Nursery Rhymes – Literacy, Imagination and Identity

Nursery rhymes are traditional poems sung to small children. They often contain historical references and fantastical characters, and many have been rumoured to have hidden meanings.

The earliest nursery rhymes documented include a 13th century French poem numbering the days of the month. From the mid 16th century children’s songs can be found recorded in English plays. Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man is one of the oldest surviving English nursery rhymes, first appearing in The Campaigners, a play written in 1698 by Thomas d’Urfey (1653 -1723). Interestingly, D’Urfey, active as a writer in the days when the term ‘wit’ was held almost as a career epithet, also composed songs and poetry and was instrumental to the evolution of the Ballad opera.

The first English collections of nursery rhymes were published before 1744.  Tommy Thumb’s Song Book and Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book included rhymes including London Bridge is Falling Down, Hickory Dickory Dock, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and Baa Baa Black Sheep; the very same songs popular today, nearly 300 years after they were first published. In fact they were probably sung for many years before publication, passed down in the oral tradition.

There is a lot of speculation about the words of these rhymes with suggestions that they refer covertly to insalubrious or violent topics. It is commonly believed that Ring a Ring o Roses is about the black plague that hit London in 1655, with the ‘rosie’ thought to refer to the rash that developed and ‘we all fall down’ (dead) being the result, but although this theory fits with the illustrative lyrics, there is actually no evidence to support this.

John Newbery’s collection of English Rhymes, Mother Goose’s Melody (or Sonnets for the Cradle) was published in 1765. This is the first record of many of today’s classic nursery rhymes. Newberry’s compilation seems to come from a variety of sources including drinking songs, historical events, traditional riddles, proverbs, ballads, lines of Mummers’ plays and even ancient pagan rituals.

The name Mother Goose is associated with Maurice Ravel’s piano suite (Ma Mère l’Oye) which was originally written for two children of Ravel’s acquaintance and subsequently orchestrated for ballet. The movements of Ravel’s suite relate more to fairytale characters such as Sleeping Beauty and Tom Thumb than to the nursery rhymes of Newberry’s publication.

There are rumours that Mozart wrote Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He didn’t. But he did write variations on a French children’s song, Ah! vous dirai-je, maman, originally an anonymous pastoral song dating from 1740. The words to the popular English lullaby are from an early 19th-century English poem by Jane Taylor, The Star. The tune has been used for other songs too, including Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Despite, or maybe because of, the lack of real historical clarity, nursery rhymes and their weird and wonderful characters continue to entertain. History and the role of music in society are undoubtedly interwoven in a fascinating way into the sometimes seemingly nonsensical words of the songs. Pop Goes the Weasel is a nursery rhyme and singing game, first found in a manuscript of 1853, which not only references a pub that still exists, The Eagle on City Road, London, the words were added to an already existing dance tune.

Considering elements such as the incorporation of a pub into this song, it does seem likely that many nursery rhymes were not actually written for children. According to Kay Vandergrift, Professor Emerita of Children’s Literature at Rutgers University, most of them were part of an oral-based society that relayed news, spread coded rumours about authority figures, and worked out its moral dilemmas in rhyme and song. Existing nonsense rhymes would be adapted to make references to current events. It was not until the 19th century and the Victorian romanticising of childhood the past that nursery rhymes were written down and presented in collections for small children.

The poems are inhabited by kings and queens, peasants and drunkards, historical and mythical characters from a wild, often rural past. They predate many of our modern preferences, yet they are still relevant to today’s children and parents.

The world that spawned the rhymes seems far away from our modern lives, but the reasons people sang nursery rhymes are still the same.

Why Nursery Rhymes are Important

The dish ran away with the spoon…

Adults instinctively converse with babies using a sing- song voice with short, repetitive phrases and long pauses for the baby to respond.

This ‘dialect’ can be described as musical in its characteristics of rhythm, timing and rising and falling pitch. The qualities for relating well to babies and toddlers are also the basis of music, a nice synchronicity, since music is a means for bringing people together.

The way in which parents interact with their baby is vital to the baby’s development. It has been found that mothers who are having difficulty relating or who are suffering from depression can be helped if they are encouraged to sing and play musical games with their children. The singing provides a framework to support the mother to baby interaction.

Nursery rhymes fall into two categories:

  • Lullabies – designed to lull a baby to sleep or soothe a fretful toddler, lullabies are an age-old part of childcare in all cultures.
  • One-to-one songs/play songs – more appropriate for older babies and toddlers, these songs. They are sung and played on laps, often featuring actions such as knee joggling, tickling and surprise dips and spills. They are mini dramatic stories full of language, excitement, anticipation and rhythmic movement.

They help infant development and family relationships:

They are good for the brain. The repetition of rhymes and stories teaches language and builds memory. Nursery rhymes also often represent a child’s first experience of literacy. Before a child learns to read, they can see how a book works.

Nursery rhymes preserve generations’ worth of history and culture. Familiar rhymes provide common ground between parents, grandparents and children, and between people who don’t know each other.

Singing is a great group activity. Singing nursery rhymes allows children to feel confident about singing and dancing, engaging them with music and building self esteem.

The moralistic lessons in some rhymes might seem important, but the main message of nursery rhymes is that they are fun to learn and sing. The supposed meanings of the songs and their obscure origins do not detract from their value – the words just sound good and help children discover a shared language, shared experience and a sense of a shared past.

