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‘State of the Nation’ Music – the APPG Speaks Out

As part of MWC’s wider engagement in music education, Artistic Director Maria Thomas attended two key music education events this month, the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and the 2019 ROH Bridge’s annual conference, The Thriving Child.

In this blog, Maria shares her thoughts about the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music Education. We’ll take a look at the findings of the ROH Bridge Conference at the end of July.


“The APPG for Music Education meeting took place on Wednesday 19th June at the Palace of Westminster. The event was Chaired by Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North and Chair and Registered Contact of the APPG. In attendance were a wide range of people engaged with music education, from MPs to Music Hub heads, Conservatoire heads, music organisations, and small charities that support young people.

The first speaker was Ian C. Lucas, MP for Wrexham and member of the DCMS Select Committee. Mr Lucas talked about his experiences of music education in Wrexham and his concerns following the loss of the council run music service. He demonstrated how music is being used to bring people into the town centre through festivals such as Singing Streets. With reference to the work of his wife, who is a music teacher and very engaged with the local music community, he lamented that although it benefits schools, students and the community to put on school shows, Ofsted gives no credit for this work.

Lucas went on to discuss recent reports on Live Music including research from Arts Council England and Youth Music, and Participation in Culture and Sport, published by the DCMS Select Committee. He said that while it is clear all these reports give the same message concerning the value of music education, that message is not getting through to Government. 

When the discussion was opened up to the floor, Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, said that schools should not be awarded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted unless they have a strong music offer.  Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen stressed that music should not be just about Head Teachers and Heads of Music.

Discussion about Music Hubs flagged up the fact that funding will be ending in 2020 and at present Hubs have no information about future funding. This naturally makes planning impossible and results in a workforce who have an uncertain future.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, explained that the focus on linking sports to health benefits has enhanced the delivery of sport. She suggested that stronger links should be made when it comes to the positive effect of music on mental health. She stressed her concern that music and the Arts are becoming only available to the elite. A suggestion was made that funding for music be ringing-fenced, as funding for sport has been, with a focus on schools working with their local music hubs. MPs agreed to explore this as an option.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, admitted that there is pressure on finances, but said that music in schools is also being squeezed by time pressures with the focus on SATs and other exams.

One Music Hub raised the point that Music Hubs are tasked with working with every school in their area, but schools are not pressured to work with their local Music Hub. It was also highlighted that some schools that join an Academy chain are told they cannot use their local music hub and must instead use suppliers identified by the Academy chain.

The second panel member, Zena Creed, Director of Communications and External Relations for The Russell Group, updated the attendees on recent developments at the Russell Group Universities, including the changes to their subject choice guidance and the decision to scrap facilitating subjects. She highlighted that the previous approach by Russel Group Universities of highlighting ‘facilitating subjects’ at A-Level had led to confusion and potentially impacted negatively on the number of young people taking Arts A-Levels. Their new website has more specific guidance and is now actively promoting Music and other Arts A-Levels.

The third speaker was Dr Alison Daubney, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Sussex and author of the recent Music Education: State of the Nation report. She underlined the lack of KS2 and Year 9 music in some schools, and the decline in the number of young people taking GCSE and A-Level music – leading to Music becoming the fastest disappearing A-Level subject. She mentioned that some geographical areas have no A-Level music applications and that the strongest number of applications come from private schools: In essence, there is no equitable access to A-Level music across the country. 

Dr Daubney also discussed the lack of Ofsted reports exploring music, pointing out that where music is discussed, it is sometimes only mentioned in one sentence in the report! She emphasised her concerns that Music Hubs are being expected to be ‘all-things-to-all-people’, delivering early years through to A-Level.

It was mentioned that the system of bell curve marking severely impacted the number of students getting high grades due to the small number of applicants which may encourage high achieving students to select other subjects at A-Level.

Two key concerns for many in the room were the fact that Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum and the impact of the EBacc, something the ISM have been actively campaigning against. The worry is that with no requirement to teach music in Academies and no focus on the Arts in the EBacc, many schools will choose to omit music from the classroom altogether.”

Are you a teacher or music educator? We’d love to hear your response to these points and your ideas for the future of music education. Let us know in the comments or find us on Facebook.

