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.

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How Music Benefits Children

Our guest blog this month is from Dawn Rose, an early career researcher in the psychology of music and dance. Dawn’s background as a professional musician (drummer), music teacher and performing artist has informed her research interests. Following a successful completion of the Music, Mind and Brain MSc. at Goldsmiths, University of London, Dawn continued on to complete PhD. Her doctoral work investigated effects of music education on cognitive, behavioural and socio-emotional domains in children alongside expertise in adults.

This article was first published on theconversation.com.

Popular ideas, such as the “Mozart effect” – the idea that listening to classical music improves intelligence – has encouraged the belief that “music makes you smarter”.

This interest in the relationship between musical aptitude on ability and intelligence has been around for some time. But despite these beliefs being pretty widespread, there is still no conclusive evidence to actually prove that listening to certain types of music really can improve your intelligence.

In 1974, music researchers Desmond Sergeant and Gillian Thatcher said that:

All highly intelligent people are not necessarily musical, but all highly musical people are apparently highly intelligent.

And “apparently” is the key word here, because the evidence regarding musical listening in itself is mixed. Research has shown that listening to music shows an improvement in certain kinds of mental tasks. But these are specifically short-term improvements involving “spatial-temporal reasoning” skills – puzzle solving type tasks.

Listening vs playing

But while listening to music is all well and good, what about actually playing it? Research that focuses on how or if playing a musical instrument can impact on intelligence, often looks at how learning in one area can lead to improvements in other areas – an idea known as “transfer effects”.

This is the idea that learning to play the violin, or the drums, could help children to do better in their spellings or a science project. And this is in part the reason why some parents naturally encourage their children to learn an instrument – because of a belief that it will in some way make them more intelligent.

While some studies have shown how musical training can shape brain development. And that improvements in small motor skills and general intelligence have been linked to musical training. A recent review suggests that actual evidence supporting this idea of “transfer effects” is limited at present.

But despite these finds, there is still a wealth of evidence suggesting musical learning is beneficial. And with this in mind, drawing from my experience as a professional musician (drummer), music teacher and performing artist, I decided to investigate the effects of individual musical instrument learning on aspects of cognitive and behavioural development.

I also looked at the impact on “socio-emotional” development, which includes the child’s experience, expression, and management of emotions, as well as the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others.

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© Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0.

All the children who took part in the study had typical school group music lessons, but half of them had also chosen to learn an instrument individually for the first time that year.

The results showed that children who had started individual music lessons developed a better awareness of their “aim” and “force” in relation to their own motor skills as well as improving their “fluid intelligence” – which is the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations, and identify patterns.

This suggests that musical instrument learning encourages the development of a physical sense of self in relation to the how we use objects in the world around us, as well as developing a specific kind of intelligence that is used in problem solving.

Music and social development

lessons_in_brass_dvids208411As part of my research, I also wanted to understand whether parents and teachers noticed any changes over the year in terms of the children’s socio-emotional well-being. The results showed that the children who had chosen to learn an instrument were considered by both their parents and teachers to be less anxious than those who had received only group lessons.

These children were also thought to internalise their problems less compared to the children who had only received the group sessions.

This is also reflected in my research looking at adult musicians, who explained that the “social structures” surrounding musical learning are the bits that they most appreciate, and have had the biggest impact on their lives.

This includes the opportunities to travel, the exchanges of culture among friends around the world, and their ongoing ability to be foster creativity in their lives through music.

Musical learning

It is clear then that music can have a big role to play when it comes to children’s learning. Not necessarily just in terms of intelligence, but also in term of their physical development and social well-being.

Research also shows how musical learning can help children to apply themselves, as well supporting the processes involved in teamwork and appreciation of working towards shared goals.

Valuing music education includes nurturing the development of these abilities, and these skills and mindsets. Which is why developing a culture of creativity and musical learning in our schools should be a key part of children’s lives.