Resource:

http://www.mamalisa.com has lots of great songs and nursery rhymes from around the world. Here’s one we use in our workshops – a Turkish version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm


Contact the Music Workshop Company today!

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A New Beginning for Musicland

Musicland Publications has been a leading publisher of sheet music, tuition books, teaching materials, teacher training programs, and learning resources for the Music Education sector, for over 30 years. String teachers in particular will be familiar with its tuition books, classical and contemporary music for solo instruments and ensembles.

Earlier this year, the firm announced an exciting re-launch, and a change of management, as Simon Hewitt Jones takes the reins.

The back-story

Caroline and Alan Lumsden with their four children in 1986.

The Musicland catalogue was established in 1984 to distribute the music of Anita Hewitt Jones and her daughter Caroline Lumsden, both music education specialists. Over the course of 30 years, it has grown into a wide range of high-quality musical and educational resources that help children become immersed in practical and theoretical music. The library of compositions leads children from their very first experiences of music right through to Grade 8 standard and beyond.

Founder Caroline trained as a violinist and singer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before qualifying as a primary school teacher. Passionate about the social side of music, she believes that every child, whatever their background, should be given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and partake in group playing and singing, giving them a head start in life.

Caroline’s Musicland characters and rhythm training are used worldwide to help the very young learn to read music subconsciously. The method, developed at the Gloucester Academy, was subsequently adopted by StringTime at Junior Trinity.

What’s new?

In January 2017, Caroline announced the re-launch of Musicland Publications with Simon taking over the day-to-day management. Her decision to step back is largely due to taking time out to care for her husband, Musicland co-founder Alan, who is coping with Alzheimer’s. Simon, who is a virtuoso violinist and Director of the pioneering online teaching resource, ViolinSchool, is Caroline’s nephew, and as the business passes to a third generations, Caroline will remain closely involved with updating the catalogue and planning new publications, as well as delivering a limited number of workshops each year.

She says,

I know that my mother Anita (Hewitt Jones – whose popular chamber music compositions make up the bulk of the early Musicland catalogue) would be delighted that Simon is at the helm.

Musicland’s brand new e-commerce website at www.musiclandpublications.com features some of their best-loved string sheet music and educational resources.

The online shop features favourites such as Bread and Butter Pudding, Lollipop Man, the ever-popular Ragtime Serenade and Rumba, and many more, with new covers rolled out across the catalogue, and some of the ‘classic’ Musicland pieces now available again for next day despatch.

The new site means that the entire Musicland Publications catalogue will soon be available through most major sheet music retailers, including in Europe and Australia, with direct worldwide shipping.

Simon’s son Rubin… the fourth generation!

What does the future hold?

Musicland will be creating a plethora of books, video programs and apps for learners of all ages, and developing plans for the firm to become a state-of-the-art digital publisher for string music and educational resources. As Caroline says,

Anita was a deeply passionate advocate of music education, and we’ll be holding close to her values and legacy as we move Musicland forward into the digital age!

 

 

 

 

www.MusiclandPublications.com

sales@musiclandpublications.com

+44 (0) 20 3468 4744


The Music Workshop Company would love to hear your music education stories. If you would like to feature on our blog, contact us today

Ages 11 to 14: The Barren Years

img_0029The profile of classical music in schools is complex, with provision, inclusion and expectations differing wildly between primary and secondary age groups. Professional cellist and secondary school classroom teacher Sarah Evans describes her experiences of teacher attitudes, her frustration that classical music continues to be viewed as too challenging, and her determination to let her students make up their own minds.

“As a professional musician, I have spent much of my career teaching and promoting classical music. Yet as classical audiences diminish, I feel we are fighting to try and keep our business alive and our careers worth pursuing. When I chose to train as a secondary school music teacher, I was very much conscious of the diminishing returns on my own educational investments and keen to discover why classical music is a dying art.

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

As a musician, I have many hours giving workshops to children around the country. I have seen the impact these have had both short and long term. Classical musicians are confident taking their skills and enthusiasm to primary schools where students have usually be primed and are almost exclusively enthusiastic and will take part in any activities on offer.

As a teacher I cannot tell you how many year 7 students have shown me what they have learnt at a Royal Opera House Schools’ Matinee, an Opera North singing project, or the Gamelan visits they participated in, sung the songs taught to them by professional singers, or enthused about the instruments they have seen and heard when specialists arrived at their school for a day. Despite the lack of funding for specialist music teachers in primary schools, these students arrive at secondary school pre-enthused, malleable, happy to sing, open minded and in some cases, well educated in a variety of musical genres. As musicians, we feel we have been educating the next generation of audience members.

However, as students reach secondary school, this musical confidence and excitement often wanes. The funding and opportunities for musicians to take part in professionally offered musical projects stops, the time and energy to discover new genres and musical paths by students stops as exam pressure kicks in, and as teenage hormones kick in, we as teachers often resort to the path of least resistance – giving them the music they are already familiar with.

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In my 17 years of giving workshops to schools and communities, I only once had the opportunity to visit a secondary school, and that was to play briefly to GCSE students – scary enough in my pre-teacher days. As a musician, the thought of trying to engage 32, 11-14 year olds filled me with dread. As a teacher, KS3 lessons can at times be a fight: Students know they can drop music at the end of year 8 or 9, so bad grades will have no impact on their future. And yet this is the age that we need to be targeting. Students start forming staunch opinions about what they do and don’t like at this stage and without giving them options, they cannot make informed choices.