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Music Mark Conference 2018 – Youth Voice

On Thursday 22ndand Friday 23rdNovember 2018, Kenilworth welcomed music educators from across the country to Music Mark’s 2018 annual conference to discuss the theme of “Youth Voice.” MWC’s Maria Thomas was there…

With sessions on topics such as Whose Music Education is it?, Trust the music – connection with young audiences, Youth Governance, Ensembles and young people, and Reaching out to Young People – Shake up your marketing and communications strategy, one key message was engaging young people in the music education discussion.

But there were also discussions on the gender gap in music – currently across the UK only 14% of music creators (composers and songwriters)  registered with the Performing Rights Society (PRS) are women – increasing investment in and access to musicmaking for deaf children and young people, mental health and wellbeing support for teachers within music services and hubs, careers in the creative industry, music workshops designed to support the development of speech and language  and wellbeing for children and young people.

Of course, with so many interesting workshops and discussions taking place, it is difficult to choose which to attend! So here are thoughts from a couple of sessions.

One session, led by Philip Flood from Sound Connections explored routes into music education as a career, with a particular focus on instrumental teaching and workshop leading. Three music hubs described their work in supporting early career educators and CPD.

Adam Hickman from Services for Education, Birmingham and Luan Shaw from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire discussed how they work together to offer Conservatoire students training and experience as instrumental teachers both at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level. They also reflected on how this has helped with wider CPD through the development of an online resource pack including videos.

Michael Davidson and Ije Amaechi talked about how Hertfordshire Music Service are focussing on diversifying their workforce of instrumental teachers and workshop leaders bringing together both teachers from a traditional teaching background and community musicians to share good practice. Ije talked about her journey from a participant on a songwriting course to being a workshop leader herself and highlighted how reflection sessions after workshops has helped her develop her skills.

Open Mic attracted me & then songwriting workshops were more appealing than grades. I’ve since performed at the Albert Hall & became a trainee tutor, shadowing across different projects & groups was useful to me, and reflecting after each session. 

Ije AmaechiTim Shephard from the University of Sheffield talked about his relationship as Chair of the Sheffield Music Hub, and shared his experience of working with Ian Naylor, Head of Music Education at Sheffield Music Hub to create opportunities for students to get involved in outreach through Music in the City and Music for Youth. It has also led to the development of a BA Music Education where Sheffield Music Hub offers training and opportunities to the University of Sheffield students.

An interesting question was raised in the whole room discussion:  

When are people good enough as tutors / workshop leaders?

This is particularly relevant to those who come to music education through non-traditional routes, and so the question was asked, “If a qualification is needed, how could it be completely accessible?”

One of the afternoon sessions, chaired by Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths explored inclusion in music education. As Matt stated at the beginning of the session, the debate has moved from, “Is inclusion needed?” to “How do we embed inclusion?” The first presentation was by Holly Radford of Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) who explained how music hubs around the Midlands had come together, facilitated by MAC and led by Phil Mullen, to explore how inclusion can be embedded in their work. The feedback from participants in the room demonstrated how useful the process had been for engaging with a range of local bodies such as local councils to develop support for music education.

The second presentation was by Michael Davidson of Hertfordshire Music Service discussing the work of MusicNet East, a collaboration between 4 music services (Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk), supported by Youth Music who are all exploring inclusion in different ways. Michael talked about the work of Hertfordshire Music Service and how they are developing projects to fit the needs of educational bodies and participants, for example their work with Pupil Referral Units and their Songwriter programme. Delegates from Cambridge and Essex also shared their experiences of how these programmes are helping to get the value of music education as an aid to inclusion on the wider education agenda.

As Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music tweeted at the end of the conference:

Main observation #MusicMark2018 was a collective will to innovate & change. Informed by & with young people, their lives in music, and acting on the school challenges we face. We can stand still, observe & moan or step up & transform. I’m totally for the latter #musicalinclusion


How Should we Sing these Songs?

While planning a recent singing workshop, MWC’s Artistic Director, Maria, had cause to reflect on the names and lyrics of songs, how the meaning of some words has changed, becoming sensitive, controversial or unacceptable, and how some aspects of music might impact workshop participants.

Looking into the topic more deeply, Maria discovered examples that have created debate in the past. One such incident happened when Garry Martin, a headteacher in Melbourne, Australia, decided it was necessary to alter a word in the song Kookabura. His concern was around the phrase, “Gay your life must be.”