Harnessing Potential for London’s Young Talent

The Mayor’s Music Fund mmf (charity no. 1141216) was launched in 2011 in response to a London-wide survey carried out by City Hall, highlighting a number of gaps in provision for school-age musicians in the capital. We hear from Chief Executive, Chrissy Kinsella about the fantastic opportunities provided by the Fund. 

Our vision is that every young Londoner who demonstrates significant musical potential, enthusiasm and commitment to learning an instrument is given the opportunity to develop that potential.

We aim to nurture and encourage young people to progress their musical talent through our Scholarships and Partnership Programmes. The young people who take part in our Partnerships are from diverse social and financial backgrounds, whilst our Scholars are from low-income, often challenging backgrounds.

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Our objectives include collaborating with London’s 29 local authority Music Education Hubs to provide extensive musical opportunities across London’s 33 boroughs. We support high-quality, sustained instrumental tuition for Mayor’s Music Scholars, organise an annual series of playing days providing opportunities for Scholars to create music together, and support large-scale musical collaborations between Music Hubs and professional arts organisations, providing opportunities for aspiring young musicians (aged 8-21) to learn from, be mentored by and perform alongside professionals. We also enable professional musicians and artists to be motivational role models, empowering young people to explore and develop their musical capabilities, which in turn develops their social and emotional well-being and frequently uplifts academic performance. 

Our programmes…

Our four-year scholarships programme is specifically targeted at children who have received some first-access provision, but whose families are unable to pay for them to continue learning, even at this early stage.

alahna-grint

We work closely with local music services and primary schools in each borough to identify children with potential, enthusiasm and commitment to learning. Scholars must be in Key Stage 2 at the point of nomination, have been learning for at least a year and show potential on their chosen instrument. They receive a programme of around two hours per week via their music service, to include instrumental lessons, ensembles, and other supporting activities. They also have a named mentor to look after their programme, and an instrument to take home if needed. A Head Teacher in Bexley describes the positive effect the Fund has had on one of his students:

Michael was asked about being nominated for a scholarship: ‘Before, I was really naughty at school and now I’m really happy. I’m really good now and can do my work a lot better because of my trumpet.’ This scholarship opportunity won’t just give Michael the chance to become a better trumpet player, but it will give him a greater chance at life and breaking through the barriers of social deprivation.

Our Partnership Projects are large-scale collaborations, working with professional arts organisations to address a specific gap in provision. Previous projects have included an advanced string ensemble programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra in Hounslow and Sutton, a musical theatre orchestra led by the Tri-Borough and Youth Music Theatre UK, a world music ensemble based at the Lyric Hammersmith, run by Musiko Musika, and a jazz-meets-classical project in Hackney, working with the London Symphony Orchestra. One Young Musician’s Training Orchestra participant said:

Being in the Music Theatre Orchestra gave me an insight of how professional ensembles work and it is by far the best ensemble I’ve ever done! My confidence grew and I will continue to strive to improve and more determined than ever.

Success and Impact…

Since 2011, the Mayor’s Music Fund has awarded 375 scholarships across every London borough, representing over 330 schools. The second cohort (scholarships awarded in 2012) has just graduated, taking the total alumni to 140. The impact of our programmes is far reaching: In addition to evidence of higher self-confidence, self-esteem, and improved behavioural, social and academic skills, Music Fund scholars have gone on to win scholarships or places at independent schools such as Christ’s Hospital, & the Forest School, high profile state schools, Junior Conservatoires & London’s Centre for Young Musicians, and at specialist music schools such as the Purcell School and Menuhin School.

irobosa-osagie-adriana-forves-dorant

Since 2011 the Fund has funded 28 projects across 29 boroughs, working with over 8,500 young musicians. Three additional projects have been approved for 2016/17, reaching a further 1,000 young musicians.

In total, the Mayor’s Music Fund has awarded over £1.5million directly to support music education in London!