There is too little support for secondary school teachers in the realms of classical music. Many schemes and projects have been recently formed to ‘gee-up’ music in the secondary school classroom, but almost all of it leaves classical music (and other equally exciting genres) as the poor cousin to rock and pop, and non-classically trained musicians somewhat in the dark.

I recently attended a secondary music teachers course and also taught in a secondary school, where my admission that I taught western notation to Year 7 and that we studied classical music in a positive way was met with shock and distain. Why was I bothering?

Teachers asked if anyone had ideas as to what classical music they could teach KS3 (years 7-9) which might be engaging as they now have to prepare their students for the new (classically inclusive) GCSE. The only responses from other music teachers? Pachelbel’s Canon, “as they can write pop songs from it,” and, “The Alton Towers Theme Tune, because they all know it.”

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

[image: Tiffany Bailey Flickr]

If classical music appears inaccessible to music teachers and musicians cannot access funding to offer support, how are we to engage the next generation of classical audience? The BBC 10 Pieces scheme is accessible, pre-planned, full of resources, engaging and challenging – it is frankly, brilliant – but teachers are still wary of starting it as the vicious circle of classical music being ‘boring’ still exists. As we all know, boring is a term used frequently by teenagers. It mostly hides a fear from lack of understanding. As teachers we are shattered and yes and if we are lucky, our departments will be given enough money in the year to rub a ukulele and a drum stick together. But we have a responsibility to challenge students, to introduce them to things that they may not otherwise come across, to break down barriers, to try new ideas and to do this without prejudice.

Listening is free, a highly underused resource in music classrooms and this is often where professional workshops succeed. Regularly offering up examples of all styles of classical music, telling the stories behind the music, the dirty details of the composers and making it interesting is so invaluable to producing students confident to engage with the genre. Now, I am not saying that classical music is in anyway the purest art form, that students will all instantly adore Beethoven, nor that it should be taught exclusively in schools. Our lives need balance and we should be opening our students’ eyes to as many musical genres as we can. But as teachers and musicians, we should be doing our research, challenging our own fears and preferences and offering up the full smorgesbord of experiences that music has to offer. As an industry, classical music could be doing so much more here to support schools, in the same way it does at primary school level. I feel exceptionally lucky to have taught in a school where all musical genres were promoted and encouraged in and out of the classroom from day one. As a result, students who set up their own Renaissance choral group and Indian classical group sat alongside those who set up their own funk band, those in the school musical and those who DJ’d.

Our opinions are based on what we know. If we don’t regularly offer children as many choices as possible throughout their education, we are limiting their options. Doing this purely at primary school age and again at GCSE is not enough – we need more funding, more education and less fear of the existing preferences of students between 11 and 14. As classical musicians and as teachers, we need to consider these barren years of KS3 if we are to train up the audiences of tomorrow.”

Sarah Evans is a professional cellist who trained at The Royal Academy of Music and Trinity College of Music. She is a qualified secondary school classroom teacher originally working in schools in London and more recently, Yorkshire.  

From Small Beginnings to Big Impact Learning

6082091This month marks the 14th birthday of the Music Workshop Company. To celebrate, Maria Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director, tells us about her inspiraton, highlights and vision for the future. Alongside her work at MWC, Maria is Programme Leader for the Music Industry Management Programme at the University of Hertfordshire. Her specialism is entrepreneurship and small business.

Why music?

“Both my parents are music teachers and keen semi-professional musicians, so I was introduced from music from a very young age. I learnt to read music when I learnt to read words, and played recorder and piano from the age of 3. I took up the oboe when I was 9: I wanted to play the trombone but my arms weren’t long enough! The oboe gave me the opportunity to play regularly in a fabulous range of ensembles including orchestras and wind bands. When I was about 14, the music service had vacancies for bassoon players and saxophone players. I looked into playing bassoon, my arms still weren’t long enough! So I took up saxophone alongside oboe, recorder and piano.”

Beginnings…

200-0-706-0-6469-10000-1243-2“I studied oboe at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban) on what had been called the BMus Plus course, which offered students the chance to tailor their studies to their interests. We were introduced to workshop skills in our first year and I loved visiting schools working with children on performance and composition. I was very lucky to have an inspirational workshop skills tutor, Kate Buchanan, who encouraged me and allowed me to sit in on workshops she was leading. Whilst at College I had vague ideas of working with other musicians to run workshops, but I never thought I’d end up setting up and running a business!

I loved visiting schools working with children on performance and composition

In my final term at Trinity, Kate told me about an internship opportunity that was being advertised through the Education Department at The Royal Opera House. As a big opera fan, I applied immediately. The job was in the Orchestra Office and after a summer of interning, I was able to join the team in a full time role, working with the orchestra, stage bands, as well as co-ordinating auditions, chamber music concerts and Health and Safety.

While I was at the Opera House I began to think seriously about the idea of setting up a kind of agency supplying workshops to schools. I knew teachers who were keen to have workshops but didn’t always know what would work for them, or which musicians would be best, and I knew lots of musicians who were running inspiring workshops. So I left the Opera House to set MWC up as a bridge between the two.”

The idea…

“One thing I was keen to do was to create the projects that schools wanted. Other workshops organisations who were around at the time each had one specialism – one would feature singing, another African drumming – I wanted MWC to be able to offer a wide range of projects that could be tailored exactly to the school’s need.