Mr Martin mentioned his decision to change the word ‘gay’ to ‘fun’ on local radio, and found himself under fire. He had been conscious that the word would potentially lose him control of his class: “I knew if we sing ‘Gay your life must be’ the kids will roll around the floor in fits of laughter … I wasn’t trying to insult gay people.”

Although Mr Martin’s decision was based on behaviour management, it raised concerns from gay and lesbian advocates who said it sent a signal that the word ‘gay’ was unacceptable.

Mr Martin later acknowledged that instead of avoiding the issue, he should have explained the meaning of gay as another word for happy, and taken the opportunity to educate the children that the term should not be used disparagingly.

Songs that use gay to mean happy or joyful are common. Jamaica Farewell, released in 1957, made famous by Harry Belafonte and covered by various artists including Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and Carly Simon. is another example.

Down the way

Where the nights are gay

And the sun shines daily on the mountaintop

I took a trip on a sailing ship

And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop

 

But I’m sad to say I’m on my way

Won’t be back for many a day

My heart is down

My head is turning around

I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.

So how should we teach these songs in schools, youth groups, holiday clubs and other community groups?

The setting can be very important, but should not be prescriptive. While homosexuality can be a challenging issue in some religious settings, the original meaning and context of any lyrics still stand. Approach the subject sensitively. Decide whether it is really necessary to change any words, and think carefully about your reasons for doing so.

Other songs that can raise challenges include songs that may cause children to remember abuse or trauma.

What Shall We do with the Drunken Sailor is a sea shanty dating from as early as 1820 which became popular among non-sailors in the 20th century. As a song for musical activities, it has easy words with lots of repetition, makes use of drone and is a good way to introduce the concept of work songs – songs that helped workers carry out tasks.

Children often find the idea of drunkeness funny. However, for participants who have experienced abuse from a drunken relative, this song could trigger feelings of trauma.

Alcohol is a topic that requires care in religious settings. The tale of Sinbad the Sailor, which makes a great basis for a composition workshop, features drunkenness, even though it is set in Muslim countries. Again, sensitivity and awareness are key. Any elements of a story that might cause offence and risk children losing the opportunity to participate can be removed.

Music that links to war can also bring up bad memories or emotions in participants. The Second World War has inspired many composers, with works including Steve Reich’s Different Trains. MWC’s Maria says: “Having studied the Holocaust at school, I cannot listen to Different Trains. I find it chilling, it literally makes me feel cold.”

As a teacher or workshop leader, be aware that music can trigger strong emotions, and this can be a positive or negative experience. When choosing challenging music, try to predict possible issues, and once in the classroom make sure you are hyper-aware of the body language and reactions of your students.

Race is another subject that requires thought. Some pieces of music might be worth listening to for their cultural context or for their compositional value, but be laden with difficulty. For example, consider how you would introduce Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. Is it best avoided, or is it better to teach the history behind the name? While it may be more comfortable to disassociate from this area of music history, this is a valuable opportunity to educate students and deepen their understanding. Instead of ignoring the piece, you can explain what it was about, and what ‘golliwog’ and ‘cakewalk’ meant. This excellent essay explains the racism behind the Golliwog Caricature.

Remember too that it is possible to be oversensitive. Teachers who changed the words to the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep because they felt the word ‘black’ was racist caused a debate about political correctness ‘gone mad’. In the case of this song, the sheep is black simply for the purposes of alliteration. Removing the word could send the message that ‘black’ is a negative term. It also gives an example of trivial political correctness that racists can use to criticise and undermine the very real issue of racism.

With many cultural items, things move in and out of fashion or are interpreted differently over time. Only recently, removal by Manchester Art Gallery of John William Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs, triggered by the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, sparked discussion about political correctness and the danger of censoring or editing art that does not conform to what is currently acceptable.

It’s important to constantly evaluate traditional attitudes and familiar phrases. It is also always possible, if you feel there will be a problem that might preclude some children’s inclusion, to chose an alternative song or piece of music that achieves the same result.

Every piece of art is a result of the society in which it was created. The challenge for music educators is to ensure the survival of great music while placing it in a context that shows sensitivity to the audience/participants and the works themselves.