The future…

A meeting of the Government’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last week heard about the challenges facing regional arts organisations following local authority cuts. Arts Professional reported that Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras said he was “disturbed” by the lack of diversity of young people entering employment as musicians.

At the Mayor’s Music Fund we are passionate about empowering and enabling young people from all backgrounds to fulfil their potential. Over sixty percent of Mayor’s Music Scholars are from BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) backgrounds, and 100% are from low-income families.

It is no surprise that just fifteen percent of state school children learn a musical instrument, as opposed to fifty percent of independent school children. We are committed and dedicated to ensuring that all children who show potential and commitment to learning are given the chance to continue.

We are delighted to welcome a new patron to the Fund in 2016, the recently elected Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. We look forward to working with his administration to further develop our programmes to ensure all Londoners are given the opportunity to develop their full potential.”

This video gives an introduction to the work of the Fund from the perspective of the students.

For more information about the Mayor’s Music Fund, please contact Chrissy Kinsella, Chief Executive on 020 7983 4258

 

 

New Resources for a New Term from AQA

sarah perrymanThis month the MWC team are excited to welcome back Sarah Perryman, Music Qualifications Developer at AQA. Sarah has lots of exciting news update on supporting resources, shares details about AQA’s Commit To Teach campaign and tells us all about which CPD courses are available to help you get ready for September. There are also links to free posters for your classroom.

“Happy Holidays!

I hope you’re all having a well-deserved break after the busy exam period. In my last blog post, I focused on the main changes across all exam boards and outlined the main features of AQA’s new Music specifications for you. Now, as our focus inevitably turns toward September and the first teaching of the brand new reformed Music qualifications, I want to make you aware of how AQA can support you as we head into first teaching

Commit To Teach

If you tell us you’re teaching with us we can make sure you and your students have everything you need for September. Let us know here and we’ll provide you with the right information at the right time.

This information will help in planning our support, where to hold events and our examiner staffing.

If you’re not teaching with AQA, you’re still welcome to use all our free GCSE and AS/A-level resources, and we’ll keep you up to date with developments to teaching and assessing our Music qualifications.

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An update on our free resources

We’ve been working to develop a range of brand new resources for the new GCSE, AS and A-level specifications.

Here are the resources so far available for the GCSE syllabus:

Here are the resources so far available for AS/A-level:

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 17.22.23

Look out for these GCSE resources coming soon:

July

  • resource list
  • schemes of work
  • teacher guide: Area of study 4
  • student guide: Area of study 4

August

  • teacher guide: Area of study 2
  • student guide: Area of study 2
  • performance piece: Area of study 2
  • teacher guide: Area of study 3
  • student guide: Area of study 3
  • performance piece: Area of study 3
  • performance piece: Area of study 4
  • additional set of Sample Assessment Materials (secure section of the AQA website)
  • non-exam assessment (NEA) exemplar materials (secure section of the AQA website)

September

  • listening library (interactive)

There are more AS/A-level resources on the way too:

August

  • schemes of work
  • teacher guide: Area of study 1
  • student guide: Area of study 1
  • non-exam assessment (NEA) exemplar materials (secure section of the AQA website)

September

  • listening library (interactive)

October

  • additional set of Sample Assessment Materials (secure section of the AQA website).

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Free posters for your classroom

Inspire your students with these posters. We have them up in the Music office and we think they look great!

Add GCSE Music to your mix!

Add GCSE to your music collection

AS and A-level Music it’s your take

CPD courses

We have just finished our series of free Preparing to Teach events that took place across the UK. The events were very successful and we received very positive feedback from teachers.

Currently, we are running Getting Started meetings to help you to get ready for September. You can find out more about these, as well as the other professional development courses we offer here.

Music community

We’ve linked up with a growing list of music organisations that offer free teaching resources, including BBC Education, Royal Albert Hall, Southbank Centre and Museum of Liverpool. Access our community here. We hope you find it useful.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great summer!”

