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Anna Gower is currently working as Acting Head of Academic Governance for Trinity College London and having been involved with Musical Futures since 2004. She is part of the Musical Futures International training team and has delivered workshops in Australia, Canada, America, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Switzerland as well as across the UK.
Musical Futures International are running a series of workshops and consultancies in Dubai, Bangkok and China in 2017-18.
Trinity College London will be releasing Rock and Pop 2018 soon - read more
I was one of the pilot teachers trying informal learning in my classroom at the start of the Paul Hamlyn Herts pathfinder project. I then became part of the Musical Futures UK core team, working for 12 years to establish and grow the online global teacher communities, designing, resourcing and leading the comprehensive teacher training programme and associated development of new approaches and resources for Musical Futures.
Musical Futures has been a massive personal journey for me, first as a practitioner having to completely redesign my identity as a musician and a teacher, then as I travelled and visited schools and worked with teachers to really try to understand what Musical Futures is when it is translated into practice at the chalk face then use this learning to inform the development of new content, training programmes and resources to support the growth of Musical Futures across the world.
I was trying to understand how and why Musical Futures impacts on the lives of thousands of students and teachers across the world and how it can continue to change and adapt to the needs of those who are looking for ways to keep music relevant and meaningful for students in schools.
When I left Monks Walk School after 18 years working in secondary schools in the UK, my line manager asked staff whether they had any idea of Musical Futures actually is.
Nobody could answer.
He had designed a poster that summed up what he thought my interpretation and use of Musical Futures in my classroom was. He described it as ‘a parallel solar system’ where everything is noisy and practical and chaotic and creative and the words he chose really summed up what Musical Futures had become in our school
Fun, Challenging, Inspirational, Groundbreaking, Inclusive, Excitement, New Experiences, International.
Musical Futures can be all those things. But how do you know when you walk into a class that it’s Musical Futures in inspiration or design? Is there a definition, a description or something that remains consistent no matter how and where it’s applied?
I’ve been visiting MF schools over the past 7 years or so, but back in October 2015 I led a tour of MF Champion schools accompanied by a group of teachers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada that really gave me the opportunity to reflect on this.
What I found is that Musical Futures doesn’t look or sound the same in any of the schools I’ve seen. It feels like Musical Futures, I know Musical Futures is there, but I have struggled to pin down how that actually translates into practice.
Our visitors also seemed to find it hard to define what made the lessons, departments and teachers ‘Musical Futures’ lessons, departments and teachers. Other than that they and I had said they were and that they use the MF approaches and resources in much of what they do, my question remained. What does ‘an approach’ actually look like when it’s applied in practice?
The key principles of MF are pretty clear so should I expect to see all of those in every lesson? Students working with friends, learning aurally, the teacher as facilitator? I saw many of them, but not all of them and not all of the time and as you would expect
I saw things that I thought worked really well and things I was less sure were effective. This was down to the interpretation, personalisation and moulding of the approach rather than the approach itself.
To find the answers to the million questions I had, I started by trying to identify what everything I saw in the schools and lessons had in common and I had some great discussions with the others in the group as we drove from school to school.
The first very impressive observation was the engagement, concentration and focus of the students we saw. More than that though, when we talked to them it became clear that they really care about their music work and the department, their teachers and the value of music in their schools.
Perhaps they feel some ownership over this (MF asks that learning starts from students’ own musical passions and interests) and so it becomes particularly important to them.
But can we or should we accredit this solely to MF?
Good teaching/relationships/structures/content=engaged students.
Perhaps MF helps or allows teachers to think about what they teach, why and how and the result is that compelling engagement I have seen everywhere I’ve visited. I needed to unpick this some more.
The second thing was the amount of music in the lessons. It was everywhere. I’ve made a list of the moments that stood out to me the most:
And throughout the tour itself, we sang on the bus, we played music together and the moment that moved me most of all was in a pub where the teachers got up and played one at a time and together. I thought how unbelievably lucky their students are to have musicians of such quality teaching them. .
Can Musical Futures take credit for any this? Music lessons where the majority of time is spent making music? That “you just feel it” moment in the workshops where we sang and played and bonded through music?
And what about the tour itself? Bringing people together through music, forming friendships through a shared drive to find new and best practice to take back into classrooms underpinned by shared Musical Futures aims?
Musical Futures is more than an approach and it’s not just a downloadable resource. It’s not a 6 week ‘MF inspired’ project or a rock and pop scheme of work for year 9.
The workshops that have been running in the last 2 years in the UK, Australia, Canada and Asia are filled with people who tell us they had been inspired by a great musical experience in the workshops to go back into their classrooms and make something happen.
Musical Futures can be the most inspirational and exciting personal journey that really can change everything.
Why not join us? Make something happen, instigate change? It’s a hell of a ride……
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.