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At the beginning I really didn’t know much about running a business, and although I was lucky enough to have support from my local Enterprise Agency with advice on contracts and general marketing, they didn’t know the specifics of working in Arts Education. I wish I had known more about running a business before I launched MWC, that’s why I’m so passionate about my work at the University. It’s very full on, and I try to ensure that my students know both the real life challenges and benefits of running their own business. I have learnt a great deal through trial and error.”

Growing the business…

“Our initial market was schools as that is where my experience lay, but since launching we have worked with a wide range of organisations such as community groups, event managers, businesses and Universities.

The growth into areas such as community groups and businesses was not something I originally planned, but we have worked with a great range of people from Brownie camps in Lancashire to businesses in Southampton. The team has grown: What started with just me in the office and a team of 5 musicians is now a business with up to 4 people in the office and 40 musicians!”

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The future of music…

“I am passionate about access to music for everyone and schools offer a great opportunity to give children and young people the chance to actively take part in music making. We hope to inspire people to follow up their MWC experience through school or online resources. One of my favourite experiences is when we run open workshops in venues such as shopping centres. Children have the chance to show parents the rhythms they have learnt at school or adults come and join in having not played an instrument since they were at school.

I believe that Music and the Arts should be an integral part of education at all levels

I believe that Music and the Arts should be an integral part of education at all levels. So many skills are developed: Team work, performance skills, motor skills, language skills and confidence… So much research shows that access to the Arts is a vital part of life, we need to do everything we can to widen access both in schools and out.”

The vision…

“MWC visits a wide range of schools, many of which are doing great work at engaging children and young people with music and see it as an important part of school life. few see a one-off workshop as their obligation to music completed, which I think is very sad.

maria-djembeMy hope for music education is that it is compulsory for all schools to engage with music up to Year 10 and that students are encouraged and supported to take part in musical activities post Year 10, whether that be playing in a band, attending concerts or just playing for their own pleasure.

I hope that MWC inspires participants, through exposing them to new genres of music or inspiring them with our talented workshop leaders who bring their performing expertise to the workshops. I’m also keen to develop MWC’s online learning resources. The archives of blogs, articles and Top Tips are growing but we have plans to develop this further with more teaching resources.”

The inspiration…

“I love everything about running music workshops! I enjoy liaising with the clients to find out what it is they are looking for and leading a workshop, but my favourite moment is when the participants perform the piece they have been working on whether it’s an informal performance at the end of the session or a performance in a school assembly. Seeing the development from a group who may never have seen that particular instrument through to an ensemble that can perform a piece is something I find hugely rewarding.

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I also love returning to work with the same group over time. One of the groups I have worked with is a local adult Mencap Group. I’ve been running workshops for them since 2007 and have got to know the members really well. It’s great to repeat their favourite activities alongside introducing them to new instruments and rhythms.”

About MWC…

The Music Workshop company (MWC) aims to supply high quality, bespoke, interactive and fun workshops to clients. We aim to supply the workshop on the date of choice and follow the timetable of choice. We can create a workshop that is just for fun such as for Arts Week or Cultural Week or meet specific outcomes such as preparing for a performance, linking to GCSE / A-Level set works. This can be a challenge as if people haven’t had workshops before they don’t know what to ask for – or they have had a workshop in the past and want an exact replica and we might supply something slightly different.

 

Bridging the Musical Gap

Across the UK there are outstanding young musicians whose financial circumstances are a real barrier to achieving their full musical potential. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, more than 2.5 million UK children currently live in poverty, and of these, 350,000 are not able to pursue a leisure activity or hobby such as learning a musical instrument due to a lack of available finances. It is estimated that, as a result of deprivation, between 600 and 1000 children with exceptional musical abilities are lost to our society every year.

Future Talent was founded in 2004, co-created with The Duchess of Kent. The Duchess spent 13 years teaching music in an East Hull primary school and has first-hand experience of the challenges young people face in learning an instrument. Over the past 10 years the organisation has worked with and supported many talented young musicians from across the UK, helping them realise their dreams.

The Music Workshop Company team talk to Future Talent’s Craig Titley about musical excellence without boundaries…

What is Future Talent?

“We support exceptionally talented young instrumentalists and singers up to the age of 18, who, due to financial hardship, low aspirations and lack of opportunity would otherwise struggle to realise their musical potential. We provide a bridge for young musicians from low-income backgrounds to enable them to study at junior conservatoires and ultimately give them the option of a career in music.

(c) Alex Harvey-Brown, Poppy cropped

Our ambition is to make it possible for young people to make a career in music of all genres, whatever their start in life. There’s still a lot of work to do, but with the right level of support at the right time in the development of a young person’s musical journey, a career in music doesn’t have to be an unachievable pipe dream.”

Why is this important?

“The Making Music report, published by Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in autumn 2014, makes it clear that sustained, progressive music education sadly still tends to be the preserve of children born to wealthier parents. The cost of lessons and instruments is cited as a major barrier.

There is a particular need for our work in the current climate. Some low-income families face a stark choice between supporting the musical talent of their child and feeding their family. This level of financial hardship creates a culture of low aspiration, which in itself adds significant barriers to success in the music industry.”

How does it work?

“Through an annual application and audition process, we identify young people who most need our support.

We estimate that many parents of talented musicians spend in the region of £11,500 a year on singing or instrumental lessons, junior conservatoire, youth orchestra or choir and other training course fees.

The families of the young musicians we support are means-tested to determine financial need. It is a real challenge for them to find the money to give their child the same opportunities that children from wealthier backgrounds can take for granted.