If you have any questions for Sarah and the Music Team at AQA you can contact them by emailing music@aqa.org.uk or calling 01483 43 7750.

Music in Shakespeare’s Plays: A Window on Society

The end of April 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. To commemorate, MWC talks to historic music specialist Emily Baines about the role and relevance of music in Shakespeare’s works.

5184“Music plays a hugely important role in Shakespeare’s plays, but you would be hard pressed to find a performance claiming to use music exactly as Shakespeare did. Remarkably little is known about the music he used in performances. This is most likely because this aspect of the performance would have been kept rather fluid, changing from revival to revival to keep up with the times, unlike the texts (except perhaps for prologues and epilogues which could have been altered to keep them topical and current).

Music was used in a way that scenery and even lighting effects are often used in modern theatres. There are some clear musical indications in both text and stage directions – trumpets and drums, alarums, ‘solemn’ or ‘still’ music to accompany pageants and of course songs. Music, and sound effects can transport the audience into a battlefield (trumpet calls are a language in themselves), towards an execution, through a storm, to a party or make the characters fall in love. It can indicate the supernatural (one of its most common usages in early modern theatre) and inform us of the point when we can ‘un-suspend’ our disbelief (the jig at the end of the play would feature music, dancing and even short slapstick skits or satirical plays in a “Have I Got News for You” vein). It can focus in, creating a spotlight effect and move the audience’s attention to the wider surroundings.

The direction from Anthony and Cleopatra, “Music of the hoboy is under the stage,” is a famous example, indicating something otherworldly taking place. The hoboy is an early form of our word oboe and in this case it indicates shawms, the forerunner to the modern oboe. Its position is telling, as firstly we can see that music was not necessarily played from a fixed point but from many areas of the performance space. It would most frequently be heard from the stage and the musicians’ gallery, but it would also often have been played from inside the backstage area, often known as the ‘tiring house’. Music from under the stage would have been unexpected, in this period listeners would hear music frequently but would also be able to see or locate its source.

Shakespeare's_comedy_of_the_Merchant_of_Venice_(1914)_(14578447349)

The notion of hidden music whose source cannot be identified is a frequent indication of the supernatural in the plays of Shakespeare and its low down location would have been both disorientating and darkly portentous. The shawm sound could provide the necessary menace for the moment when Antony’s fate is sealed. It has also been suggested that its timbre would have been one of the few instruments penetrating enough to be heard clearly when shut away under the stage.

Performances using period instrument specialists in replica early modern theatres, such as the Globe and its indoor theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse may disprove this however. The buildings have very delicately balanced acoustics so that many quieter instruments can be played in many offstage positions and heard almost as ‘surround sound’ whilst still enabling speech to be heard on top. The instruments and the buildings complement each other perfectly enabling many old preconceptions about Shakespeare’s musical possibilities to be challenged and providing a unique insight into a beautifully balanced acoustical sound-world.

Globe_Theatre_-_second_Globe_Theatre_-_Hollar's_View_of_London_-_1647Indeed they were so perfect that the indoor theatres sometimes featured up to an hour of instrumental music before the main performance began, and also between acts. You could really get your money’s worth in the 16th/17th century theatre.

Research into these buildings and their unique acoustics changes our ideas of how music and text could interact historically, feeding us with new ideas and refreshing modern outlooks and preconceptions about how we stage these works.

Similarly, research into the many songs Shakespeare refers to in his plays gives us a deeper insight into the world the Bard inhabited and his place within it. This also feeds into how we stage plays and our attitude to the text.

There are hundreds of songs referenced in Shakespeare’s plays, most of which would have been instantly recognisable and which would have provided a whole extra level to the Elizabethan/Jacobean audience. These songs would have been songs so deeply embedded in the cultural consciousness that virtually all strata of society would have understood the subtext they provided potentially changing the whole meaning of a line or even scene.