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

The Music Education Expo

The Music Workshop Company has found the annual Rhinegold Education Expo an invaluable source of information and inspiration. We catch up with Alex Stevens, Editor of Rhinegold’s flagship education publication, Music Teacher Magazine, as he shares his plans for the 2016 event.

Alex Stevens_cropFor the 2016 Music Education Expo – the fourth, but my first as its head of content – we are hoping to build on the best of the previous shows by being ever more useful and comprehensive.

Since the first show in 2012, the Expo has quickly established itself as a fixture in the diaries of music teachers in the UK, and as editor of Music Teacher magazine, I know the challenge of providing for all the different types of teacher: from piano teachers to hub leaders, A-level classrooms to early years workshops, bedrooms to conservatoires, the sector is incredibly diverse.

So the challenge is to provide a full and useful programme for everyone – and this year we have worked harder than ever to be comprehensive, with pathways for different types of practitioner and a rigorous approach to the distribution of sessions.

There will be strands for instrumental, early years, primary, secondary and SEND teachers, as well as for those involved or interested in the politics, practicalities and best practice of music education provision.

Of course, if there needs to be something for everyone, there will also be some things for everyone. There can’t be many music teachers who are unconcerned about how we support the music education of our children, and how that ecosystem is sustained: funding for music teaching in all parts of the UK is seemingly constantly under threat, and there have been various responses to this fact. One lunchtime panel will discuss the various ways in which music education is funded across the UK.

In England, the result of May’s general election has given the Conservative party a qualified mandate but unbridled power to pursue its education reforms, with the imposition of an unreconstructed English Baccalaureate contributing to teachers’ fears that music and the creative arts will become less and less a priority for their schools. Another lunchtime panel will discuss how to defend music’s place in our schools.
And at a time when the arts sector is campaigning for STEM to become STEAM, this year’s new addition of the Musical Theatre & Drama Education Show, run in conjunction with Teaching Drama magazine, has the potential to provide some fascinating new perspectives.

For some music teachers, of course, drama will already be a big part of their professional lives – perhaps because they teach across the performing arts, perhaps because they put on the school show each year.

As Sarah Lambie, editor of Teaching Drama and head of content for the Musical Theatre & Drama Education Show, says: ‘The show will also provide a means to explore department-crossover and take in workshops and seminars on subjects which other drama education shows do not have the scope to offer. This is the beginning of a wider community of drama and performing arts teaching staff – with the opportunity to hear from some fantastically inspiring speakers.’

MTDExpo 2016 logo 1.indd

For those who have been to the Expo in the past, this year’s move from the Barbican Exhibition Hall to the bright, airy and spacious Olympia Central should make for a significantly better experience, with more space, plenty of natural light and free WiFi.

And if you have never been, I urge you to come this year: it’s totally free to attend and over three years has become Europe’s largest dedicated music education show.

It’s a great way, alongside hundreds of other music and arts teachers, to maintain and develop your skills, discover new approaches, start conversations, and keep up with the big issues in music and cultural education. I look forward to seeing you there.

Music Expo 2016 logo.inddThe Music Education Expo is free to attend and runs on 25 and 26 February 2016. See http://www.musiceducationexpo.co.uk for more information.

 

 

 

Take Your Music Further

Here at the Music Workshop Company, we are passionate about creating opportunities for young people to explore music. We make sure that each of our workshops involves a performance element so participants can enjoy the experience of playing to an audience.

Leading educational travel company, NST, specialises in running concert tours, primarily for school children but also catering for adults. NST knows that the buzz musicians get from performing is unlike any other feeling, and the chance to perform in exciting international venues is even more of a thrill.

In this month’s guest blog, we catch up with Sheena Orchin, Music Product Executive at NST, as she tells us about world travel, fantastic venues and what makes a great concert tour…

Sheena“NST takes talented musicians, bands, orchestras and choirs away to new places, enabling them to share their talents around the globe. After all, music is a universal language that translates and is appreciated worldwide.

We’ve arranged thousands of concert tours for musicians of all ages. Through our services they’ve shared their love of music in Paris, on the Rhine, in Belgium, New York, Tuscany, the Black Forest, Barcelona, Prague, Lake Garda, indoors, outdoors, in quaint churches and grand cathedrals, on bustling market squares and picturesque bandstands, in community schools, retirement homes, and even at Disneyland® Paris. The list of experiences is endless!