We also offer advice and mentoring, which are vital to help the young musicians progress towards their goals. We don’t just provide funding, we offer performance opportunities, involve the musicians in events and masterclasses, and tailor the support to nurture each individual towards a career in music.”

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Without the funding and opportunities that Future Talent has provided over the last four years, it would not have been possible for Alex to have achieved all that he has in music. Your support has opened many doors, which would otherwise be unimaginable.

In September 2014, Alex was offered the Andrew Lloyd Webber music scholarship to study his A-levels at Eton College.

What do you provide?

“We provide a Bursary Programme through which we respond to each individual young person’s needs; for example, a bursary might help a young musician and their family to buy a new instrument, take lessons, and attend workshops, specialist music training courses and summer schools. Young musicians who are able to demonstrate financial hardship are able to apply for up to £3000, which can be used in a lump sum, perhaps paying for an instrument, or over a period of 3 years where it could fund instrumental lessons. ”

FT_10-29Without the financial bursary of Future Talent it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to finish my last and incredibly important year in Junior RNCM. I would not have been able to take my Grade 6 Musical Theory Exam, and I would have had to do without the guidance of my JRNCM tutors in the run-up to my training in conservatoire. The bursary has allowed me to conclude this very important phase in my musical education in a positive manner.

“We also offer career advice. The musical world can be daunting for the young musicians we support. Future Talent staff work closely with children, families and teachers to negotiate instrument prices and recommend courses. We set goals and maintain regular contact with each young person and their family, selecting appropriate performance and audition opportunities to increase their confidence and help them discover and plan their individual music journey and potential career path.

This may seem basic, but it is actually vital work and can make a real difference. Unlike children from wealthier and better-connected backgrounds, most of the young people and their parents with whom Future Talent works do not know about opportunities that exist to develop their careers, nor do they know how to access them. Through our practical and ongoing support we give these young people the best possible chance for their talent to develop.”

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 Adam O’Shea, a tenor, received a Future Talent bursary in 2008 enabling him to accept a place at Chetham’s School of Music where he studied with mezzo-soprano Helen Francis, an important step in his music development. Thanks to that opportunity, he went on to study with the renowned tenor Adrian Thompson at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is now beginning to make a name for himself as a young singer:

Adam O’Shea gives a courageous and skillful performance – Bachtrack review of Workshopera’s new opera: Boys of Paradise

My aspirations for the future have only been made stronger by Future Talent, who have encouraged and supported me in my ambitions. I think Future Talent has been the best thing to happen to me all year and I truly owe so much to this wonderful organisation – Adam O’Shea

“We also offer mentoring and performance opportunities. We have strong partnerships in the musical profession; mentors and partners who have worked with Future Talent young musicians to date include Danielle de Niese, Natalie Clein, Vasily Petrenko, Chloë Hanslip, Lesley Garrett, Guy Johnston, Laurence Cummings, Tine Thing Helseth, the Rambert Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder. The musicians with whom we work would simply never have the opportunity to meet, work and perform alongside such inspirational musicians without our help. Many of these young people lack confidence. Contact with professional musicians of this calibre sends them a powerful message and gives them a strong sense of self-worth. As well as masterclasses and training, we also provide opportunities for young musicians to shadow professional players, rehearsing with organisations including the Hallé and Rambert Orchestras.”

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How do you measure the impact of your work?

“Future Talent has a great track record in finding these young people and transforming their chances of succeeding in the music industry. Where appropriate, we will work with each child for up to three years, providing long-term support for greater impact. Our programme represents quality, rather than quantity. We focus on significant outcomes to transform the lives of a select number of exceptionally talented young musicians. A number of organisations exist to provide opportunities at a basic standard to enable large numbers of children to engage with music, and this approach can be a wonderful introduction to the music, but it rarely provides meaningful long-term transformative life changes. At the other end of the spectrum, there is support in place for young professional musicians who have already reached a high level of playing. Future Talent occupies a niche position to bridge the gap between these two approaches. We aim to make a real difference by providing holistic support to young people with exceptional musical talent; people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to shine.

We continuously evaluate our work and measure its impact. Our young musicians write reports of their progress every six months, and we receive annual reports from mentors, monitoring progress against the goals we set with the young people.

We measure long-term demonstrable musical achievements and career progression. Of last year’s award recipients, five were offered places at a conservatoire. Others hold positions in national ensembles including National Youth Orchestra, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, National Youth Brass Ensemble and National Wind Orchestra. Ninety seven percent of our young people have passed their grade 8 exam with distinction and our musicians have won prestigious competitions and awards including Royal Overseas League, Young Drummer of the Year, British Flute Society Young Artist, and the ABRSM Sheila Mossman Prize for highest graded exam mark in the UK.”

Joy Becker came to Future Talent seven years ago, as a 14-year-old violinist, struggling with confidence. With our help she went on to become leader of both Junior RNCM Orchestra and Hallé Youth Orchestra and a member of National Youth Orchestra. Joy has just graduated from conservatoire and is now working on the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s professional experience scheme.

“As our work continues over a longer period, we are increasingly able to see the long-term impact of our intervention in the early stages of these musicians’ careers.”

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Future Talent will be accepting applications for a 2016 bursary from Monday 28 September. Visit the website, futuretalent.org, for an application form and further details.

 

 

Planning the Perfect Workshop

Maria and the Music Workshop Company Team are gearing up for the Rhinegold Music Education Expo, which will take place on March 12th and 13th at London’s Barbican Centre. This year we’re excited to be holding consultation sessions for clients, helping you get the most out of your music workshops.

