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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!
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