Blog - Disney image

One thing common to every experience is that groups who have booked one of our concert tours find they have a shared focus to work towards, further igniting their passion for music. But I find that many groups shy away from organising a tour just because it seems like an overwhelming task.

My first piece of advice is:

Share your talent with the world – there’s so much to gain!

Andrew Millinchip, music teacher at the Grange School, took his students on an NST concert tour to Belgium. He wrote to say:

The trip provided a focus for rehearsal during the previous term. Spending time together as a group greatly enhanced the bonding of choir members, and time away from school allowed my group to concentrate 100% on making music.

There is a wealth of evidence supporting the idea of learning outside the classroom. A 2004 paper by researchers at Kings College London concluded that there was:

Substantial evidence that outdoor learning can impact positively on children and young people’s attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions – independence, confidence, self-esteem, personal effectiveness, coping strategies.

It also found that there was:

Significant evidence of the effect of outdoor learning on social development and greater community involvement*

Our groups have enjoyed unforgettable, magical musical experiences around the globe, and have shared these comments with us:

Since returning from our trip, my choristers have been so inspired. Not only have they gained confidence in their musical abilities, they gelled together as a group and are brimming with enthusiasm for music. We just can’t wait for our next tour, so expertly arranged by NST – Susan Francis, Princethorpe College

This trip has been incredible and one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life so far. It has been so interesting to learn about the German culture. It was wonderful– Shani, aged 14

So I’d like to bust some myths about the difficulties of touring and share our essential tips for creating a concert tour that is memorable for all the right reasons…

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Three main concert tour myths:

  1. It’s too much like hard work:

Organising a tour is as easy or hard as you want to make it. By choosing to partner with a tour operator like NST, you will immediately smooth out some of the planning bumps. We’ve done it all before and can hold your hand every step of the way. We tailor-make every tour from scratch, and deal with all the planning, timings and booking every aspect of every trip, from transport and accommodation, to concerts, concert promotion, meals and excursions.

  1. I’ll get tangled up in all the red tape:

It is possible to organise a trip independently, but you then take on responsibility for all the health and safety aspects of the trip. By using a tour operator such as NST you’re covered from the moment you book right up until your safe return, both for health, safety and insurance matters and for your financial protection. And because we’ve done it all before, the work you have to do will be kept to a minimum.

  1. Once I’ve booked with a tour operator, I’ll be on my own:

Every music group that travels with NST is partnered with their own Concert Consultant and Music Tour Travel Advisor in the planning stages. They can also choose to be paired with a Tour Manager who will accompany them on their tour from beginning to end. Tour Assistants and Concert Assistants are available in many destinations too, and the promotion of your concerts in resort will be done for you. And if you come across any issues whilst you’re away (that your Tour Manager can’t solve there and then), we operate 24 hour emergency support too.

Top tips for organising a successful concert tour:

  1. Plan in advance:

Make sure you give yourself, pupils and parents as much time as possible. Most groups will book their trip 18 months ahead of travel. Planning well in advance gives parents more time to budget, save their money and pay in smaller instalments. Take a look at our quick reference timeline (below) for guidance.

Blog - Timeline image

  1. Tap into tour operator knowledge:

Tour operators provide access to a wealth of knowledge and experience. Not only will they be able to answer your questions, they might even suggest options you hadn’t already thought of. They’ll be able to tell you what other group leaders have chosen to do on tour and give you an insight into the feedback they’ve given too. At NST, we have a range of tried and tested itineraries to use as a starting point, which can be adapted personally for you.

  1. Get more from your budget in three easy steps:

Be flexible with your travel dates, transport options, departure points and your accommodation location. Remember, the longer the trip is, the more expensive it will be. Fill your tour with free visits to help keep the cost down. Consider joining up with another group; another subject group, year group or even another school. The more travellers there are, the lower the price per person will be.

  1. Promote and launch your trip with free resources:

We can help you to do this with our range of A3 posters, destination specific Power Point presentation templates and pre-printed parents’ leaflets. We recommend that you use all of NST’s promotional resources to organise a launch evening as this will help increase interest and confirm numbers. We also recommend that you organise a parents’ evening to go through the full itinerary of your trip closer to your departure date, using our dedicated free PowerPoint template.

