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Musical Futures Australia Champion Teacher Michael Newton was part of a group of MF International teachers who travelled to America in July 2017 to take part in our friends Little Kids Rock's annual teacher conference Rockfest.
Read his summary of the trip and what he plans to take back to his school in Perth, Australia.
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"There's a brighter future around the corner and we get to build it with them" (David Wish – Founder and CEO of Little Kids Rock). Hang on to that thought.
"What was I doing in the USA? After a 40-hour journey to get there off the back of ski trip in the 1st week of holidays, and production rehearsals in the second, I was seriously asking the same question. Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge how incredibly privileged I am to have been invited by Musical Futures to head over to the USA with them for the Little Kids Rock (LKR) Rockfest Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado (thanks Ian, Ken and Anna!).
I have just spent close on 2 amazing, intense, and beautiful weeks hanging out with arguably some of the best and most innovative music teachers from Australia, NZ, and the UK. I’m not sure I’m in that category, but there you go. We’ve swapped ideas, challenged each other, problem solved, brain stormed, and laughed. Laughed so much for so long it hurt. It was the Little Kids Rockfest, but the big kids rocked just as hard as the little kids. The people I travelled with were a truely awesome bunch of individuals. It’s rare to connect and bond as quickly and as well as we all did.
LKR is a not-for-profit organisation promoting and rolling out ‘Modern Band’ in US schools. It’s an impressive organisation. Modern Band teaches kids to perform, improvise and compose using styles they’re familiar with such as rock, pop, reggae, hip hop, and R&B. I did workshops on integrating modern band into alternative ensembles (I played the steel pans – how cool is that?), scaffolding, how to get kids arranging pieces into different musical styles, and some really cool stuff on pBones and pTrumpets (plastic trombones and trumpets). We also did some workshops on Latin and Hip-Hop in LA. I’ve come back with a head full of ideas, possibilities and things to try out and experiment with in class with the kids. "There's a brighter future around the corner and we get to build it with them".
We heard a compelling argument from Dr Ruth Wright (a leading music sociologist from Western University, Canada) on why music education is a human right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. By the way, she’s right!
I won’t go into all the ideas I’ve come back with (we’d be here all day), but here’s a few things that leapt out at me. They’re in no particular order, and with varying degrees of relevance to music education, and/or education more widely:
What drives us as music educators?
The value of being part of a community brought together around music and music education
The impact on learning
That thought’s a remarkably powerful one. "There's a brighter future around the corner and we get to build it with them".
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