The Broadside Ballads, song texts sold for a penny on single sheets, were a means of entertainment, often telling stories, whether classical or (quite explicitly) bawdy but also acting as early forerunners to newspapers or satirising well known figures.

The stories such as that of Dido and her lover Aeneas or the news of a shipwreck off the coast off Bermuda could all primarily have been known through their ballad re-tellings. The songs were not printed with any musical notation, but only indications, “To be sung to the tune of…..”, meaning that they were to be sung to pre-existing popular tunes.

It is hard for us to imagine how well known these tunes were. It was not a matter of taste or background, these were universally familiar within the timeframe and locality in which Shakespeare was writing.

800px-ShakespeareIt is telling that Shakespeare does not generally refer to highbrow compositions but to the kind of pervasive music heard throughout the streets, taverns, and court. Shakespeare’s song lyrics too would have been set to pre-existing melodies: although some composers may have set them we have no evidence to definitively place these compositions in the first performances. This would also have lent the songs he wrote another level since the implications of previous lyrics set to the same tune would have been carried forward. A tune which had previously been used for a particularly explicit bawdy lyric would surely have brought this association forward, lending a highly suggestive edge to an otherwise innocent love song. The tunes would also have changed as plays were revived, as would any incidental music and indeed the references in some of the text, reflecting changing fashions and political backdrops. We get an impression here of a man not highbrow or pioneering in his attitude to music, but one who perfectly understood its universal communicative power and used this as a code through which to add level upon level of subtext, whether political, emotional or highly immoral (commonly the latter).

The type of ongoing historical research which has led to this understanding of Shakespeare as a pragmatic popular entertainer as well as a genius poet should feed our imagination with inspiration. Future research may, indeed should, find ways to challenge these, leading to new and different ideas.

This dialogue between research and practice should be ongoing and each should fuel the other to prevent stagnation. The function of historical research is not merely to create museum pieces that can seem didactic and dry. It is fascinating to have plays performed with their original pronunciation, with ‘original’ music, and in period costume, and long may this continue, but we must not forget to research the spirit in which they were performed, the society which prompted their creation, and the attitudes of creators towards the artworks we study; the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ things were done.

We have a tendency to judge our subjects for historical study, whether musical, theatrical or literary by the standards of our own times. We can perceive them as revered absolutes, perfect examples of genius or as art for art’s sake, but a deeper look at the society from which they arose, which is so alien as to be virtually unrecognisable by our current standards, may lead us down many more exciting different new paths.”


_MG_4973 copyEmily Baines is a freelance recorder player, singer, teacher/lecturer and musical director working throughout Europe, also specialising in a wide variety of historical/folk woodwinds. She trained in recorder and voice at; the University of Hull, the Koninklijk Conservatorium (The Hague) and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she is now a researcher on the school’s Doctoral Programme. In addition to research Emily performs regularly for many period instrument ensembles, contemporary groups, music festivals and theatres across Europe. Her theatre work has included musician and musical director roles for Jericho House and Just Enough Theatre Companies and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. She also lectures on music and Shakespeare’s theatre for the Globe’s education department.

www.emilybaines.co.uk
www.renaissance-winds.com

Learning at Handel & Hendrix in London

On February 10th, 2016, The Handel House Trust opened a new exhibit to the public – the London flat directly next door to Handel House, where singer, songwriter and guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived for a brief time during the late 60’s. Claire Davies, Head of Learning and Participation at Handel and Hendrix in London, shares her passion for the two great musicians…

“Separated by a wall and 200 years are the homes of George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix, two artists who chose London and changed music. And now these special rooms are open to the public as Handel & Hendrix in London.

We are an organisation dedicated to promoting knowledge, awareness and enjoyment of Handel, Hendrix and their music to as wide an audience as possible through music performances, educational and outreach activities and collecting, exhibiting and interpreting objects from their lives. As the Head of Learning and Participation, I get the privilege of facilitating these activities and one of my favourite parts of this job is organising school workshops.