  1. Take a contingency fund and pocket money:

Don’t get caught short. Believe us, it happens! Group leaders should carry a small float and credit card to cover any unforeseen events, and group members should take pocket money in local currency for soft drinks, snacks and souvenirs. Using a banking system will also allow students to budget their money and prevent them from spending it all during the first day or two.”

Germany Rhine River Moselle (Mosel) near Cochem / Sehl

Germany Rhine River Moselle (Mosel) near Cochem / Sehl


 

You can find out more about NST on the website www.nstgroup.co.uk, where you can also try the exclusive online itinerary planning tool, or call them on 0845 293 7951 (calls will cost you 3p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge).

*(Rickinson M, Dillon J, Teaney K, Morris M, Cho M Y, Sanders D, and Benefield P, ‘A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning’, FSC, Shrewsbury, NFER/Kings College London, 2004).

Teaching with Technology: A Community Vision

The Music Workshop Company is focused around the community aspects of music making, shared experiences and direct musical engagement, but technology is opening up new opportunities within music learning. As the Internet becomes ingrained into every aspect of life, Simon Hewitt Jones, Director of ViolinSchool, is exploring the potential of online learning. We catch up with Simon to ask how he sees the future of violin teaching…

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 10.48.08We recently held the final concert for ViolinSchool’s Summer Orchestra Project, which was streamed live on the Internet. We had students joining us from the USA, Australia, Germany, South Korea, and probably other places I’m not aware of. One of our American students, who I’ve been coaching via video exchange, even made it there in person. She came straight from the airport to be at the concert.

Image Courtesy of Sandra Rouch

Image Courtesy of Sandra Rouch

I think it’s no coincidence that we had such a wide and international audience, because I believe something is changing in the world of learning. In fact, in the past few months, I’ve noticed a profound change in how people approach learning the violin. This came home to me when, earlier the same week, a majority of our London students chose to take their lessons via video in our new virtual classroom, rather than brave the tube strike that brought much of central London to a halt. Once the technology is set up, the student and the tutor are carried away by the work they are doing. The technology gets forgotten, and it’s all about the learning.

What most people care about is improving their violin playing and music skills, and having strong relationships with their tutors and fellow learners. But those relationships are not confined just to one medium or one type of tuition. I’m not suggesting lessons via the virtual classroom as a replacement for lessons in person, but, without a shadow of a doubt, I can say that we are seeing better and better results when learners take advantage of a broad mix of tuition options. Personal coaching, group lessons, online classes, the orchestra, and online courses all have their part to play in providing a rounded experience and giving each learner greater perspective about their learning.

Image Courtesy of Tristan Jakob-Hoff

Image Courtesy of Tristan Jakob-Hoff

As our use and understanding of digital technology grows, we’re increasingly providing guidance to students around the world, so far in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. And our students there are asking exactly the same questions as we do here in London:

  • How can I become a better violinist?
  • How can I become a better performer?
  • How can I become a better musician?

For everyone there will be a different, personal answer to these questions, but we all share the same challenge: To improve how we learn, and to improve how we think, in order to improve how we make music.

There are two guiding forces that have driven ViolinSchool over the past few years: Community and creativity. Every day, I am inspired by the enthusiasm and imagination of the ViolinSchool community. It’s truly a group of creative thinkers who love to learn. The stronger that community is, and the stronger the individual connections within it, the more we will benefit from each other’s experiences, and the more we will learn. We don’t want geography to be an obstacle to that. We want to help violinists everywhere by building relationships with people all over the world. We believe that anyone, regardless of age, experience or geography, should be able to enjoy the wonder of making music with the violin.

I’ve identified three key things to help us get there.

1) The learner is empowered

Learning the violin should be a joyful, creative journey, which is why we reject dogmatic, ‘guru-style’ violin teaching. Our ideal is to teach every student to teach themselves.

2) Geography should be no obstacle

Yes, there are times when you just have to be there, but there are also times when you can achieve the same results online. It can be easier, cheaper and faster for someone in the Australian Outback, the Rural MidWest, or even Essex, to learn technical skills via an eLearning module, before coming to a lesson.

