharge workshops were great fun and we enjoyed introducing some new content including a brand new Beyond the Play Along session, new MF Styles and Everyone Can Play resources and a chance to explore MF: Studio, our approach for Music Technology developed in partnership with Soundtrap. Thanks so much to our hosts Peter, Vindy, Elise and staff and students at the school for excellent hospitality and for lending us their teaching spaces and instruments for the weekend!
On to Kuala Lumpur!
Our final workshops for 2018 took place at St Joseph's Institution International School, KL and it was lovely to welcome back old friends who had attended previous workshops in KL, Bangkok and Singapore and to meet new teachers from Cambodia, Malaysia and Australia! We loved hearing how teachers have been using Musical Futures International approaches since their first workshops in international and government schools and the impact it has had on their students.
Join us in 2019!
We will be back in Asia in Shanghai and Bangkok in January 2019 and will be announcing new workshop dates and locations soon. Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to find a workshop near you!
About Just Play
Musical Futures: Just Play is our Musical Futures International 'first access' program for both teachers and students. It is designed to build holistic musical skills and an understanding of how to play as a whole class band.
Just Play provides a scaffold for both teachers and students to engage with other aspects of Musical Futures, originally developed for older students, that are delivered through non-formal teaching and informal learning approaches once they move 'beyond the play-along'.
Just Play was originally developed for middle years students aged 8 - 11, but over the past few years we have seen more teachers of younger children participating in our Musical Futures Australia and Musical Futures International workshops and so we developed Everyone Can Play, a comprehensive instrument by instrument resource for whole class instrumental learning especially designed for beginners.
Musical Futures International Learning Models
Everyone Can Play
Following the success of our Everyone Can Play Ukulele resource which is now being used in schools across Asia and Australia, we are delighted to launch the next in our Everyone Can Play series - ECP keyboard, ECP guitar, ECP Styles and ECP bass at our 'Recharge' workshops in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur in early November.
All delegates at our forthcoming Musical Futures International workshops will be amongst the first to take away the new resources to use in their schools after the workshops.
How you can get involved
Ken and Anna are just back from our most recent trip to China, where we have been working with instrumental, teachers, students and parents and learning a huge amount about how Musical Futures is resonating in contexts that are very different from where it first began!
First stop Music China, Shanghai
Our presentation, given as part of the NAMM University sessions at Music China, considered how it might be possible to build on the years of research and proven outcomes from Musical Futures as predominantly a classroom approach might also change mindsets of instrumental teachers about how and why they teach music.
Could working with instrumental teachers and their employers help us to move towards finding a continuum of student voice, engagement, relevance and personalisation within the formal contexts of the Chinese instrumental music education system to keep more people playing more music for longer?
We talked about what expectations parents, students and teachers might bring to the music learning on offer and how what happens in lessons could be enriched by placing more of an emphasis on student agency than might currently be in place.
Later in the week we had the chance to test out some of this in practical workshops with parents, students and teachers in 2 different cities, Changchun and Harbin.
We were keen to find out if it could it be possible for instrumental teachers to relate to the content of the workshops and more importantly to be able to apply any of it to their own teaching situation. How could the experiences of participating in large group music-making really relate to a one to one teaching situation?
What relevance might engaging with popular music have to traditional piano teaching? How could students' own musical interests be accommodated in an exams-driven teaching situation and more importantly why might this even be necessary?
Would getting parents to play music alongside their children have any impact on their expectations of a music lesson?
And most importantly could we communicate the learning that sits behind the practical workshops through translators?
Read on to find out......
And while we were in Shanghai.....
We popped into our host school for our January Introduction to Musical Futures intensive 2 day workshops! Our host teacher James showed us around the fantastic music spaces and we even got to watch the sun set over the roof garden! if you would like to join us in January, all the details can be found here
The location for the first of our workshops was the MusicBaby Arts centre, part of the impressive Bole Music showrooms in Changchun. We started with a full day of workshops for 30 children with parents and teachers observing. However feedback during the break was that they were getting bored just watching so we pulled everyone in and had a great afternoon jamming together.
The following day was our first with the teachers. In order to communicate our aims we hooked our workshops around the premise that there are many different ways to learn music and that we would experience some of these as participants then reflect on whether they might be relevant to the way that the teachers work with their students.
We identified some key things we wanted to explore under the heading "ways to learn music" and in each activity referred back to the list:
At the start of day 2, our hosts led a really interesting discussion about the need to change approaches in China. The discussion started with the teachers each sharing a sentence in response to the questions 'what is creativity' and then they were taken through some history and context of music education in China. Then 2 teachers were selected to share their feedback on the workshops so far and how they thought they might be able to apply any of the learning to their situation.
The one theme that kept recurring was that it was the expectations of parents that was the main barrier to creative approaches to instrumental teaching in China. Students start learning music around age 4, but by the time they get to 8 they have too much homework to be able to continue. So some parents want their children to follow a narrow pathway through exam grades as far as they can get and as quickly as possible before they have to stop and move onto other things having ticked the music education box.
With an opportunity to work directly with parents ahead, how best to communicate other benefits to learning and experiencing music than just exam certificates?
We finished day 2 with some great large group composing and improvising activities which got everyone making music together and brought the 3 days to a really musical end.