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We particularly love creating bespoke projects, understanding your needs and making a music workshop that absolutely fits the bill. The finished event should be an enjoyable and straightforward experience, so we’ve put together a simple guide for anyone planning a music workshop, based on our experience of things that sometimes get missed and cause hiccups on the day!

Planning and Design

You will find that the more notice you can allow for the design and planning of a workshop, the easier it will be. We often accommodate workshops at short notice, but ideally prefer a month to prepare for a workshop. This gives us time to get to the heart of what you need and fit in with every aspect, from topic and curriculum to students, instruments and scheduling.

Who Should Call Us?

It’s easiest for us when your enquiry comes directly from the decision maker, whether that’s the Head of Music, Head Teacher or another project leader. We always aim to respond to enquiries within one working day. With any bespoke project, we plan each element to suit and it can be difficult to assess exactly what is required without speaking to the right person.

The more information you can give us on enquiry, the more detailed our proposal can be. For example, if you want the workshop on a specific day, let us know. How many groups or participants will be involved? What outcomes do you want? Is the focus on a multi-cultural day, G.C.S.E. coursework, or Arts Week, or do you want the workshop linked to a theme or topic of study?

Confirmation and Contracts

Our workshops are confirmed by email with contracts, and terms and conditions emailed out.

If you are waiting for confirmation of funding, or need time to assess the number of potential participants, workshop dates can be held for you, but workshops do then need to be booked within one month of the original enquiry.

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To hold an effective workshop, we need enough space for all the participants to sit in a circle.

Remember, workshop noise levels can be quite high (particularly for Samba!) so it’s important to be somewhere where other people won’t be disturbed. It’s also best to be somewhere that others won’t disturb the workshop. This can be challenging to be in a hall at the centre of a school where people are walking in and out, so plan your workshop space carefully. However, we will always do our best to accommodate the facilities you have.

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We do need to be made aware of any venue challenges. For example, if the space we’ll be using for the workshop is only accessible by stairs and there is no lift, it’s important to know so we can get any heavy equipment in place.

Fees and Invoicing

All our prices are fully inclusive and include the musicians’ time, planning, set up, the duration of the workshop, use of instruments (where supplied), travel, administration and public liability insurance.

Our quotes are valid until the end of the following academic year, so a quote given in October 2015 will be valid for a workshop held before August 2017.

Workshops are usually invoiced after the date, but if it makes the payment process easier we can supply the invoice in advance. Payment is due within 14 days, as specified in our terms and conditions. We ask to be made aware if you are not able to meet the 14-day payment terms, which can be the case if payments for your school are issued centrally by the local authority. It is useful for us to have the contact details of the bursar or finance manager, so we can liaise directly regarding payment.

If you reach the end of the financial year with money left to spend, we can invoice you in advance for a workshop you book for later in the academic year. This means you can count the invoice in one financial year, for a workshop in the next.

Body percussion

Workshop Day – Final Thoughts

It’s the small things that make a difference to the smooth running of a workshop on the day, so here are a few things that help us:

  • Please ensure the school office know about the workshop. It can be confusing for a musician to turn up and feel they’re not expected.
  • Please ensure there is somewhere for the musician to unload instruments, preferably close to the workshop space.
  • It takes about 30 minutes for the musician to get unloaded and set up, so if the workshop co-ordinator is not able to meet the musician, please arrange for someone else to show them the workshop space and allow them to get unloaded.
  • Help in unloading the instruments is always appreciated.
  • Access to the staff room for hot drinks and toilets is also appreciated.

We look forward to seeing you at the Expo if you can make it. Meanwhile if you’d like to book a consultation or speak to us about booking a workshop, contact us for a chat.

 

Body Percussion – You Make the Music

Body percussion is a brilliant way to warm up for a music workshop, and a useful tool for creating music in a group. It is incredibly accessible; the human body is an instrument every participant possesses. It is also valuable for internalising fundamental musical concepts including rhythm, beat and tempo.

I love Body Percussion because it’s a high energy, very accessible art-form. Seeing the amazing ideas that workshop participants come up with is brilliant, as is the reaction when they see what is possible when making beats on your body!

Ollie Tunmer, Body Percussion specialist and MWC Workshop Leader

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As a group warm-up activity, body percussion stimulates circulation and creates an energy in which it is impossible to feel self-conscious. As a musicianship tool, it provides strategies to equip students with a collective sense of pulse, memory for different rhythms and the opportunity to full engage with the musical material.

In composition it provides an inspiring way to explore sound, rhythm and the physical relationship with music.

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It is also an engaging way to explore the music of World cultures. The folk traditions of many countries include the use of body percussion. The Juba, or hambone dance from West Africa became a traditional dance among African-American slaves in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Slaves were forbidden from owning rhythm instruments for fear of secret codes hidden in the drumming. Instead they created music using body percussion, stamping the feet, slapping and patting the arms, legs, chest, and cheeks. This percussive dance, originally known as “Pattin’ Juba,” would be used to keep time for other dances. Steps had incredibly descriptive names such as “Yaller Cat,” “Pigeon Wing” and “Blow That Candle Out.”

Other traditions that use body percussion include the palmas, or intricate hand claps in Spanish Flamenco music, tap dancing and Ethiopian armpit music.

