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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.
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.
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