The rich history enveloped in the walls of these two great properties is at the epicentre of all our activities and the lives of our two famous residents whilst they lived here are fascinating.

Although Handel was born in Germany in 1685, by the time he died in 1759 he was a famous Londoner. He moved into 25 Brook Street in 1723 at the age of 38 and stayed here for the rest of his life. This was Handel’s first home of his own and he wrote over 600 pieces of music here. It was a great location for Handel’s work because it was close to the theatres in Covent Garden and Soho and to the Royal Family at St. James’s Palace. Brook Street was both residential and commercial with perfumers and apothecaries, gin shops and coffee houses near-by. Handel’s neighbours included a mixture of middle-class tradesmen and titled ‘people of quality’.

Hendrix was born in America in 1942. In 1966, at the age of 23, he was scouted and brought over to London by Chas Chandler, a member of the British band, The Animals. In London Hendrix, with Chandler as his manager, set up a band called the Experience and his career took off. In 1968 he moved into the top flop flat at 23 Brook Street and lived there until March 1969 with his then girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham. After a tumultuous childhood, a stint in the army and years of touring, this year in Hendrix’s life was his first and only period of real domesticity. He referred to 23 Brook Street as ‘the first real home of my own’.

6. The main room of 23 Brook Street

Hendrix used the flat as his base, giving interviews, writing new songs, and preparing for his February concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. On learning that Handel used to live next door he went with Etchingham to the HMV on Oxford Street and bought some classical albums including Handel’s Messiah and Water Music. Brook Street was the doorstep to the London music scene of the late 1960s. His flat was a short stroll from legendary venues like the Marquee, the Speakeasy and The Scotch of St James and he would spend many evenings wandering from club to club looking for a chance to play.

Today these great homes have been faithfully restored; it’s like stepping into the private and intimate worlds of two great geniuses. Handel House opened its doors in 2001 and it wasn’t until February 2016 that the Hendrix Flat was opened to join forces with its neighbour.

In conjunction with the opening we have created lots of new learning programmes including a new series of workshops for schools. We were concerned about how to create workshops that include both the music and lives of Handel and Hendrix in one sitting without them competing against one another. Our solution was to create a musical time machine that takes the students back in time as newspaper journalists who have to experience the London lives of both Handel and Hendrix in sequence looking at the differences a similarities of two time periods that are 200 years apart. The crucial part of this is that they end up back in the present with the prompt to think about the differences and similarities between the 18th century, the 1960s and the present day. This is skilfully aided by our in-house composers who, during the time travel journey, deconstruct the music of both men to show layers of composition technique that relate to the way that music is composed today.

The session is split into two halves: a trip around the historic rooms with our history buffs and a musical workshop with our composers where all of their investigations and observations of music from the past are brought together to create a brand new composition of their own. The trip around the buildings start with a look at objects and costumes and every child is encouraged to choose a piece of costume to wear as they walk around the rooms; it’s an eclectic sight of colour and texture! There is a focus on the differences and similarities between Handel’s bedroom with Hendrix’s bedroom and the children’s bedrooms at home to really hone in on our main objective of empathy.

The programme has been adapted to all learning key stages but we tailor make the content to make it as relevant as possible to what the students are learning at school. For older year groups, such as GCSE and A Level groups, we work with the students on specific set works, whether it be a 1960s pop song or a baroque chorus to aid them in their exam preparations.

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With the money kindly donated to us from the Heritage Lottery Fund to open the Hendrix Flat, we were able to build a new learning space with an interactive screen and sound proofing so we can make as much noise as possible! Students also get the benefit of opening up a harpsichord to see how it works, to have a go on an electric guitar, see copies of Handel’s manuscripts and see a 1960s record player in action. With all of these fun and engaging resources both school groups and the learning team end up having lots of fun.”