Body percussion works on the same basis as any percussion instrument, but uses the body to create the different vibrations and sounds. These can include:

  • Stamping the feet on the floor
  • Patting the thighs with open palms
  • Clicking the fingers
  • Clapping the hands
  • Patting or knocking the chest
  • Slapping the cheeks with an open mouth
  • Clicking the tongue

Inhaling and exhaling air, and various vocal noises including grunting and whistling can add to the repertoire of tones, and sounds can be adapted to create different effects. For example, clapping the hands in different positions will change the pitch and resonance.

Body percussion can be performed solo, but it is exhilarating as an ensemble activity, both to performers and audience members. The well-known percussion group Stomp use a combination of non-traditional, junk percussion instruments and body percussion in their performances.

Body percussion has many possibilities. It can be adapted for any age and ability. It can be introduced into a diverse range of workshops, from African Drumming or African Songs, to Composition workshops. It can be used as a warm-up, an icebreaker or a full workshop.

You can use existing games and ideas or create your own.

Watch composer Steve Reich Steve Reich explain his piece Clapping Music, and the inspiration behind it.

Here are some simple ideas from the Music Workshop Company to get you started.

Warm up

This can be done seated or standing.

Start with a copying activity. Start with four beats to establish a beat. Clap a rhythm that fits into a four – beat bar. Keeping to time the group should repeat the rhythm.

Gradually make the rhythms more complex. If the group doesn’t quite catch one of the rhythms, repeat it once or twice. Don’t comment on whether the repetition was correct or not, just repeat it.

Keep talking and instructions to a minimum, but make eye contact with every member of the group.

Start to add other body sounds; knee slap, click, stamp, chest…

Vary the dynamics, but keep the pulse the same throughout.

This warm-up can be developed by getting participants to create their own rhythms for everyone to copy. Either ask for volunteers or working round the group.

Body percussion

Vocal activity

Try making up a call and response vocal activity using speech and percussive vocal sounds.

Participants can take it in turn to lead this game, and it can be varied using different tempi and dynamics, or by adding more physical sounds such as stamping the feet and clapping hands.

Body Percussion Patterns

Begin to build up a body percussion piece by setting up an eight beat pattern, such as this:

Feet       Feet

Leg        Leg

Belly     Belly

Clap

This can be developed in a number of ways, for example as an ensemble piece using similar ideas to Reich’s Clapping Piece.

Watch some body percussion performers and use your imagination to create your own rhythms, sounds and games. You can even develop ways to notate your piece, deciding on symbols for each sound and rhythmic pattern, and finding creative ways to write them down in your group.


Contact the Music Workshop Company to book your Body Percussion Workshop and begin your exploration of musical possibility!

A Year in Music Education

The Music Workshop Company has had a positive and exciting time in 2014. We’ve worked with participants we’d not met before, designed brand new workshops, revisited some of our previous clients and thoroughly enjoyed facilitating a whole bunch of creativity and music making.Family

Much of the recent emphasis on music and music education in the media falls on the lack of funding faced by professional musicians and music educators, and the failure to make space in the curriculum for this valuable educational area. MWC is passionate about music education, and determined to have a positive impact through music workshops.

In order to give a sense of exactly what the Music Workshop Company is about, we’ve put together a round-up of some of our 2014 highlights: Our year in music education.

We got off to a flying start in January with a Rock School Workshop at Thomas Deacon School where we’ve worked before, and our first visit to Clarendon Fan Court Preparatory School for a Composition “Rock ‘n’ Roll” workshop.

“I was really pleased with the way the workshop leader got the children working as an ensemble from the start. Even as a whole year group, it made them focus on working together for the rest of the day. The material and songs chosen to demonstrate the points the workshop leader was making was relevant to the children, and he made sure everyone was included and involved at every stage of the day. I would most definitely recommend The Music Workshop Company to colleagues.” Claremont Fan Court Prep, Esher, Surrey, January 2014

We also had the opportunity to work with Ealing Mencap Group.

“The musician (Sarah) was very organised, well prepared, and had a very pleasant manner which our young people with learning disabilities seemed to appreciate. She was able to engage some people who find this very difficult and ran the session to meet their varying needs. I was impressed with her.” Kathryn White, Ealing Mencap, January 2014

photo-15In February, we enjoyed meeting past, present and future clients at the Rhinegold Music Education Expo at the Barbican. You can read all about the Expo in our blog post. We’ll be there again in March 2015 and look forward to seeing you if you can make it.

Our projects for March included a Music Composition project based on “Differences” at Milton Court Primary School.

“The children were thoroughly engaged in the workshops …a fun day was had by all … overall a very enjoyable experience.” J Pearn, Milton Court Primary, Sittingbourne, March 2014

We also led our first Community Orchestra project with Yardarm Folk Orchestra & Sussex Orchestra.

“The experience was seamless from the start and the workshop itself was brilliant. The Music Workshop Company immediately understood our problems at our initial enquiry … booking the workshop was simple and everything ran like clockwork. The workshop identified and dealt with the main problems which are faced by the two orchestras that participated. The pace and style of presentation were very appropriate and they were delivered in a capable and confident manner which held everyone’s attention throughout. This is definitely the most valuable activity that our orchestra has done since its formation.” Malcolm (Yardarm) and Eileen (Sussex) Orchestras, Benfleet, Essex, March 2014

Also in March we had our first of two visits to one of our longest standing clients, Newstead Wood School, with a West African Drumming Workshop. African Drumming is one of our most popular workshops for both adults and children, and it brings a surprising number of benefits. Read about the impact of drumming on confidence and well-being in our blog post.