It’s also a really effective approach. You can get so much out of a lesson when the foundations of technique and theory are already there.

3) Technology makes our community better connected

What excites me about digital technology in education is not the technology itself: That novelty wears off after a few days or weeks. What excites me about technology in education is how it can bring a community together. When the community is broader and better connected then it’s easier to share our knowledge and understanding, and we all become enriched by the diversity of peoples’ experiences.

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Since last January, ViolinSchool has been rolling out a program of learning resources. We’re committed to building on the great traditions of violin pedagogy that have developed over the last 300 years. We’ve grown up with the treatises of Galamian and Carl Flesch and the studies of Kreutzer, Sevcik, Dounis and others, and we’re now on a mission to update those traditions for today’s new generation of students. We’re working to revitalise violin pedagogy in a way that caters for every experience level in a fun, enjoyable way, from complete beginners to music college students and professionals.

We are steadily producing a wide array of studies, technical exercises and videos, as well as downloadable sheet music, in-depth guides and articles. We’re currently stepping up our production, so that by the end of next year ViolinSchool will provide one of the most comprehensive learning resources about violin playing that’s available anywhere.

But what excites me most about these new tools is the eLearning Modules that we’ve been developing, and which we’ll start releasing this summer as part of our new eLearning trial. These interactive study modules, which are informed by my research at the Royal Academy of Music, break down technical, musical and performance-related topics into a series of clear, easy-to-understand principles. We present the principles in the form of what we call ‘Learning Objectives’ – things our learners need to do in order to acquire specific skills.

ELearning has been used successfully for many years across a wide range of specialist areas, but it’s never been done properly before for the violin. The beauty of the eLearning Modules is that they provide students with a clear understanding of how the whole jigsaw of violin playing fits together. As students become more aware of how they do what they do, their playing becomes more consistent and their confidence increases. Because they have a clearer understanding of how they’re progressing, they get more out of lessons and coaching sessions.

Wherever our students are, whether in London or somewhere thousands of miles away, we look forward to welcoming them in our new digitally-connected community, and helping them to develop their playing to the fullness of their potential!

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ViolinSchool’s eLearning trial runs through to September and beyond. If you are interested in asking about any aspect of the work at ViolinSchool, or would like to take part in the eLearning trial, you can contact the team by emailing support@violinschool.org

MWC at the Music Education Expo

The Music Workshop Company team enjoyed a productive and inspiring two days at the 2014 Rhinegold Music Education Expo, which was held on February 7th and 8th at London’s Barbican Centre.DSC_0049

The Expo gives music and teaching professionals the chance to network, share ideas and browse stands from the top contributors in all spheres of the world of music education, from the ABRSM and Trinity College London to the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Musicians’ Union and Schott Music.DSC_0048

Speakers this year included flautist Sir James Galway, educationalist Paul Harris (author of over 600 books including the Improve Your Sight-Reading, Improve Your Scales and Improve Your Teaching series’ familiar to instrumental teachers), Richard Hallam, chair of the Music Education Council and Carol Reid, Programme Manager at Youth Music.DSC_0046

The Rhinegold Theatre hosted keynote debates, discussions and workshops covering topics such as the Ofsted Report Music in Schools, The Future of GCSEs, Music, Dyslexia and the Mind, Essential Leadership and body percussion warm-ups.

The MWC team met literally hundreds of people and had the chance to talk to music teachers, head teachers, community group leaders and musicians. Over 120 people signed up to the mailing list and 900 people took away one of our free Music Workshop Company pens!

DSC_0029Maria Thomas, who set up the Music Workshop Company in 2002, says, “It was wonderful to see how music education in all settings is alive and well in the UK and abroad. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to current and potential clients. Because we design our workshops around the specific needs of our clients, it was really helpful to talk to people face to face and discuss ideas.”

MWC is now busy working to assimilate ideas discussed with clients during the Expo. The team is also developing some exciting new workshops with newly recruited musicians and workshop leaders. Watch out for details of these in our newsletter and upcoming blogs…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the week since the Expo, MWC has had new enquiries every day. We’d love to hear from you to discuss your Music Workshop needs. It looks like 2014 is going to be a busy year!

And if you missed us this time, we’ll be back on stand J2 at next year’s Music Education Expo.

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