To find out more about the work at Handel and Hendrix, and to see a selection of learning resources on offer, visit the website at www.handelhendrix.org/learn

 

The Piano Music of Chopin – Topping the Charts for 200 Years

For our guest blog in May, we’re looking forward to an update from AQA. We heard from the exam board last year and they’ll be updating us on recent GCSE, AS and A level developments.

ChopinThis month we focus on the wonderful piano music of Fryderyk Chopin, whose birthday was on March 1st. Chopin’s piano music, which features on the AQA GCSE syllabus, is perhaps less immediately familiar to students than the music of their favourite pop band, but his influence on other musicians and composers was enormous. Most students will have heard the music of Chopin in one form or another.

Fryderyk (or Frédéric) Chopin was born in March 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, about 30 miles from Warsaw, Poland. He was just 39 years old when he died, but had established himself as a leading expert on the piano as a composer, teacher and performer.

Chopin’s entire body of work focuses on the piano. All his compositions include the piano, and many of his works are for solo piano. In fact, Chopin is the only great composer whose work all involves the piano –  He didn’t write any symphonies, operas or choral music, and he produced only a small number of pieces compositions that involve other instruments. He wrote around 200 works, 169 of which are for solo piano!

Chopin was hugely influential in the development of modern piano technique and style. He was the first composer to overcome the percussive nature of the physical instrument and produce truly lyrical sounds. He created new colours, harmonies and means of expression, exploiting every facet in the new developments in piano construction. The seven-octave keyboard opened up new musical possibilities and the improved mechanism aided virtuoso techniques. But more than this, Chopin possessed a poetic touch that makes his compositions unique. His influence on harmony was monumental, with composers including Wagner following his ideas.

PianoChopin’s connection with the piano was particularly important for his compositions. He is the first composer to write purely in terms of what the piano could do, with no attempt to echo the sounds of the choir or orchestra. His inspiration, unlike that of composers such as Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann, never came from paintings or literature.

Chopin’s performances of his own works were often slightly different from the written versions, suggesting that composition and improvisation were linked in his creative process. Many of his compositions were linked to his teaching, with a number of works composed for and dedicated to his students, or written for friends, including Liszt.

Whether or not Chopin can be credited with bringing Nationalism to music, it is true that Polish tradition influenced his work. The musical forms he used, alongside the modes and rhythms, demonstrate his Polish heritage. Other influences came from time spent in Vienna and Paris, and other master composers including Mozart, Field, Paganini and Bellini.

Chopin spent time with a number of key composers of the Romantic period including Liszt, Berlioz, Schumann and Mendelssohn. He travelled around Europe, like most of his contemporaries, touring England and Scotland in 1848.

A master of piano music, most of his works were written for the smaller piano forms: Ballades, Études, Mazurkas, Nocturnes, Polonaises , Preludes and Waltzes. He was a master of the miniature, and many music historians accept his piano writing technique as a model.

Chopin is perhaps best known for his Mazurkas and Polonaises. Both are Polish dances, reflecting the composer’s roots. He also developed the Nocturne. The term nocturne was first used to describe a piece of music by the Irish pianist and composer John Field in 1814, but Chopin, in the words of critic James Huneker, “invested it with an elegance and depth of meaning which had never been given to it before”.

The Mazurka became the national dance of Poland in the later 18th and early 19th Century, developing into a highly stylised dance piece. Chopin drew on the traditional rural Mazurka in his piano pieces, retaining the energy of the style while adapting it into a sophisticated art form, which it retained in European music.

Chopin’s Polonaises were written after the November 1830 Warsaw Uprising, when Chopin was living in France. The dance had long been out of fashion, but he perhaps used the form as a symbol of Poland. He used the familiar rhythmic and melodic formulae of the traditional Polonaise, keeping many of the dance elements even though the works were for the concert hall rather than the ballroom.

Polonaise_Op._53Chopin’s dances were written for concert performances and have been described as dances for the soul, not the body.

Chopin’s piano works keep his music near the top of recording sales even today.