In April, we got involved in the ISM’s Protect Music Campaign, and had a brilliant time at Clarendon Ongoing Opportunities, a group we have been working with for several years.

“High levels of engagement and listening with a group involving some with severe learning disabilities, young people were given ownership and variety” Thomas Hillman, Clarendon Ongoing Opportunities, April 2014

In May we visited our good friends at the Harpenden Gateway Club. We have run workshops for the group since 2007!

Harpenden Gateway Mencap May 2014 025-300x225“Thank you so much for your wonderful music workshop at Gateway last week.   Our members thoroughly enjoy your visits, as indeed the turnout that evening showed!” Natalie Chaston, Harpenden Gateway, May 2014

We returned to Newstead Wood School in June for their annual Composition Workshop leading to a performance at their school concert. You can read about this project in more depth here.

We also had a fabulous time at Story Wood School with a Samba Workshop.

“Enjoyed the range of instruments and putting them together as a Samba band- it sounded great! Very positive and enjoyable!” Rachel Marsh, Story Wood School, June 2014

Then we had another amazing day with West Mercia Brownies. It was great to be invited back!

July was a busy month with school workshops, holiday club projects and a corporate project, including a fun day at the Oak Tree Centre in the Lightmoor Village Centre for the Bournville Village Trust working with participants from aged 3 to 13.

photo-14During the school holiday in August, we spent a hot, sunny day in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage taking part in a music day. We worked with participants of all ages in our family workshops.

And as the new school year began we worked with children and parents at Lostock Gralam Church of England School, to write a new school song, which you can listen to on our audio page.

“A very enjoyable experience for both adults and children in school. The finale where we shared the song was fantastic!” Lostock Gralam Church of England School, September 2014

We got more great feedback from one our October workshops:

“The children were introduced to new instruments and had the chance to play them…. All the children enjoyed the interactive style of the workshop.” Laura Burton, Moseley Church of England School, October 2014

And in the October half-term, we were lucky enough to spend a day at the Elgar Birthplace Museum working with families to create new pieces of music. It was a real privilege for the workshop leaders to work in the home of one of England’s greatest composers, and the workshop was brilliant fun. The pieces we created there are also available to listen to on our audio page.

“A big thank you for the lovely event you ran last week.” Lily Dean, Elgar Birthplace Museum, October 2014 

Body percussionIn November we visited Wyvil Primary School to celebrate their Latin American Day, and as the end of term approaches we have a whole host of workshops to look forward to, and plenty of creative ideas for next year.

Thank you to all our clients and participants for making 2014 a truly memorable year.

We are always open to receiving last-minute enquiries if we are available to run a workshop for you, and we are taking bookings for the New Year. Contact us to arrange your custom-built workshop today. We are looking forward to making music with you!

Pass the Spoons

We love unusual instruments at the Music Workshop Company. This month’s blog is by professional percussionist and workshop leader Jo May, who specialises in workshops teaching the spoons. Jo trained at the Royal College of Music and has performed with orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She explains how she came to play the spoons and why a Spoons workshop offers an easy introduction to music for any child.

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“For the last few years, I’ve been running Spoons Workshops in schools, and for festivals, parties and events. That’s spoon playing, not spoon making!

I first became interested in playing the spoons whilst playing in a folk band. We were learning a song, and I’m not sure why, but it really felt as if it was calling out for spoons. I found a tuition video by a fantastic American musician and historian called David Holt. I learnt some of the basics and went on from there.

There are spoon playing traditions in many different countries around the world, including Ireland, America, Turkey and Russia. I think it’s a tradition that’s been dying out recently in this country but there are still plenty of spoon players around and I’m really keen to encourage more people to play. Often when I’m running workshops people will say, “Hey! My grandad/uncle/great grandma used to play the spoons.”

Spoons are great fun to play and obviously we have them in our homes, so they’re very accessible and very portable too.

I started just using ordinary stainless steel spoons from the kitchen but I love experimenting with different types of spoons now. I’ve built up a collection from rummaging around in junk shops, hardware shops and kitchen shops, as well as searching for spoons that have been made specifically for playing. In workshops, I have an assortment of spoons for participants to try out:

  • ordinary stainless steel ones
  • assorted wooden ones carved especially for playing (some with finger grooves)
  • aluminium ones made from de-activated bombs in Laos
  • a few different sized/coloured plastic measuring spoons recently acquired from rooting around a kitchen shop… (the largest ones make great bass spoons!)
  • a selection of smaller wooden and metal spoons for smaller fingers
  • an assortment of joined-up spoons for younger children and anyone who has difficulty with the grip

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I usually run my Spoon Workshops with accompaniment from a guitarist or fiddler. It’s brilliant to have a tune to work with. I also run sessions without accompaniment, and they usually involve more singing. I teach some basic techniques and we usually work on a little routine to go with a tune or song; maybe a folk song, a well-known tune or an old-time music hall song. And it’s always great to end the day with a performance from some of the participants.

I find that spoon playing is brilliant for co-ordination, particularly fine motor skills. I often try to involve movement and singing too, stamping your feet, singing and moving in time with the music whilst playing the spoons is a lot to think about. It’s also great for improving rhythm, teamwork, creativity, listening, performance, confidence and focus.

Most of all, spoon playing is fun and really open to anyone. Many children go home and show their families how to play, which is brilliant. There’s no need to go out and buy expensive, large instruments, just head to the cutlery drawer.”

To enquire about a Spoons Workshop, contact the Music Workshop Company today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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