Further North to Harbin
Just over an hour by train from Changchun is Harbin, the location for our last workshops for this trip. Armed with all the learning from the last 2 days, we included the creativity discussion session, again led by our hosts, as part of day 1, just before 15 small children and their parents arrived for an evening workshop.
We decided that we would use our new 'Styles' resources because these incorporate percussion, chords and riffs, enough to be divided between the large group we were working with. We started by teaching the parents to play guitar and uke chords, we supported them with some soloing and then brought in the children to add in the percussion groove. The teachers from the workshops were also there and it was great to get everyone playing together and to make a judgement on the variety of ability levels within the group. Based on that, we ended with one big 'funky jam'
Following that uplifting session, day 2 was a brilliant day of playing, rapping, singing, laughing and the taking of many photos with Anna and Ken!
So what did we learn?
Without lyrics and a melody, you haven't really got a song and therefore it's really important for students to feel confident to try out ideas vocally as they write their own songs.
We have rounded up 5 of our favourite pieces of advice for creating a positive ethos for singing and songwriting in class to help students to feel more confident in general with singing.
We have also provided a few video resources from the Musical Futures Find Your Voice program which was developed to increase confidence amongst teachers to lead singing activities with their classes and we will be sharing more of these in the next few months.
1) Don't always call it singing
Some students, particularly adolescents find the term singing a bit off-putting. This could be based on previous experience, associations of singing with primary school or a lack of confidence with changing voices for boys. Instead of branding activities as singing, incorporate and encourage any use of the voice including beat-boxing, humming, chanting, rapping, vocal percussion even whistling! The following video is one of a series designed to get started with beatboxing and you can find the rest here
2) Approximation and enthusiasm from the teacher goes a long way!
Having a go is better than being afraid to try and what better way to instil confidence than for the teachers to model, jam and join in. Use silly warm-ups and games to develop a sense of fun with vocal work in class.
The free resources developed as part of the Find Your Voice program includes a bank of vocal warm ups and ice breakers to start to slowly introduce vocal work with classes. The following is an example and you can find loads more warm ups and ice breakers here.
3) Use music as a 'safety net'
As our recent article about songwriting with backing tracks suggests, having some kind of accompaniment perhaps played on piano or guitar by the teacher or using a backing track as you sing or compose helps students feel far less exposed than when singing alone.
Our latest free e-book, available to anyone who signs up to our mailing list, contains free backing tracks and play along videos in different musical styles as well as ideas for using Soundtrap to incorporate music tech to support singing and songwriting. Sign up here to get hold of your copy today!
5) Integrate student choice
The Musical Futures Informal Learning model places student choice at its very heart and there's no reason why this can't apply to singing as well. Revisit Lucy Green's informal learning principles and why not try our Find Your Voice whole class 4-chord mash up activity where students perform and record their own accompaniment to create medleys and mash ups from songs of their choice.
A note about the role of the teacher. The guidance for teachers that is threaded through Musical Futures is something that every single teacher can try no matter where or what they are teaching.
It asks that first the teacher stands back and observes, empathises with the outcomes that students set for themselves and helps THEM to find ways to get there rather than laying out the path in front of them for them to follow.
It asks that they model instead of tell, play with and for the students so that the music surrounds the learning and the teaching comes from the music itself.
This can be a real challenge - allowing students time and space to show what they already know and to show how they can find solutions and answers without being told, especially when it comes to singing.
However, the sense of ownership and empowerment that results is one that requires a 2-way transfer of learning and creating a happy and positive ethos towards singing and vocal work in the classroom is an exciting and important aspect of helping students along the way to writing and performing songs of their own.
In the next few months, Musical Futures International will be supporting some new research into creative education working with Melbourne Graduate School of Education and Geelong Grammar School. Two teacher pilot groups, one in Australia and one in the UK will be tasked with providing practical, classroom focused input into the development of the finished product, approach and resources.
What is the research about?
There is very little professional development available for teachers to support the General Capability of Critical and Creative Thinking. We are investigating the impact of aspects of the RISE Model of Creative Education on the music classroom and the outcomes for teachers.
Specifically, we will identify teacher perceptions of creativity and teacher outcomes in the areas of professional development and practice.
This project is part of a larger, international study and the Model and these strategies have been trialled across F-12 at the Geelong Grammar School in Victoria for 18 months.
How will it work?
This is part of a truly an international program involving the Universities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Connecticut along with some of the world’s leading thinkers in the area of creative education.
The work we will do in Australia will launch with two Melbourne workshops led by Associate Professor Neryl Jeanneret from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. These will then replicated in the UK with Anna Gower leading those workshops working with Hertfordshire Music Service and teachers from Hertfordshire schools.
As the pilot progresses we will be sharing our experiences through our newsletters and news pages.
Nick Beach is a music education consultant, writer and musician. He took his degree at Dartington, following this with orchestral training at the National Centre of Orchestral Studies. Nick successfully mixed playing and teaching, working for Berkshire Young Musicians Trust as Head of Education. He joined Trinity College London in 2002, becoming Academic Director in 2011, a post which he held until early 2018. He now works on a freelance basis and has recently completed a three-month project in Australia. Nick was also a guest presenter at Musical Futures International 's 'The Big Gig' teacher conference in Melbourne in June.
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Read more about the Writers Unblocked project and some of the resources used to get the songwriting workshops up and running in this free pamphlet ->
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