His music also frequently appears in popular culture, as integral and familiar as the most famous Beatles song. From 1945, Perry Como’s song Till the End of Time is based on Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise, and Barry Manilow’s Could it Be Magic is based on the C Minor Prelude of Opus 28. Alicia Keys’ album As I Am opens with an adaptation of the Nocturne in C sharp Minor No. 20, and the Raindrop Prelude was used in a commercial for the video game Halo 3.

The EBacc and the Importance of Arts Subjects in Schools

There has long been discussion about the structure of secondary education. Recently this has centred around the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), a school performance indicator linked to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

The EBacc is designed to measure the percentage of students in a school who achieve five or more A* to C grades in GCSE mathematics, sciences, foreign languages, history or geography. It is called a baccalaureate, but it is not like the French baccalauréat, which qualifies students for entry into universities and tertiary education.

In June 2015, the Conservative Party announced as part of its election manifesto that it would make the English Baccalaureate compulsory for every secondary school student in the country. This idea was motivated by two common perceptions, the dumbing-down of GCSEs and the fall in the number of students studying foreign languages and science. The announcement was criticised by teaching unions as being broadly driven by political ideology.

[Image:Wills16]

[Image:Wills16]

As consultations reach their final stage, the Music Workshop Company spoke to Derin Adebiyi, Public Affairs Officer at The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) about the EBacc. Derin explains the ISM’s concerns that the EBacc is damaging to Arts and the Creative Industries, forcing out creative subjects in a measure designed around accountability rather than educational importance.

“The EBacc proposal was met with concern by many key creative industry figures including Arlene Philips CBE, Robert Lindsay, Philip Pullman CBE, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Harry Treadaway.

The intention is for the EBacc effectively to become compulsory, with the Education Secretary expecting ‘to see at least 90% of students entering the EBacc’ by turning the EBacc from a (relatively) harmless league table into a headline measure for school accountability.

In response to these plans, the Incorporated Society of Musicians has relaunched the cross-sector campaign Bacc for the Future.

The Bacc for the Future campaign was first coordinated by the ISM in 2012 following proposals by the then secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, for a new examination system for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Gove’s plan focused around five academic subject areas, with art, music, design and technology, and drama all absent from the consultation document for the proposed EBacc certificate.

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The campaign successfully called on the Government to slow down the pace of reform, resulting in a partial U-turn and the announcement of a ‘new eight-subject measure of GCSEs’ in 2013.

This revised eight subjects included English, maths, three science subjects, languages, history and geography, and three ‘other’ subjects, such as art, music or religious education, and was known as Progress 8.

Michael Gove himself called the Progress 8 accountability measure, which allowed creative subjects to count towards schools “more meaningful,” when it was introduced in 2013.

[Image: Regional Cabinet]

[Image: Regional Cabinet]

Since the 2015 General Election, the Conservative Government has announced the finer details of their EBacc proposal and launched a consultation on plans to make the EBacc a headline measure for schools, and for it to be given a more prominent role within the Ofsted Framework. The consultation, which was launched in a speech to Policy Exchange by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, ends on 29 January.

The ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign, with the backing of over 20,000 individuals and 145 organisations from across the creative sector, is calling for people to respond to the consultation and to write to their MP opposing the EBacc.

Announcing the relaunch of Bacc for the Future, ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts said,

“The Government should seriously reconsider its new EBacc proposal. This is a rejection of the ‘more balanced and meaningful accountability system’ proposed under the last Government.

The Government is rightly focused on jobs, growth and a balanced budget. This policy undermines that ambition. The creative industries are worth £76.9bn per year to the UK economy, and the educational importance of creative subjects cannot be over-estimated. It should be a great concern to all of us that the department for education is playing fast and loose with the country’s economic and educational wellbeing.”

1_ISM_logoTo support the campaign, visit www.baccforthefuture.com to find out more about the petition and how to respond to the consultation.

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.”

future talent logo

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.

 

 

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.

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  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).

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